Mit Senoj’s hand-colored etchings are a new foray into printmaking for this artist, who primarily works in watercolor, pen, and ink. His small paintings on crumpled, slick paper are distressed, as if they had survived some apocalyptic event. In contrast, Senoj’s clean, contained prints seem like original documents, the precursor to the paintings, the things before the apocalypse. An explorer’s record of foreign species previously unclassified, Senoj’s etchings could be lost pages from the indecipherable 15th century Voynich manuscript, records of living things whose existence is questionable and whose whereabouts can never be decoded.
Delineated with a delicate, unsteady line, the biomorphic flora-fauna creatures in Senoj’s etchings are insect, plant, and woman—they are sexual, but with a scientific, observational distance. The figures have the round, vacant eyes of characters in a pornographic anime. Yet these prints are too familiar, too dated to be merely speculative fiction. It is this timelessness that unsettles, this ability to exist in many centuries at once.
The thinned but bright washes of color on cream Somerset could be faded 19th century engravings one might find aging in dusty piles in a used bookstore. The illustrative quality of Senoj’s watercolored bodies recall Henry Darger’s uncomfortably obsessive, sexualized appropriations of innocuous children’s advertisements. In Eranthis Hyemalis the woman’s face is gaunt, her skull and misshapen body macabre. The colors push through her skin like overripe produce, waiting for any sudden movement, the touch of a hand twisted unnaturally, to burst. An otherworldly turquoise clings in fragments to her limbs, thrusts from behind and below, tangling itself in her hair. Her abdomen bursts uncomfortably with hanging, swollen fruit. There is violence in her sneer.
This is a field guide that needs to be handled very carefully.