By The Logic of Ghosts
Review by Natasha P.

Ambera Wellman’s exhibition at Kraupa-Tuskany Zeider, Berlin, Logic of Ghosts, feels like a surreal escape from the real world - free from heteronormativity and the restrictions of societal pressure. Within these walls, queerness flies freely. Her haunting paintings, displayed in an intentionally visually domineering setup, create a viewing experience that is both overwhelming and engaging. I tend to gravitate towards art that doesn’t live within the ambit of safety, and the word “safe”, evidently, is not part of Wellmann’s vocabulary.

Wellman breaks the first rule immediately. Instead of the usual perfectly plain white walls in galleries that we are used to, she presents the viewer with a checkerboard of alternating white and purple squares that envelope the room from wall to floor. This skews spatial awareness, distorting the visual experience of the exhibition. Some of her works are rebellious in the same way, positioned - quite literally - outside the box. Although perfectly capable of sitting within the parameters of a box,“Tragic Magic”, a painting of cut humanoid fruit, doesn’t. It escapes from one box into another, even if just by an inch. The intentional geometrical inconsistency symbolises the boxes that queer people unwillingly find themselves in , and the strong urge to rebel against them. “Less Like Ourselves, More Like Each Other” features a polymorphic person entangled in their own limbs, positioned in such a way that the person pushes outwards against the wall at the edge of the painting. The physical resistance to confinement displays the absolute refusal to be held down.


“The Logic of Ghosts” features a sombre looking individual, cast under depressive greyish tones. Their limbs are indistinct to me as they look like they could be either arms or legs - perhaps to indicate the gender dysphoric feeling that a body might not always feel or look the way you want it to. Beyond being dissatisfied on just a physical level, it is very common that within the queer experience there are intense and upsetting levels of disconnect between the physical and the mental when it comes to biology. The colours used here depict the unsavoury feelings that come with dysphoria.

The feminine form is celebrated in “Landscape with a Figure of a Woman”. A body sheds her previous forms and she moves closer to the present, exactly where she needs to be.
This presumably indicates the stages of self-acceptance within the artist’s own experience of queer womanhood in which she constantly sheds past versions of herself, becoming more comfortable within the confines of her own skin each time. “Sharpless” also features the feminine form. The polymorphic body, contorted in a non-human way, could possibly point to the presence of the male gaze and the way it views womanhood through a dehumanising lens, forcing onto women unrealistic standards and ideals and expecting them to contort in order to conform.


In “Tragic Magic” and “Glance”, the artist introduces more colour into her pieces by using fruits and flowers as part of a humanoid organism. Both pieces are haunting, featuring eyes that stare back at the viewer. This creates a sense of discomfort that feels familiar - peering eyes offering unwanted attention. A queer person often attracts this unwanted attention simply for being queer.


Certain works in the exhibition are more inscrutable. “Scissoring” features an ambiguous cut-out of another painting. The piece reveals itself to the viewer in layers because discernibility is challenging. While named in reference to a sex position, the painting itself is very vague and displayed in a very inconspicuous manner. The effect of the pairing of the name with the indistinct piece could possibly symbolise how society hypersexualises homosexual women and their sex lives. In a similar way, “Half Mother” is equally unintelligible. The figures in the painting look like two masses of tissue painted over raw linen. My first guess was that they represent the shedding of uterine tissue that happens during the menstruation cycle and its ability to stain cloth and furniture in the process.

Logic of Ghosts is Wellmann’s way of reclaiming queerness and displaying her resistance to binary pressures. She urges the viewer to imagine a future in which queerness is not alien and bizarre, because in a space where everything is bizarre, queerness is just another occurrence.

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Natasha P. is a participant of the CENDANA - ASWARA Arts Writing Mentorship Programme 2020-2021.

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