Figures Full of Light / Figury pełne słońca, with Teresa Starzec, Nowe Miejce, Warszawa, 2020
Phot. Marek Gardulski
Works by Alicja Bielawska:
Fragments / Fragmenty, 2018, glazed earthenware, wood, plywood
Vessels / Naczynia, 2020, glazed earthenware, storage rack, 176,5 x 120 x 40,5 cm
Outlines / Zarysy, 2020, coloured pencil on paper, tracing paper, 42 x 29,7 cm
Balancing shapes / Chwiejne kształty, 2016, pencil, coloured pencil on paper, 29,5 x 42 cm
‘figures’ of the title outline that which seems intangible: impressions, sensations, memories, and awe. These ‘figures’ are records of images emerging from beneath the eyelids and fingertips. The visual language imprinted on the canvas, on a sheet of paper, or in clay, allows the indescribable to be captured. However, in order to represent something this ephemeral, one needs to keep returning to it, repeating the shapes, and searching for that which seems to be already documented—but changes shape once again—and transforms before our eyes. Perhaps this is what prompts the continual attempts to organise these ‘figures’ into different variations. It is only in their sum that they can give us a sense of the richness of the world. There isn’t just one perfect record, but an infinite number. Nonetheless, a choice needs to be made about how this record will be presented.
The joint exhibition of Teresa Starzec and Alicja Bielawska (privately, mother and daughter) is arranged into repeating motifs, whose exploration derives from an urge to describe the experience of the world. Each of the two artists works with her own techniques and a different visual vocabulary. However, what their works share is a remarkably sensual and sensitive way of using colours and constructing shapes—tools employed by both artists to direct our attention towards perceiving the world.
In the works of Starzec, recurring motifs reconstruct the outcomes of
a continued observation of landscape. In her recent series of large format oil paintings dating from 2019/2020, displayed in the exhibition,
the observation of nature turns into meditation. Mandorla shapes drawn from the landscape and from flora are superimposed, multiplied, and stretched out, leading the paintings to vibrate through their repeat arrangements. They become dynamic documentation of the energy fields permeating the world. On a visual level, these vibrations also derive from the changing colours, which introduce air, light, and depth into the pictures. These nearly three metre tall paintings were created in the artist’s studio by the Narew river, in the direct vicinity of nature, with a view of the meandering river’s valley on one side and sunsets peeking through tree trunks on another, and on yet another, a wild meadow covered in flowers: mulleins, blueweeds, evening primroses, yarrows, and St John’s wort. This proximity to nature has left its mark on the paintings, which convey a vibrating substantiality through the decisions drawn in broad lines, sharp like leaves of grass. Meanwhile, the layers of intertwining colours evoke air as well as a double image of the water’s depth and its reflection. Nature is celebrated through the multiplication of motifs and intensification of colours, all taken together.
A celebration of reality is also at the core of the works of Bielawska, whose sculptures and drawings form subtle relationships between objects, viewers, and space. The artist draws her inspiration from the everyday sphere, which she references through the use of textiles and ceramic shapes, set on steel or aluminium structures. In the new series of works, the artist’s attention oscillates around the form of a vessel. The ceramic vessels: tall, short, shallow, and deep, with uneven sides, are an attempt at capturing the essence of the object, which has remained unchanged in its simplicity for millennia. In her drawings and pottery pieces, the artist searches for lines that can encompass a small section of space. The lines wave, stretch, bend, and overlap. Colour is an inseparable element of her works, whether it contributes the solidity of primary colours or a richness of shades, with alluring nuance. In her drawings, colour either appears as a decisive line describing a shape, or, replicated through multiple strokes, becomes vibrating matter which tries to grasp onto a shape. In the ceramic objects, colour not only coats the outside surface, but also becomes the mass of the material. The artist doesn’t reproduce any specific objects; her search for the shapes of vessels is more of a process of discovering their remembered outlines. Some stages of creation also lead to moments when the vessels are split up into pieces. Fragmentation is etched into her process of searching for shapes.