The Fifth Element

Marta Staudinger,  The Fifth Element , 4x7 ft., acrylic and mixed media on stretched canvas

Marta Staudinger, The Fifth Element, 4x7 ft., acrylic and mixed media on stretched canvas

I believe this to be my most powerful abstract painting to date mainly in the way I was forced to problem-solve during the creation of this piece.

Paintings usually appear to me as visualizations that I sketch down in the moment. Some of those sketches remain such, others move to canvas and usually take their own path something during the process to differ from the sketch. (Read: The Only Time I Created a Painting Exactly as I had Visualized It).

For this abstract painting, I decided to take the risk and try something new. I created a stain for the background that I left over night to dry. Stretching the canvas was a bitch after that due to all of the warping but what I found was beautiful movement from my own physical movement on the floor scrubbing the canvas the night before.


I then followed the movement to create shapes and bring a a story to live. I entitled this piece The Fifth Element, also the name of one of my favorite movies :) In this piece you’ll find representations of the four elements: fire, earth, air, and water. But to me, this story goes on. It is also a feminine story, with the fifth element in the world being life. And with life, we require the female to continue to reproduce this life. This seemed appropriate not just because of the current advances in this movement for the female… but also because I felt like Cinderella scrubbing the floor while I was staining this canvas. There was an exploration of the expected role of the woman in society as I created this piece. There was also this mysteriously beautiful sunlight coming into the studio the next morning when I came to observe my experience. The painting was so vibrant but still as it lay there - I couldn't tell whether I had violated her or brought her to life. Throughout the painting process I kept challenging that narrative: whether I was bringing something to life, whether it was speaking on its own, or whether I was interrupting it in some way...