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Gauguin Syndrome, lokal_30 Gallery, Warsaw


lokal_30 Gallery, Warsaw

September 23–November 19, 2016

Gauguin Syndrome showcases the work of three artists – Filip Berendt, Ewa Juszkiewicz and Katya Shadkovska. These are individual exhibitions with common threads running through them – anthropology and transformation, its requirements, impossibility or the very moment of change.

A photographer, sculptor and creator of objects, Filip Berendt makes objects to photograph them. Monomyth project combines authorial photography with abstract painting – photographed objects are spatial collages created on the walls of Berendt’s studio and destroyed once they have been captured on film. Berendt has used that method previously in a couple of cycles (Every Single Crash, Pandemia) in which the only physical trace of the pieces he created – and thus the final effect of the creative act – was a photograph. His latest works refer to the idea of monomyth, introduced by the American mythologist Joseph Campbell (the term was originally coined by James Joyce). Monomyth stands for the archetypal pattern typical of fictional narratives, described by Campbell, shared by all mythical stories, manifesting itself as the hero’s journey, conveying universal truths about self-discovery and self-transcendence, about social and interpersonal roles. According to Campbell – and Berendt – the hero is an individual setting out on a journey leading them to the final destination: profound spiritual transformation. The journey is tantamount to making life meaningful, to searching for and discovering its meaning at consecutive stages of the trip.

Ewa Juszkiewicz creates paintings, drawings, collages and sculptures. Her works tend to be inspired by the portrait, mostly female portrait. The artist reinterprets famous historical paintings depicting women, at once destroying and recreating them – her point of departure are classic paintings which she then changes, deleting their obvious and well-known order. Masks constitute another crucial motif in Juszkiewicz’s work. The peculiar masquerade she performs aims at impugning the status and function of the old portrait as well as constructing a new image, or a collection of images, upon its ‘ruin’. Juszkiewicz’s latest cycle is based on archival photographs of works of art considered lost, stolen, destroyed by fire or during the war. The tension between destruction and creation appears stronger than before. Culture is founded on the legacy of the past and we tend to show great reluctance to accept the fact that what is old is replaced by new things, although we witness this phenomenon on a daily basis – urbanism and architecture have fed on ruins for centuries. The act of indirect – reinterpreting reconstruction of a destroyed or lost piece highlights the tension between nostalgic struggle against oblivion and the necessity of change and striving for novelty. The artist claims that her choice of original works was by no means random. During the preparation stage she went through lots of pictures, selecting those which she found related to her own memories of the vicissitudes of life. A representation may illustrate a particularly vivid memory or it may only trigger vague associations, evoking a specific aura. Lost works of arts and the longing for them have merged with a sort of ‘controlled nostalgia’ brought about by the artist’s personal experience which remains a secret, both hidden from and revealed to the public.

Katya Shadkovska is predominantly a video artist; she is also active as a curator and organizer of cultural events. She works in Poland and Russia, collaborating with independent Russian artistic circles. The film displayed at the exhibition, entitled Julia, has been inspired by her activities in Russia. Through the story of a young transsexual person she explores stereotypes about manhood and the changes they are currently undergoing. Shadkovska’s protagonist, Julia, lives alone in a block of flats in Petersburg, earning her living as a prostitute. She struggles against lack of acceptance; she is beaten and humiliated but unwilling to give up her way of life. Julia’s unemotional story focuses on daily life, being in fact a dramatic confession of the stranger, a person that belongs nowhere and is incapable of finding her own place even among people like her. The artist describes her: Many homosexual and transsexual people are leaving Russia. I managed to find lawyers who would help Julia get all necessary documents and go through formalities; they could find a Western country that would grant asylum to her. Julia said she deeply appreciated that. And then she disappeared. When I asked her why, she replied: “What would I do in the West? Anyway… I like it here.”

Three exhibitions and three stories that unite in a common thread of transformation – its needs, obstacles and its achievement.

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