Zenita Komad, Harpyie, 2008, Acryl auf Leinwand, 190 × 150 × 20 cm

by Christine Wetzlinger-Grundnig

In recent years, Zenita Komad (b 1980) has made a name for herself in the international art market with her outstandingly individual, interdisciplinary work – or rather, with her comprehensive and highly subjective artistic cosmos entitled “Zenita Universe”, centred on the person of the artist herself. Her work Harpyie [harpy] also comes from this colourful, multi-faceted world, as part of a complex, contentually close-knit œuvre marked by intuition, creativity, integrative and anarchic strategies, thirst for knowledge, curiosity, pertness, jocularity and absurdity.

The harpy eagle is the largest and most powerful bird of prey found in the tropical rainforests of Central and South America. In Greek mythology, the harpies are the daughters of the marine god Thaumas and the Oceanid nymph Electra. They are winged hybrids, spirits of the storm winds and virtually invulnerable. Here Zenita Komad transforms the mythological creature – which is described both as a beautiful and as an ugly bird-woman – into a most unusual pictorial equivalent: a textile portrayal that exerts its uncanny suggestive power somewhere between overwhelming monumentality, naïve symbolism and almost humorously appealing representation. The artist combines a number of different processes – painting, object art and handicrafts techniques – and uses traditional resources in unorthodox ways. She sews, shapes, paints and constructs, disregarding artistic conventions; her approach seems at first amateurish, but incredibly enthusiastic, executed with childlike pleasure.

Zenita Komad's wall object is a combination of panel painting, or colour plate, and expansive sculptural elements which appear to emerge from the flat canvas so that the surface is more like a three-dimensional picture support for a strange sculpture-like figure somewhere between fully-formed corporeality and, at the same time, its deconstruction. The body fragments are reduced to essentials, summarising the outward appearance of the fabulous creature: two red horns, midway between them a single large, magically staring eye (symbol of power and of the spirit, the subconscious, all-seeing, confronting the viewer with a fearless gaze), two fierce-looking fangs, a huge mouth (or is it a fathomless, menacing vulva?) between prickly bird-legs, the feet clad in little black velvet shoes. The result is a telling, highly individual work, a strong, archaic-looking, powerfully associative female symbol, overcoming individual and collective fears and, as a mighty protective idol, warding off danger.