Amanda Ba on her purposefully unsettling paintings

Amanda Ba on her purposefully unsettling paintings

It is Amanda’s interest in and reading around critical queer and race theory – specifically the works of Mel Chen and and Donna Haraway – that inspired her recent, unnamed series. Focussing on Mel Chen’s theories of ‘animacy’, which Chen draws away from the realm of linguistics and instead suggests to be “just as applicable in queer and race relations, seeing as ‘dehumanising insults hinge of the salient invocation of the nonhuman animal’.” Emulating this through the series, Amanda depicts recurring red women and red dogs, between whom she presents shifting relationship dynamics in an attempt to deconstruct the owner/owned hierarchy. In some, the women and dog are wrapped in a loving embrace, in others they growl at one another, seemingly locked in a battle of wills.

In unison, it was Donna Haraway’s theorising in The Companionship Species Manifesto that helped to “guide” Amanda’s paintings. Explaining that Haraway made a case for “reevaluating our relationship with our worldly cohabitants” – namely that their lives shouldn’t depend upon their intimacy with humans – Amanda also sought to explore the idea that “it is about the implosion of nature and culture in the joint lives of dogs and people, who are bonded in ‘significant otherness’, in all their historical complexity”. The breed of dog depicted throughout – American Bully – is also chosen for its cultural significance, as a symbol of ‘American-ness’ and more broadly, American imperialism. But, conversely, the painter also wants to interact with how mistreated the breed can be; “there is a whole market for supplements for bullies and different ways to increase their muscle mass. I think that this is interesting and relates to so much of Donna Haraway’s writings on dogs”.

Much like the rest of her work, Amanda’s colour choices are also carefully considered. Deeming her trademark red to have to “more emotional associations that any other colour”, including passion, desire, lust, anger and love, the artist also cites its historical connotations, such as rebellion, war, religious devotion, “and of course, communism (think Red Scare)”. “I’m not necessarily appealing to all of these directly every time I use the colour red”, the artist elaborates, “but I think that I (amongst many others) am attracted to red for those reasons”. And, on a more technical level, Amanda explains that her cadmium red oil paint is the only colour she “splurges” on, the rest are “cheap as hell”. The second most occurring colour in Amanda’s work is an intense, neon green. Chosen for its ability to “vibrate” against Amanda’s beloved red, this green adds the perfect contrast, and heightens the unsettling, supernatural essence of the artist’s exceptional work.

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