Posts Tagged ‘Gosia Wlodarczak


Freehand @ Heide MoMA

ex de Medici Tooth-and-claw

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Freehand @ Heide MoMA

ex de Medici Tooth-and-claw

The exhibition Freehand at Heidi focuses on contemporary Australian works on paper. The visitor to the exhibition is greeted by the giant Tooth and Claw by ex de Medici. Her watercolours are always remarkable for the high quality of execution and superb draughtsmanship, and this large-scale work on paper is no exception. It depicts two skeletons, one of which is supporting on its shoulder a giant gun, while the other is being crushed by the weight of the second gun. The weapons are surrounded by darting swallows and garlands of carnations. Soviet-style five-pointed stars are interspersed throughout the intricate background design of the watercolour, and they also appear etched on the barrel of one of the guns, alongside the Stars of David. One would have wished to learn more about the intricate and complex narrative of this superb watercolour, but the information provided in the catalogue is rather meagre. While the multi-layered semantics of guns and skeletons are almost self-explanatory, as are carnations, which are symbolic of fallen soldiers, I am rather intrigued by the Jewish and Soviet references, which will remain a mystery for the time being (unless the artist, or someone who is well-versed in her iconography would care to contact me).

Mira Gojak

As one steps back to admire the large de Medici, one literally stumbles across a long trestle table supporting a work by Greg Creek. It is very similar to what the artist has been producing over the last ten years, and comparable examples had been shown in numerous locations, including Creek’s one-man-show at the ACCA. It represents a collection of seemingly unrelated images, executed by the artist over a period of time, and, knowing Greg Creek, it is quite possible that some of the figures and squiggles may have been ‘contributed’ by chance visitors to his studio. The work includes a beautiful glimpse of the Merri Creek Bridge; a highly competent from architectural and perspective points of view vista of Melbourne; and a silhouette from Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer skilfully disguised as a pink blob at the bottom of the page. Greg Creek’s skills and abilities are self-evident in this picture, but after roughly a decade of seeing “clever” works in unfinished state, one almost wishes to rest the eye on a completed piece.

Three works by Mira Gojak create a very strong statement. I must confess that the first time I saw her non-objective abstract pieces at the Murray White Rooms, I did dismiss them as being somewhat on the decorative side. But the more I see them (and one can’t miss a huge Gojak reproduced on a billboard on the corner of Chapel St and Alexandra Ave), the more I am growing appreciative of Gojak’s varied pigment applications; bold balancing of positive and negative spaces within the composition; and pulsating and rhythmical movements of her spiralling and undulating curves.

Del Kathryn Barton Freehand Heide

Another artist who leaves an unforgettable impression is Sandra Selig, whose works I saw for the first time a few years ago at an exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia. In essence, her pieces consist of spider webs, tinted with spay paint and adhesed to a black background. No doubt quite intricate and labour intensive to produce, they create delicate and evocative designs. While the concept is quite ingenious, given the context of this exhibition, these works did make me ponder, that they owe more to the wonder of nature than to the artist’s hand.

One of the artists who manages to produce works of consistent quality is Del Kathryn Barton, who is profiled quite extensively in this exhibition with a large number of works on display. Her drawings are superbly imaginative and disturbingly visceral, a visual chronicle of the artist’s innermost feelings and fears, and while a number of works continue the artist’s mediation on the female body, there are also cryptic references to the masculine fear of castration.

Gosia Wlodarczak DustCovers@Heide

And of course, one cannot go past the quirky madness that is Gosia Wlodarczak’s work. Depending on the direction of your exhibition perambulations, it is either the first or – as in my case – the last work to be seen in the show. Even though the surface of the work is assiduously covered with calligraphic scribbles, and figurative elements disappear under the ever-increasing layers of over-drawing, it retains the ghostly apparition of a car, which it originally covered, and on which the drawing was executed as a staged performance piece over a three-day period. It is interesting that Wlodarczak’s large-scale drawing is exhibited across the archway from the watercolour by ex de Medici, so the two works can be seen simultaneously from a single viewpoint. While Wlodarczak and de Medici’s works could not have been less alike, they converge at the pure joy elicited by both artists at the very act of drawing and picture making, and covering with markings almost every inch of the available surface.

Sandra SeligIn spite of the presence of a number of figurative artists mentioned above (including a selection of works by such ‘elder statesmen’ of Australian art as Peter Booth and Ken Whisson), the exhibition seems to be weighted more heavily towards abstraction as represented in works by Mario Fusinato, Dom de Clario, Robert McPherson, Eugene Carchesio, Aida Tomescu, and numerous others. Apart from a couple of artists, Freehand seems to overlook contemporary practitioners of traditional figuration, the likes of which one would have encountered, say, in the A.M.E. Bale Scholarship exhibition or on the walls of the Australian Galleries. However, I do accept that this is a strictly curatorial choice, which perhaps eschewed a well-rounded and all-inclusive survey of contemporary drawing in favour of representing recent developments and trends in present-day Australian art. In this the exhibition has fully succeeded by bringing together a representative selection of artists who draw in a variety of media, styles, and genres, and demonstrate in their works a thought-provoking plurality of artistic (self-)expression.

[PS: The photography within the gallery – even without flash – is strictly forbidden. I am relying on images of artists’ comparable works found elsewhere on the net.]

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2011. This article is copyright, but the full or partial use is WELCOME with the full and proper acknowledgment]


Art & Ukraine (Part 1)

Gosia WlodarczakSunday, 15 August 2010

Dear Diary,

Recently I have had a pleasure of being invited to the studio of renowned Australian artist Gosia Wlodarczak and her husband, photographer Longin Sarnecki. Both Gosia and Longin were born in Poland, and over a delicious cup of tea brewed especially by Longin, which included up to seventeen different blends, and seated at a table which virtually groaned under the weight of treats, fruits, and cheeses, we got to discuss our Eastern European roots. I was interested to learn that Gosia and Longin, together with a number of other Polish-born artists living in Australia, continue keeping in close touch with museums, galleries, and exhibition centres in Poland. In fact, they are currently organising a major exhibition in Szczecin, with a huge support from the Polish government.

View of kiev 02

Gosia inevitably asked me whether I have kept in touch with the art establishments in Kiev, Ukraine, where I was born and lived until I was seventeen. I confessed that I had not, even though I volunteered at one of the museums from 1986 to 1989. At that time, Ukraine was still officially known as Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and together with other fourteen states formed the mighty empire of the USSR, or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, had three public art museums – those of Russian art, Ukrainian art, and Western and Oriental art. There was also a smaller museum space for changing exhibitions of art from private collections, and another exhibition space adjacent to the Ukrainian Academy of Arts.

National Art Museum of Ukraine, Kiev

Innumerable paintings, sculpture, photography and applied art were to be seen in Kiev’s other museums and collections – history, natural history, theatre, ballet, performing arts, the famed Lenin museum, as well as home-museums of Ukrainian literary and artistic figures, such as Taras Shevchenko or Lecy Ukrainka. (I should also mention ancient mosaics, important murals, and religious artefacts in Kiev’s churches and cathedrals, which have miraculously escaped destruction during the communist rule.)

From time to time we enjoyed visiting travelling exhibitions, such as those from the collection of American billionaire Armand Hammer from Los Angeles, the collection of Baron and Baroness Thyssen-Bornemisza from Lugano, Switzerland, and contemporary (though heavily weighted towards Social Realism) art exhibitions from Germany and Italy to name but a few.

Khanenko Museum Interior

To the best of my recollection, there were no commercial galleries at the time. Soviet artists had to belong to an artists’ union in their city, region, or state. The centralised governmental system bought their artworks, which inevitably had to celebrate the Soviet system through portraits, landscapes, historical and subject pieces of communist progress and joyous labour. These were in turn distributed among museums and galleries throughout the Soviet Union, and I recall a crate load of them arriving at one of the museums.

While they were inevitably quite homogenous in their look and appeal, among the best things about this system was that every artist was guaranteed income and a steady flow of commissions. Furthermore, this sheer circulation of art meant that works by artists even from the most remote regions of the Soviet empire were to be seen throughout the country, and their works were to be placed within its most prestigious art collections.

Tatiana Jablonska - Bread

The artistic freedom can only be repressed so much, and many of the official Soviet artists did paint in private works that differed stylistically and subject-wise from the officially prescribed aesthetic ideology. I still recall a sensationalised article about one of the most prominent artists, known for his grandiloquent scenes from Soviet history, who, in private, painted – oh horror of horrors – bathing female nudes (very much in the style best described to the Australian audiences as that of Ivor Hele or Max Middleton). Those who refused to compromise their artistic integrity and chose to exist outside the official system did not fare so well. Without the governmental support they struggled financially and had to rely on infrequent sales of artworks from their studios or market stalls to a meagre and virtually non-existent local collectors’ market or to a chance international visitor.

… to be continued…

[© Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg 2010. This article is copyright, but the full or partial use is WELCOME with the full and proper acknowledgement.]

Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg

February 2019
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