With his paintings and sculptures Stefan Thelen, better known as Super A, walks the sometimes fine line between fact and fiction and within the context of his series “Trapped” delves into the truth behind the fanciful icons of pop culture by virtually getting through to their core; Tweety, Snow White and Co. decay into a spiral of colorful ribbons and reveal their naturalistic prefiguration. The deconstruction of the easily digestible cartoons visualizes our usually idealizing view on often more complicated circumstances of reality.
In a surrealistic tradition Thelen provokes with an alienation of accepted facts, he dissects well-known cartoon characters and makes us discover the less prankish origin behind the myths, which meanwhile became the truth and whose naïve levity is leaving an imprint on our culture – the “ideal world smile” of Mickey Mouse or Ronald McDonald is shaken by the hairy appearance of a lifelike mouse or a sad Pierrot. But it is not only in the world of movies that we are guided by perceptions we grew fond of: “Nowadays the most dominant myths we have embraced as an warm blanket of truth are liberty, property and individualism,” said Thelen. “We tend to see these as absolute objective truths […].” He poses the question if we were trapped in this cozy reality and if we should dare to escape from it despite the coziness.
We are living in a time full of superficiality, flooded with beautiful pictures showing a better version of life. Either we are left in our mediocre reality and resign or we are animated to play our own role on the mask ball and outshine the sobriety of everyday life with ostentatious gestures of optimism, pleasure and luxury. The Trapped series offers us the opportunity to step out of our role for a moment and to observe how subjects known from movies and advertisements become visible as vulnerable beings behind their exaggerated high-polish coating. Like a colorful twirl, symbol for the flood of media pictures, ribbons in the form of the well-known characters disguise the actual creature, which in comparison to its flatulent projection surface seems to be a little bit stunted and can experience the world around only with a blocked view.
Such a coating meets various requirements: It can disguise, conceal weaknesses and thus serve as armor; but it can also hamper, obscure the view or the thoughts, and with the distance it creates lead to an inner loneliness. Thelen does not dictate how to read his works, neither to see them as an encouragement to bare all, nor to actively enforce the construction of a veneer lined with specific attributes, as he did to some extend by himself with his alias Super A.
However, the works of the Trapped series also work as an impulse to generally dare to look behind the surface and to question alleged truths, which in times of fake news, exaggerated social media profiles or framing occur in many spheres of life. Thus, the works fit versatilely into a critical public discourse.