Critics Back

Allusive Space, Adam Sobota, 1995

The display of Natalia’s LL works entitled „The Allusive Space” in January 1995 at the Arsenał gallery in Białystok was one of her most interesting one-artist exhibitions. In recent years Natalia LL had many such shows at which she combined earlier works with her latest ideas. Her daily work includes many items: paintings, drawings, sculptures, installations and performance made for photography and video, all of them are arranged into cycles. And as regards exhibitions – the one-artist ones in particular – they give her an opportunity for very special arrangements in which the particular objects enhance their meaning and create a sort of synthesis reflecting various aspects of the artist’s personality.

The arrangement “Allusive Space” was dominated by massively duplicated photographs representing: a flower chalice, banana partly pealed, plates with the author’s name and portrait, erotic scenes. Each of these motifs – like wallpaper – covered part of the walls, plates of the floor in various rooms while being occasionally a background for other objects. A strong accent of the show were nine bronze casts, presenting the artist’s head with traces of various aggressive treatments. Another element was a series of pictures in which the black paint they were covered with showed traces of the paint having been brushed off from them. The erotic scenes were a series of photographic frames printed out on big sheets of canvas, with a black background, which were thrown on a bed, table, chair, hanger. Apart from that in a box covered with photos there was a monitor on which one could see a series of films by Natalia LL: “Brunhilda’s Dream”, “Voracious Cats”, “A Mobile Flower”, as well as a film on Natalia LL made by Andrzej Sapija. The exhibition was completed by such elements as: a model of human skull, flowers in a vase, a ship power screw.

Almost all the motifs of the show have been known from her earlier work. The series of photographs representing erotic contacts Natalia LL began using in the late 60s, and recently she did it also in her works to be shown in the big collective exhibition “Ars erotica”, held in Warsaw. The casts of have been appearing in her shows already for several years, at the same time as the motifs of head in photography and painting (see: a text by Natalia LL “The Theory of Head” in EXIT no. 6(1991). Banana was the motif of her series of works entitled “The Art of Consumption” of 1972-1975, and the more recent motif of the flower chalice brings similar associations combining eroticism with the motifs on consumption and death – so frequent in her works. This repetition of the motifs is for her something natural since it refers to the rituals always present in our life. Both our bodily existence and the sphere of emotions and intellect are determined by the simple functions: eating, procreation and sleep. But there is in the simplicity of those functions a complication which appears in the sphere of consciousness, in its contradictions which she tries to express by means of a variety of resources. These resources include the presence of a living person or of concrete objects, as well as a film and photography documentation, symbolic figures, abstract concepts, an aesthetics combined with the qualities of various media. An invention of new means of expression and repetition are two sides of the same artistic activity, as are also direct presence and using of symbols.

In Natalia’s LL work we often see a reference to the notion of space. But the space of art is not here that of painting, nor is it of any other medium, it is the place in which the basic problems of existence manifest themselves, only partly formalized by the means of expression currently accepted in art. This area Natalia LL describes as space that is free, visionary, panicky or allusive, depending on how it is looked at. But the key term seems to be here “the intimate sphere” which dates from 1974. Because she sees and experiences the universal truths in an intimate way, and the essence of an intimate experience is inaccessible to an outside observer. In her work there is a constant clash between the directly given, living, individual things and the objective ones, limited by the point of view, artificial.

The camera taking photos of the artist is such an objective criteria, as may be also a hole in the wall of a box covered with photos through which one can look only at what is inside (as it was at the show “The Intimate Photography” in 1971). Owing to the camera real objects become symbols, and the symbols become objects, the process going on all the time in both directions. This is well-illustrated by the film “Brunhilda’s Dream” which combines the features of artistic documentation, pathetic reference to a myth, perverse symbolism and a grotesque action.

Adam Sobota

EXIT, kwartalnik Nr 2, 1995