Mina Mohandes is not a photographic artist. This is not because she practises camerafree photography and not because her work doesn’t draw explicitly upon historical experimental forms of photography such as the photogram. But rather because she is in no way restricts herself to camerafree photography as a means of artistic expression. Quite apart from her photographic work we are also familiar with both her early drawings and her current three-dimensional works, which should be valued to just the same extent as her photographic pieces. For Mohandes doesn’t subordinate the theme of her work to one medium-specific concept. Rather she adopts with great ease various different media in order to treat her theme from different perspectives. Painting, which marks her starting point as an artist, remains her major point of reference. And although today Mohandes makes no use of any traditional painting techniques, her work could be described as painting – by other means. To this extent Mohandes’ works are “abstract” – FOTOGALERIE WIEN’s theme for this year – in two respects. On the one hand there has been a process of abstraction in the sense of an emancipation from traditional artistic media: painting became transposed into another opportunity for artistic expression and thereby transformed. In this way her works defy any simple formal classification. On the other hand Mohandes’ works are abstract in their pictorial expression.
With a supposedly casual gesture she creates a space, extends it, but doesn’t sustain it, rather she calls it into question – that’s how you could describe Mohandes’ oeuvre.
For example in her photographic work a simple stroke on a two-dimensional surface creates a sense of enormous depth. A developed film is lit after the artistic treatment of the surface and produced in various formats. Besides astonishing colour effects which almost suggest a contradiction of colour theory – since on the photo the colours appear fundamentally different from those which are used for painting – Mina Mohandes fills the two dimensional surface “in order to generate spaces. Her lines turn into plastic structures, which adopt a characteristic state of suspense between organic tubes from some slightly spooky future time and computer generated models of a molecular world” (H. Kempinger).
For her three-dimensional work Mohandes uses simple media, not typically used for works of art such as rubber rings – a material which in everyday use is eclipsed by its everyday function and even in its very form has no immediate presence. The artist creates through this anti-art material works which give rise to a relationship of tension between volume and vacuum. For Mohandes expresses in her work at the same time the capacity – or extension of space and its dissolution. On the one hand one could say that the artist succeeds through the accumulation and compression of a material which in itself occupies no space but rather normally encloses and contains space to produce presence. On the other hand the opposite conclusion is equally justified. For the fullness which Mohandes creates consists equally of a vacuum which is inherent in the formal qualities of the material. Mohandes’ works in which rubber rings are joined together into ornamental structures and fixed to the wall with pins take life from the hollows and spaces which arise through their construction. Considered from a distance the material disappears – we perceive the work as a fragile wall painting. Her floor work in which rubber rings are dispersed over the whole work space with the effect of cutting it off, or used to define surface areas while not denying access to surrounding space, create a different if comparable effect. Here material and form are self-referential: the compression of nothingness. In her ball-objects this principle is taken ad absurdum whereby the rubber rings enclose nothing but themselves.
The interplay of volume and vacuum and the sudden incapacity to distinguish between these two factors to force an explicit meaning in the artist’s message seems to me an essential quality in the oeuvre of Mina Mohandes. Furthermore what seems to me to be characteristic of her artistic method is her isolation of one clear message from its casualness and its succinct purpose – its artistic evaluation and re-evaluation, granting it in and through the work concentration and presence, without harming or negating its qualities.