Have you ever wondered what your dreams are, where they come from? Do they mirror your personality, beautiful, vague and ugly wishes? Can we control our brain while sleeping (and while not sleeping – yes, I’m fascinated by neurology). And after all, why are dreams so weird? I bet you have had those. So has Irene Wellm, an artist who is not afraid of digging deeper.
The artist claims, “I have always liked the idea of storytelling, and in the Jungian way, I am interested in how pictures, like stories, myths and fairy tales, can function as maps or guides to the unconscious mind.” If you have seen her works, you will have few doubts that this is true.
Since 2008 Irene Wellm’s works have transformed from works of colourful, melancholic, solitary moods to a black-and-white mysterious, allegorical, sometimes apocalyptic tone reflecting on humanity’s self-destructive history.
“Most people aren’t what they appear to be,” Wellm has said in an artist statement. “We are ambiguous expressions of varying facts and fictions at different times, and as an artist I am interested in finding a way to express this about myself, and about people in general. The background to my work is inspired by a personal interest in depth psychology and Carl Jung’s theories on the process of individuation.”
Wellm’s work “..he from whom they fly / is he to whom you go…”, (2014) is a powerful narrative that strikes you at first sight. Being a thrilling mix of Greek mythology, unconscious dreams, as well as a burning social statement, the artwork provokes on a deeply symbolic level. The painting represents itself as a hybrid of a tree, a three-headed male, a military warrior, an apocalyptical creature with horns – all in one. There are clearly references to Otto von Bismark – the German politician and military man of the 19th century, infamous for uniting Germany, and for his brutal philosophy of ruling the country and making decisions by “iron and blood” (literally) alongside Cerberus, the monstrous dog that guards the gates of the kingdom of the dead. To highlight the interrelation between our inevitable connection with mother-nature, inner secrets, deeply hidden desires, aspirations, and the human drive for self-destruction, Wellm combines the mysterious and quite recognisable in one piece. Such an approach gives “..he from whom they fly/ is he to whom you go…” a spectacular, catching, metaphoric narrative beneath its surrealistic nature. The name of the painting speaks for itself: throughout the history of humankind humanity, deeply rooted in the nature, tends to forget about it. However, Wellm’s works do not seem melancholy, on the contrary, they give us an opportunity – sometimes in a sarcastic, dark, gloomy manner – to look at ourselves, to build a sober, honest portrait of our personalities, and then, in the end, to draw conclusions and, hopefully, learn from it. A now old story tells us that in the rapid age of technology and social networks we rarely find time for self-reflection. But considering Irene Wellm’s requires time and an intellectual effort to catch its various meanings and insights
There are, of course, many surrealistic works which raise existential questions, but Wellm’s work offers us the opportunity to check our own knowledge, from Greek mythology to Carl Jung’s analytical psychology. After all, we should remember that one purpose of contemporary art is to provoke feelings, discussion and even annoyances.
Irene Wellm is a Melbourne-based artist whose works are focused on revealing the mysterious psychology and conflicting nature of being human. With more than 35 years of practice, the artist has exhibited her works in Australia and internationally.
Wellm’s work “..he from whom they fly/ is he to whom you go…” will be shown at Melbourne’s |not|fair| art fair in November 2017.