Ana Benaroya’s Passengers

Review by Molly Cranston
Images courtesy of the artist and Carl Kostyál

Painter Ana Benaroya fills the oak-panelled rooms of London’s Carl Kostyál Gallery with a rainbow of muscular figures delighted with their cars, for her solo show The Passenger. Subverting capitalist narratives which “often flung together [women and cars] in the pursuit of profits”, Benaroya’s paintings depict an electric posse of women pleasing only themselves, in spiritual harmony with their vehicles. 

Cars, when divorced from their high-octane campaigns, can offer intimate, private spaces. Moving away from an ego mileage quest, Benaroya’s scenes touch on the choice and possibility associated with the freedom of driving. Striving for balance and multiplicity, Benaroya captures the romance of lovers in cars, their outright eroticism, and machismo humour. Characters wrap their arms around each other, fondling their nude and surging glutes. I’ve never seen two paintings look at each other in as many adoring ways as Denise and Diana do. 

Benaroya’s brushstrokes have an inimitable physicality and lush thickness to them that renders even cigarette smoke or exhaust fumes as solid matter- a cloud of smoke from the motorbike of Desperado, a perfect manicure, a glinting earring, eyes-on-the-road nipples. Long locks of hair spill outward with impossible strength; muscles bloom, stir and multiply like humid, low-hanging clouds before a thunderstorm. 

Benaroya started the series by reading Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s 1909 Manifesto of Futurism, and though she engaged with its intensity and “fascination with the intersection between person and machine”, Benaroya constructed her own visual manifesto for the future. One where joyous and powerful naked women fulfil every role, the chauffeurs and the chauffeured, in perpetual summer.

The Green Empress, 2020, Oil and acrylic on canvas, 39.50 x 47.50 in

My Blue Heaven (Legend of the Rain), 2020 Oil and acrylic on canvas
59h x 51w in

The Chauffeur, 2021
Oil and acrylic on canvas
75h x 83w in

Desperado, 2021
Oil and acrylic on canvas
75h x 75w in