Ink/yarn paintings by Linda Maennel

Linda Maennel is a German artist who creates wonderfully light landscapes, portraits, and floral still lifes through the combination of painting and colored yarn on canvas. By mixing different materials, she gives her ink drawings a veiled surface and creates additional spatial and temporal depth. The rather muted pastel colors cover the ink pictures like a light touch of color. The colored yarn covers the paintings and creates a multifaceted view of reality, especially of people and nature.

The beginning

Linda Maennel: During my studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Nuremberg, I usually painted with black ink on paper and colored the resulting scenes with watercolor or colored ink.
My color palette was always covered pastel colors, rather than gaudy ones, often just a hint of color. When I was finally in my own studio, after finishing university in 2009, I had a lot of old black-and-white studies on canvases. I thought it was a pity to throw them away, but they weren’t good enough to be exposed. One evening I read a short story by Ingrid Noll about a man who was embroidering and had the idea to try on some embroidery. The next day I bought plenty of yarns that were in the local haberdashery and covered the picture with wool. The result was much too colorful and abstract for my taste, but objective and interesting. With a certain distance, you could still recognize the originally painted picture, which fascinated me. The following pictures, in which I consciously used this effect, showed an ancestral gallery of almost forgotten great-great-aunts and relatives, who appeared only with names and one or two photos in old family albums. To portray them in such a way that they can just be guessed under a veil of oblivion, I found very appropriate.

El Cambio, ink/yarn on canvas, 135 x 110 cm, 2022

Nature’s Representation

Linda Maennel: Nature, its beauty, fragility, and the mandatory need to preserve them, occupy me very much. I often paint seascapes under dramatic skies – always scenes that I myself have experienced and felt. For me, the sea is a symbol of my wanderlust and longing for freedom, silence, tranquility, and vastness.
My longing for freedom, freedom to travel, vastness, and distance is a very privileged one, considering the living conditions in other parts of the world. I am aware that the sea is for many people on the other side of the ocean, a border that wants to be overcome at great risk to lead a better life on the other side.
Especially in the last year of the pandemic, my desire for vastness has become even greater, as life is forced to be more limited to the home environment and the wide world seems even more distant. It’s a try of the preservation of beauty and the longing for a fantastic Arcadia in the face of transience, everyday life, and contemporary events.

Splash into Arcadia,  ink/yarn on canvas, 90 x 80 cm, 2021

Projects & Challenges

Linda Maennel: In 2017, I was fortunate to have been invited to an artist in residence stay in Mexico. The AIR site is located in the middle of the jungle in Tulum, a resort town on the Yucatan Peninsula, on the site of the ancient Mayan site of Zama.
Over the past decade, the city has expanded considerably into the jungle, with a majority of the new residents being North Americans and Europeans who live a luxurious Boho lifestyle there. The original Mayan population, like the jungle, is being displaced and used for unskilled labor at some point. Thus, in the well-styled eco-chic of the restaurants, hotels, and residences, one encounters Indians who are employed solely to clear the paths of creepers that have grown overnight.
It is a hopeless battle, as nature is overpowering there and the lush vegetation, as well as the climate with its ever more frequent hurricanes, will one day reabsorb the place. If the plants that have proliferated overnight are seen by the new natives as invaders, on closer inspection it is the people of the Western culture whose actions and supposed values are doomed to fail in this place.
This experience has kept me very busy and impressed me. Relatively quickly it was clear that a picture with which I wanted to capture this realization could not be limited to the rectangle of a canvas. Thus, in „Yucatan“, the ends of the yarn with which I colored the picture, painted in black ink on canvas, sprawl out of the canvas and pour over the surface of the picture, creeping into the space in front of the painting and becoming an installation.

Almost night, ink/yarn on canvas, 70 x 50 cm, 2021

Experiencing the Artworks

Linda Maennel: Standing directly in front of the picture, it seems as if the layers dissolve. The eye merges painting and embroidery, it is hard to believe that the color is not part of the painting, but was embroidered on afterward. This suave layering gives my work a spatial and temporal depth, rendering diverse images that arise only as the viewer changes its vantage point and light. The viewer becomes an actor of my work as he is invited to dig up personal experiences as if the memories hid beneath the textile. I have observed at pretty much every exhibition that visitors can’t stop themselves and secretly touch the painting, pushing the threads gently apart to discover the secret of how it was made.

Interview with Linda Maennel | Photography Linda Maennel

Featured Image: In the air of summer, ink/yarn on canvas, 145 x 125 cm, 2022