Stella Meris is a painter and multimedia artist born in 1990 in Basel, Switzerland. Their work revolves around the body and its spiritual dimension. By questioning how contemporary sacred spaces could look and how they can collectively be activated, Meris collaborates with artists of different disciplines. In that context their large paintings become stage design for immersive performances and public happenings. Questions of performativity, rituals, and community are central to their artistic practice.
While exploring nature and landscapes in recent works, Stella Meris expands their repertoire of symbols and structures. They incorporate new motifs such as plants, leaves, water, fire, and dreamlike faces, moving away from urban elements found in their previous works. With this vocabulary of signs they find their own language to capture experiences of nature, community and transcendence. They create organic compositions that blur the boundaries between human and plant elements. Stella Meris plays with symbolism, with recurring motifs of eyes and tear drops in their paintings. Other forms are more abstract. Seeking a non-dogmatic approach to spirituality they work intuitively and give space to spontaneity and experimentation. They incorporate meditative practices, mind-expanding movements, and explore the perception of their own bodily sensations in their painting practice. Meris activates their artwork through collective performances and challenges traditional forms of presenting paintings by often working on loose textiles that hang in space. Some of these textiles are cut and reassembled, breaking away from the conventional presentation of painting. They use a wider angle of materials and colors, including neon spray, acrylic paints, egg tempera, oil pastels and colored pencils. They often paint both sides of the canvas fabric, allowing the motifs to penetrate the material and leave traces on the other side.
Meris studied at the Berlin University of the Arts and the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. They graduated as a master student in 2019 under the guidance of Prof. Valérie Favre. Stella Meris has exhibited their paintings, performances and videoworks in solo and group exhibitions in Germany, Switzerland, New York, and other locations. In recognition of their talent, Stella Meris has received several awards and scholarships. They won the first prize at the Milan Mobile Film Festival in 2018 and received the sponsorship award from the Maurer-Billeter Foundation in 2020. In 2022, they became a scholarship recipient of the Hans and Charlotte-Krull Foundation. Recently they have been awarded the Deutsche Bank Atelier Scholarship.
Stella Meris grew up in a strictly religious Christian environment in Switzerland. They spent formative time during their childhood in Israel/Palestine because their father was working there as a biblical tour guide. Prayers, religious songs as well as biblical stories accompanied their upbringing and shaped their relationship to the “promised land”. At the age of 17 they left the religious community and now describe their stance as post-religious and strive to experience spirituality on a physical level without religious doctrines. Internalized concepts of “right” and “wrong” need to be reexamined and a new approach to oneself and others is necessary. In order to see other perspectives and to also value them as true, one must give up the belief that one’s own narrative is the only right one.
Stella Meris' work delves into the reinterpretation of Christian, Jewish, and Islamic dogmas and explores the concept of sacred space for believers, atheists and agnostics. By creating a shared space for different belief concepts and world views, Meris aims to challenge exclusionary dogmas and to embody an open and liberating spiritual practice. They draw inspiration from queer-feminist theology and aim to build sacred spaces that transgress cultural boundaries and are accessible for people from the LGBTQ+ community and their allies. Rituals such as singing, praying or dancing expand the bodily perception of space and lead to transcendent experiences. Inspired and driven by collective processes Stella Meris finds an artistic language that encompasses the ambivalence and contrariness of living within different realities. They are shifting between different regimes of knowledge, such as religious and secular ideas, and inhabit both modi at the same time without having to choose one over the other.
Their time living in a mixed peace community between Jerusalem and Jericho, where Israelis and Palestinians aimed to foster personal encounters and to envision a shared community, exposed them to Judaism, Islam and the political conflicts in the region. The installation “Come As You Are” is inspired by the experience of creating encounters and fostering relationships across borders, an engagement that almost seems impossible due to the political and social segregation. The tent consists of double-sided painted lightweight cotton textiles, sewn together to create large, 4 meters high tent walls. These walls are adorned with paintings of plants, faces, and bodies, symbolizing the sacredness of nature that should be protected. Symbolically, the tent lacks a ceiling, signifying that the sky is open and accessible, allowing us to connect with the stars and the sun. The tent is inspired by the traditional Jewish “Tabernacle” from the Old Testament and explores Christian, Jewish and Islamic values. The original meaning of the Hebrew name “Mishkan” is “tent of meeting”, which speaks on the one hand of the meeting of the community and on the other hand of the meeting with God as a spiritual source. Through lighting effects, the interior of the tent creates an impression of standing in a dense, colorful forest. The colors and motifs from the outside shimmer through the fabric, revealing multiple layers of paint. At the center of the tent, a sacred space is created, crowned by a disco ball representing the sun, as suggested by the exhibition's title, "The Sun Above All".
Galerie Melbye-Konan offers a 400-square-meter exhibition space with ceilings reaching up to five meters high, allowing to show the installation on a museum scale. The tent is installed between the concrete pillars of the gallery and can be entered, allowing different levels of experience through special incidences of light. In addition to further large-scale paintings, the exhibition includes a collective performance and a special happening that activates the installation. Handmade ceramics in the shape of moons and stars are placed on a dinner table that is covered by a painted tablecloth. The audience is invited to eat with the artist.