Wynnie Mynerva’s Bloodbath Art

Wynnie Mynerva, Violated Bliss II, 2022, oil on canvas, 220 x 500 cm. Photo: © Grey Hutton. Courtesy Gathering, London

In Bone of My Bones, Flesh of My Flesh at Gathering, London, the artist directs colours – browns, pinks, taupes, crimsons – to strike and bleed out onto each other with vicious force

Enter the bloodbath. Bodies, alive, dead and somewhere in between, merge with and cleave from each other in the two paintings that open Wynnie Mynerva’s exhibition. The scale and composition of these works, Violated Bliss I and II (2022), is on a par with art-historical juggernauts like Rubens’s Massacre of the Innocents (1610). The Peruvian artist’s paintings present a similar violence. However, instead of discernible human figures in combat, Mynerva directs colours – browns, pinks, taupes, crimsons – to strike and bleed out onto each other with vicious force. A stereotypically masculine ferocity is paired with the soft, presumably feminine curves of boulderlike mounds of flesh from which hands, breasts, buttocks and feet are birthed and swallowed. Mynerva depicts a struggle between the demolition of an oppositional feminine-masculine hierarchy, with its historical baggage, and the creation of a fluid category that melds the two.

The feminine takes the lead, but does not dominate, as most of the figures have breasts, flowing locks of hair or extra-long nails. The masculine presents itself in the form of phalluses oozing with desire, either attached to these otherwise female bodies or floating in space, possibly severed. This reverses the hierarchy suggested by the show’s title, a quotation attributed to Adam in the Bible’s Book of Genesis, at the moment that Eve is created from his flesh by God. This passage suggests the feminine’s fundamental indebtedness and subservience to the masculine. Mynerva subverts this order but holds on to the fact that the two are inextricably linked.

Two Bodies Touch on the Same Shore I, 2023, oil on canvas. Photo: © Grey Hutton. Courtesy Gathering, London

There is a slit-like passage into the next room that separates the curved walls on which the two Violated Bliss canvases hang – a gate taking us further into Mynerva’s world. The lone painting in the show’s second room depicts an androgynous, winged figure that bends towards the foreground with open arms. It is as if it has just released something into the space beyond. Opposite the painting is a metal staircase leading downstairs, possibly to the thing it has liberated.

The third and final room, subterranean, houses two large unmounted canvases that mirror each other as they hang from the ceiling and curve down to rest on a bright red floor. In the dimly lit space, forms continue to meld into each other, but now with a harmonious energy. Amid the crowd of bodies, scenes of fornication and masturbation are clear. In the blur of Mynerva’s works, sex, with its own potential to create and destroy, is as visible as violence. These paintings, with their deep reds, pinks and oranges, are the most visceral of the lot. They are like bloody seeds, raw and ready to blossom. Together they blend masculine and feminine into a heterogeneous mass, at peace with itself and undesirous of label or rank.

Bone of My Bones, Flesh of My Flesh at Gathering, London, through 4 March

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