The uncanny is something which is secretly familiar, which has undergone repression and then returned from it, and everything that is uncanny fulfils this condition.(1)
For Independent New York 2019, Anna Glantz (b.1989, lives and works in New York) has produced six new large-format paintings. These strange works evoke the logic of dreams and fragmented memories; figures appear within landscapes and oddly domesticated scenes to form Glantz’s distinctively phantasmagorical, multi-dimensional compositions.
Drawing on influences from both classical and modernist painting styles, Glantz skilfully translates these techniques into complex and ambiguous narratives. Subject matter is inspired by popular culture, literature, mythologies and historical painting, often contextualised with household objects and interiors. When Glantz began making this group of paintings, she was thinking about the devil in all its forms. Although a satanic manifestation is perhaps not explicit in every painting, a lingering malevolence lurks within each of the works, leaving the viewer with a sense of uneasiness.
Memories, too, are a major theme. An unreliable source, memories become distorted through time. When we look back through our memory catalogue, things often taste sweeter – or more bitter – than they did at the time. So how might they express themselves after a long period of repression? Glantz’s work alludes to the making sense, or working through, of a past event, a trauma perhaps – or maybe something far less disturbing, subtler, just a feeling – from one’s past that still haunts one’s present and future.
In this new series of paintings, Glantz renders a seemingly incongruous combination of imagery to create wonderfully imaginative tableaus. A Rieger-Kloss piano shares a canvas with a riverscape painted in a Dutch renaissance style, alongside a portrait of Jack, Glantz’s boyfriend, a figure who recurs throughout her work.
Glantz cleverly destabilises the point-of-view of her paintings: who holds the gaze? Who is looking and who is being looked at? In ‘Saintsation (Enlarged Hand)’, a cheerleader appears in a doorframe dressed in a single piece of lingerie and engaging the viewer through direct and seductive eye contact as though the viewer was present at the breakfast table. The scene is almost mundane, save for the protagonist’s disturbingly large hand and unusual tableau featured on the back wall, rendering a surreal painting within a painting. A trope often used by Glantz within her imaginative and unsettling fantasy worlds.
In ‘Bluets’, a portrait of a red-headed figure in a picture frame takes centre stage of the colourful canvas, whilst a dishevelled cuboid woman slumps in the foreground, dying from a broken heart. Here, Glantz taps into a distinctive aspect of the uncanny: doubts as to ‘whether an apparently animate being is really alive; or conversely, whether a lifeless object might not be in fact animate.’(2)