A Touch of Fantasy

Four artists create a new universe where nature becomes unhinged

A manipulated photograph by Julie Monaco, part of the exhibition Wunderwelt at the WUK in Vienna

Magic and reality blend together at the exhibition Wunderwelt at the WUK (der Werkstatt und Kulturhaus) on Währingerstrasse, opening your mind to a world of dream and fantasy. With a touch of fantasy everything is lifted to a new level, a departure from the mundane world where everything becomes possible. Creatures float in a new universe, where nature comes unhinged, where anger and disconnected elements of reality get together to create something illusory.

The creators of this dream are four contemporary international artists: Julie Monaco and Simona Reisch from Austria, Chloë Potter from the U.S. and Magda Tóthová from Slovakia.

Wunderwelt is spread throughout two rooms. The art is displayed in a way that leads the visitor in a circular motion around a focal point – the huge, almost two-meter cyclone, its belly full with smaller artistic objects.  Once spotted, the cyclone gives the impression that the whole room is spinning.

On the right-hand side of the first room, three large-scale prints depict the evolution of a sea storm. The furthest away shows a calm black and white sea, with a hint of sun; the second slowly evolves to a darker motif with menacing black clouds devouring the sun and stirring the sea. In the third, the artist depicts a fluid apocalypse where the viewer is exposed to the full force of a marine storm. The black and white is grave, almost painful to look at, but mesmerizing to the point of obsession.

The white naked walls that mark the transition from one part of the room to the other look as if they are splattered with small images and braided into a rainbow chain. A closer view reveals small colorful balls with figurines between them. They all seem to be sprayed along the wall, as though the cyclone had thrown them about at random. It’s high-energy and pleasing, a pleasant break from the previous naked surface. The thrown-paint images connect the first room to the second, a bridge between the eyes of the storm.

A narrow wall divides the first room. On one side, a five-minute video depicts the force of the cyclone. Here everything is staged, the actors mere colorful figurines in a miniature play while a soft voice narrates their story in voiceover. The climax comes suddenly, when they are swept off by the fury of the cyclone.

Magda Tothova’s video introduces comic relief, a long step away from Julie Monaco’s apocalyptic creations and atmosphere.  On the other side, a series of humoristic collages dance along the wall, all revolving around the ever-present cyclone, yet again spitting out people and objects and sweeping them off to different locations and eras.

The illusory effect of those particular pieces is a lure into the second room. No door divides the chambers and the eye is instantly greeted by Chloë Potter’s series of prints. In one of them, a falling woman is surrounded by objects that swirl around her, encircling her in a tunnel that seems to go on forever. This feels like a scene from a movie… The woman falling is Alice falling down the rabbit hole.  In Potter’s print series, the ever-present cyclone becomes more problematic as the relationship between the cyclone and falling women is unclear. How is this the cyclone’s doing?

With computer software, the artists have managed to create new abstract realities in which ‘Mother Nature’ can display never-before-seen powers. They bring fantasy to life with the clever use of collages, drawings, photographs and three-dimensional objects. While integrating explosions of creative energy, each of the artists maintains a distinctive style.  The rooms and the art pieces are set up to tell a story, involving you, the viewer, and drawing you in, as the cyclone does.  Monaco’s three large prints depict the beginning of the cyclone; Tothova’s collages and Potter’s prints deal with the dynamics that take place inside of it.

Leaving the space, it takes a minute to regain balance; Wunderwelt has been intense, an experience outside the comfort zone.

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