Assemblages & montages
10-31 I 2003
Plate of memory II
2002, painting, collage, print on fabric, light; object
Plate of memory I
2002, painting, collage, print on fabric, light; object
Behind the Fence of the Secret Garden and the Walls of Dreams
A sunny day. Silence, the air is heavy with dreams, completely peaceful. The silence is broken but with the hum of a fly, the buzz of a bee. Upon the wooden walls the shadows overlapping, forming non-existant architecture. Inhale the air, take a deep breath. There is harmony of good thoughts in your mind, there is buzzing in your years.The sun gets in through the holes of the roof's eaves.Its warmth pampers the thoughts, makes the space radiant and bright, restores the inner order of things. The joy that is yet not expressed before is awakened, the will of life, the sense of the world's richness, the charm is revealed of the simple things, obvious in their mundanness and therefore quite extraordinary. In the tiny country the Ordinariness and Magic perched upon the edges of two different worlds created out of dreams and reality. This is the beginning of the moment's elusiveness, the story of the need to save the small worlds, existing somewhere quite near, behind the stooping fences, hastily nailed together.
In her two new cycles: the "Polish Fences" and "Polish Walls" the development of the problems tackled in the earlier activity of the artist can be seen, it concerns both the topics and the formal solutions found in the earlier activity of the artist. A special place in the researches of Aleksandra Mańczak can be given to nature, studied and cognised in different aspects. The artist analysed its structure, she found in it the sacred ("Photographic Altars", she also searched for the ways to preserve its spiritual strength against man's expansiveness - proud and conceited as he is ("Arboretum"), finally she collected its ellusive forms ("Herbary"). Another important aspect of her artistic considerations is the revelation and recording of memories, which is expressed the fullest in the cycle "The Most Intimate Sphere - Nothing for Sale". A major element of the activity of the Łódź artist is creating situations and impossible relations, existing in the world of imagination. Her reference to the intepenetration of the worlds could be seen in the cycle "Special Situations and Reflections".In the artist's works often the characteristic "classical composition" can be observed, also present in such works as "Circumferences and Peripherals". Much of the rich achievement of the forms and meanings is present in the latest realisations. An essential feature of the presented pieces is the strong link between semantic contexts with the art of the past generations, hence, e.g. the ruins of architecture, ecclesiastical sculpture, as well as associations with the distant antiquity. In her earlier pieces sthe artist made use of different techniques, she executed textiles, she used photography, assemblage and installation, while in the latest cycles of the creation of new worlds - the space for thought and dreams, she again used photography, and the tool making possible the linking of the registered pictures became the computer.
One of the pieces from the cycle "Polish Fences" show the palm lowering behing the fence from above to touch the green grass. The fingers touch the plants lightly, stroke them and fondle gently. For the difference of the scales everything seems a bit strange, not clear enough. It is the world close to the earlier pieces by the artist, such as the cycle "Unusual Situations and Reflections", where the overlapping real worlds would permeate one another creating new vistas for the journeys of thoughts and feelings.
The simplicity of the piece contains the silent, concentrated daily care of the dilligent gardener. Is it the care, the cultivation of the earthly garden?And may be this is what paradise looked like, it was necessary for man to depart from and venture into the unknown? "Yet according to the Hebrew mythology Adam did not left the Paradise empty-handed. Upon God's consent he could take with him among others saffron, nard, cinnamon, some seed and several fruit-tree seedlings." 1 All that in order to soothe the grief of departure, to be able to plant the new fruit of life.
The delicacy of plants, their tangibility and at the same time fragility, the danger of destruction. Is it not the allegory of there human life? People are like field herbs. The seed once planted sprouts and blooms, it bears fruit, finally to end its existence in the soil it was born from. The simple story which marks the eternal phases of man's life upon earth. Or maybe the vegetation is the image of the hot-house alleged to death?
Not all the pieces from the cycle "Polish Fences" are so serious in their expression, pondering, reflective, thoughtful about the world, there are also the ones in which the artist contained a little irony and subversive humour. In one of them the main figure views the world upside down. The comic cognition of the world the other way round. Another look, from the other side. The landscapes have there different forms, they lose meanings we have got used to in our "adulthood", even though they did not surprise us the least when we were children.
There is a clear definition of the setting in the cycle "Polish Fences", whose defining element is the plane of little fence rails, nailed together, often rough enough, their surface revealing the ambiguity of renderings, the blurring of the border between reality and fiction. We can observe peculiar non-realness, which yet renders itself more natural, quite obvious in fact, at closer scrutiny. And there is nothing that surprises us then. The man from the secret garden also reveals the beauty of his body, the form given to him by the first artist. Most interesting is the piece which shows the female breasts set against the background of vertical wooden planks knocked together. Their form resembles sculpture, the antigue bust deprived of its head. The portrait with no face. It is the game with the viewer. The piece brings to mind the antique sculptures wounded by time, but it also makes us ponder, fret, since the depicted bust, is flesh and not cold stone, white marble. There is also inner duality, reference to the reality familiar to the viewer, as well as the material and spiritual culture of the past epochs. And maybe it is a joke upon our own habit of constant search for contexts and meanings, the need to understand? And why cannot sculpture suddenly become flesh, since it was the body that once became the inspiration for sculpture, why cannot we reverse our habits?
The piece also reveals the understanding of mimesis, nature's representation through art. We ask, then, in what respect did art use to imitate nature, and what happens when the artist reverses meanings and it is nature, human body that imitates art in the new piece. The piece in question is a peculiar game, it contains within itself the variety of meanings, it allows for the journey of the thought from antiquity through the Renaissance, when it seemed art peered over nature, through Classicism and Academism, until the modern times. It is the dialogue of the viewer and art, the dialogue of tradition and modernity.
The fences encompassing the secret world-garden close up the rhythmicality of the world, some inner order. The harmony of man and nature wood is part of. There is also irony and humour, the play of meanings, notions and contexts overlapping the known pictures shown in different, disquietening compositions.
The cycle of the "Polish Fences" is full of harmony and balance. There is order in it and a touch of symmetry. In the activity of Aleksandra Mańczak the interest in compositions based upon geometrical figures is most frequent. The artist often applies the orderly, clear spatial divisions. It is her attempt to demarkate the position of man in the universe that was created at the dawn of times by the builder knowledgeable of solids, shapes and figures. There is also the tradition of the classics, for whom perfection and beauty were proportions of numbers and the account of cool calculations. Art requires both the harmony of shapes, adequate proportions, but also the spirit, the deeling of anxiety and sensitivity. Otherwise it turns into cool calculation. In Aleksandra Mańczak's art proportions have been cautiously weighed out, the spheres of composition harmony and inner emotions have been divided with balance. What was emotional and spiritual has been ordered, while the inner statbility and simplicity have been shaken with the anxiety and curiosity of the world. And also the touch of humour.
In the cycles of the "Polish Fences", as well as the "Polish Walls" we can observe the artist's interest in the surface, substantiality, tangibility of the represented elements of reality. It is the continuation of her interests undertaken in the earlier pieces, such as the cycle of "Surfaces and Structures". Yet there, too, one can observe the interpenetration of structures, of overlapping of different substances. The fences contain the warmth of wood, yet their surface is fibrous, sometimes with splinters and cuts, unshaved and rough. Other than the walls, which are strong, solid, they form the buildings' sides. There is the sense of lasting and permanence attached to them. They hide away, shield the inner space. The walls are not present in their nostalgic coldness, placed beyond reality. They have the tangibility of the cold wall, but also the illusion of the world imagined, contained within. The grey walls in Orońsko have their own, specific surface, they form a screen, a separation of different spheres of reality. It is yet different in such pieces as , e.g. "St Sebastian" or "Jump", in which the artist ventured representation of the ruins. The red colour of brick its regularity and ordering are contrasted with the image of destruction, the building's abandonment, is giving it over to nature. Maybe this is a distant analogy to the romantic pictures by Caspar David Friedrich, where nature with its power annexes man-made products, also his temples, cemeteries and architecture. It is in the facture of the walls, their mathematical harmony of the simplest, geometrical shapes that the spiritual image of the place is contained.
In some pieces the artist tackles the problem of religion, the sacred present in our world, tradition and culture. In one of them, entitled "Jump", against the ruins, her own face is depicted, quiet and pondering, looking at the viewer peacefully. The triangle of the top wall, deprived of the roof cuts sharply into the space reserved for the two baroque angels. And at the lower part there is a jump... into the water. The harmony of the composition with its centrally located triangle whose symmetry is underlined by two messengers of heavens is contrasted with the dynamics of the jump. The world, the ordering and transgression of the fixed frames, the jump into another space. The piece is a clash of two images of the artist - the present one and the moment in the past recorded by her father. It is the recording of two experiences which have overlapped forming totally new relations and contexts for our thoughts.
The "Little Bouquet" is the similar clash with the past. Against the grey, cold wall, with the peeling layer of plaster, shamelessly unveiling the red colour of bricks there is a tiny girl standing with a small bunch of flowers in her little hand. Alone, timid and full of the children's charm. And there is a hand extended towards her, from another world. This is where the past meets the present. What was unknown before now slowly turns into the time past. In vain shall we seek any nostalgic feeling for what has gone by in it, neither it is a sentimental journey into the world of childhood. The story contained in it is the story about changes, an indispensable element of our life. In the turmoil of everyday affairs, in the quest of our own fate it is maybe worth remembering the words: "Man comes to the world with his fists clenched, as if he were saying: The whole world is mine. But he bids farewell to the world with open arms, as if he wanted to say: Look, I am not taking away anything with me."2
In the pieces from the cycle of the "Polish Walls" the artist tackles the problem of relation between the man and the woman. She views those things from different angles, she depicts differences and similarities, she poses questions, she juxtaposes modernity and tradition, she makes visible certain stereotypes. In the triptych "Male Object of Desire" she depicts three aspects of man's interests. The piece is a little perverse and ironical, it is partly an image of a certain stereotype, deeply imbedded in our tradition though it is. The arms depicted in the first part is the manifestation of power, or masculinity? Has a modern man remained an armed warrior? The successive part of the triptych is a story of the woman, but her image is vulgar, it displays nudity rid of any emotions. It is the representation of the female body reduced to the banality of gutter press displays. This is also a certain symbol of the male - with the female, inevitably ravishing and luring, present in fairy tales, myths and in reality, novels and films. There is yet another image of the female known from old representations - tha of Mary, The Virgin Mary of the Sorrows, a photographic recollection of the characteristic gesture of the arms crossed upon the breast. The two different woman's worlds. The last part of the triptych was devoted to the race with speed, i.e. automobiles. It is the most up to date element characterising the man's world. How shall we then understand the piece, what does it mean? Is it the attempt at characteristics? No, it is rather the presentation of the stereotype, deeply imbedded in our consciousness and the European tradition. Thiese are also, in a way, the images created by the media, more and more interfere in our lives. This is how the new myth of the man is born, the hero of the action movie, one driving a fast car, always with a sexy girl by his side.
"If God were a woman, would he create Eve?" The ambiguous question is the title of is the title of one of the pieces coming from the cycle of the "Polish Walls". How difficult it is to find the answer whether it exists? In one of the stories of the Talmud it was written: "And God made [the woman] from the rib. He pondered what to make her from. And he said: I will not form her from the man's head, so that she did not raise her head, or from the eye, so that she would not be too inquisitive, or from the ear, so that she would eavesdrop, or from the heart, so that she would not show jealousy, or from the hand, so that she would not touch anything, or from the leg, so that she would not be a gadabout, but from the rib - the abode of man's decency". And yet, as it was written: "You have not taken heed of my advice, for all that can be found in her."3 There are, then, many drawbacks to be found in the woman, yet there is some goodness in her, too. Could the woman form Eve, one could say rather peevishly, rather not. Women do not fancy creating their own rivals, but they like to compare themselves with others and in some way they would like to say they are better, prettier, or wiser. And how could she be better had she been devinely perfect, and moreover endowed with the power of creation?
The above, a little subversive questions refer to the role of the artist, the one creating new existences. The work of art has yet always been the representation of the artist's thoughts and emotions, experiences and feelings, it is created, in a way, as his semblance and image. It can also become the form of protest or rebellion, a memento, a stress put upon the impact of certain phenomena, postures or events unnoticed or neglected by all. It is, in a way the romantic concept of the artist. In the modern world there are many problems demanding such an attitude, under no circumstances to be connected with moralising or didactic musts and prohibitions. We will not find any of those attitudes in the art of Aleksandra Mańczak, she does not repremend anyone, she tells her story. She leads an interesting, sometimes puzzling dialogue with the viewer.
Coming back to the problem of sacrum a most interesting piece is that of "St Sebastian". There is the figure of the saint presented against some ruins. The Roman officer of the emperor's guard has been depicted in art works many times. The cult of St.Sebastian protecting people from plagues, pensive, bent over the suffering human, man's holy spokesmen against the dread of epidemics. The Sebastian of Aleksandra Mańczak is the symmetry axis of the whole composition, it is upon it that all looks concentrate. He tears apart his face peering into the distant space, he looks down, or, as it is the case in the painting by Antonio Pallaiuolo, he is already close to the heavemly blue of the sky?
The topic referring to the problems of the world's sacralisation and religiousness is present in the piece entitled "Putto". The main, title character is a small putto placed in the right bottom corner of the painting. The baroque sculpture, twisted in an unnatural, dancing movement, with the golden foilds instead of the dress. He stands there, a little shy, embarassed, clumsy in his round-faced holiness. He does not know what to do for there is the figure of the naked woman against the background of the grey wall.
Several pieces from the cycle of the "Polish Walls" recall the distant memories, so closely connected with the history of the European culture, and those close ones referring to the well-known, remembered places. We can see there the clear reference to the history of painting, the antique frescos. The wounded paintings reveal the rough surface of the cracked wall, the mutilated images, broken, their paint peeling off, and yet lasting, attracting the viewer with their story, the history from the past. This is the piece "My Tale about Łagów" ("Polish Walls"). We can get to a different world behind the walls, we can peep over to the non-existant country, we can dream. The paths, winding, hidden lead forth our thoughts and emotions. Where to? "The Łagów Triptych - three aths" ("Polish Walls") makes us think of painting, a forgotten fresco, covered in the mould of time. The delicate, misty landscapes of imagination lure us, attract, invite for a journey into the unknown, straight ahead, so as to unrevel them. You want to touch the walls. To make sure they are there, to touch the dream.
The photographic collages presented at the exhibition, made by means of computer techniques are the overlapping images and experiences. The artist has put together her own landscape out of the old and new paintings. She depicted the world peeped at through the fences, an intimate region full of sunshine and inner order, the peace of the secret garden, and the world behind the walls of our imagination.
Photography has been prewenet in the activity of Aleksandra Mańczak from the very beginning of her artistis path and it has always been closely connected with the world seen through the window, the world of nature. They were the detected elements of nature, selected ones, as if for biological analyses, some of them became themes of her textile pieces years ago. They were as if sketches, notes for the further artistic considerations. There was also an important cycle of pieces where the form of the triptych, the traditional shape of the altar would virtually ennoble, raise the value and make sacred nature, or in fact made us aware of its spirituality and non marterial depth concealed in the boughs of the common oak tree or beech tree.
There is yet order of being embedded in nature, the world's soul, and maybe the romantics did not err when they told us to seek the origin of being and inner cognition of ourselves and of the world in its tangle. In the activity of Aleksandra Mańczak the above trend performs extra-religious functions, it sanctifies our otherwise urbanised, spirituality devoid world. Photography is also the means to endow it with new order, the sense of balanced compositions based upon the simple geometrical figures, building the definite order in the area of the piece and its implications in a clear-cut, straighforward fashion.
The artist's pieces presented at the exhibition reveal yet another aspect of photography, which allows us to combine different worlds, make permament the psychic states, tell stories both those really enacted and the would be ones.
The partly photographic, partly painterly dialogue, the talk about the man living in the secret garden he would like to get to know and reveal. And there is also the world behind the walls, inaccessible, closed-up, which requires imagination, feeling and sensitivity, understanding the laws of the world, and our place in it.
This is what we must talk about, this is what the piece, ent. "Dialogue" refers to. Yet the exchange of thoughts must follow from the heart and the real feeling of the world's exuniqueness, its inexpicable charm, goodness and nobility present in nature.
For otherwise it would be better to remain silent.
1 R. Graves, R. Patai, The Hebrew Myths, Warsaw 1993, p.76.
2 From the Wisdom of the Talmud, Warsaw 1988, p.273.
3 From the Wisdom of the Talmud, op. cit., p. 245
2001, from the cycle Polish fences digital photomontage, inkjet print
Very small bouquet
2002, from the cycle Polish walls digital photomontage, inkjet print.
My Tale about Łagów
2001, from the cycle Polish walls digital photomontage, inkjet print.
"Three paths" - the path to the heaven
2001, from the cycle Polish walls digital photomontage, inkjet print.
Photography from exhibitions
Copyright ©2003 Galeria FF ŁDK, Aleksandra Mańczak, Ewa Różalska.