Mela Kaltenegger formulates chromatic fresh images in the medium of painting, in which esprit, gravity, irony and subtleness blithely come together. Her characteristic nonchalant, graphic style gives the impression of scenes having been hastily painted. In truth, the canvases consist of several layers of self-produced egg tempera.
The artist pays particular attention to the depiction of women: they are magically floating on water, doing a handstand in a natural setting, reposing on a sofa or peeing under trees. Frequently pictured with them are animals, such as horses, fish, dogs, polar bears or rabbits. The female protagonists often appear with red high heels and boots, which can be read, with regard to Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Red Shoes (1845), as a symbol of freedom and rebellion, but also of sensuality and seduction.
Kaltenegger’s compositions capture and hold certain moments in time found within the spectrum of countless possible directions. This aspect is emphasized by the carefully selected image titles, which give the viewer a certain orientation and scope without revealing too much: “It’s up to the viewer to determine which possibilities arise from the depicted subjects, places, things and circumstances” (Mela Kaltenegger 2017).
In addition to brush and canvas, Kaltenegger works with needle and thread to create two and three dimensional textile objects. Her sculptures, constructed from lining material, represent heads of animals or everyday objects and have a symbolic content: the horse as counsel or the dog as loyal friend and companion. The colorful seams remain visible and the loose-hanging ends help to define the shape of the figure. The chosen color accentuates the symbolic meaning while the soft, flowing surface and loose-hanging threads stimulate the tactile sense, transferring the experience from the viewer’s eye to the fingertips.
Mela Kaltenegger was born in Vienna in 1965 and studied painting and graphic arts under Gunther Damisch at the local Academy of Fine Arts. She is a member of the female artist collective “Die 4 Grazien”, founded in Vienna in 2002, which expresses a “subtle, self-deprecating criticism of traditional images of women and men” (Die 4 Grazien 2002) through painting, performance, photography and video art. Kaltenegger regularly participates in art fairs and exhibitions in Europe. Her works are held in private and public collections, such as the Museum Leopold Wien, the Kulturabteilung der Stadt Wien (MUSA) or the Oesterreichische Nationalbank (OeNB).