Critics Back

Allusive Space, Stefanie Bauman, 1995

Natalia Lach-Lachowicz, who calls herself Natalia LL, is regarded as one of Poland’s most distinguished artists of world renown. The works of art created by her appear in the borderland of various genres: photography, painting, installation and performance while dealing with the problems of various media. The “Allusive Space” contains allusions to hidden and obvious meanings and – which is typical of Natalia LL – are a play, not without irony, with these meanings.

There is a constant variability in Natalia’s works, but in all of them she is concerned with female body, mostly with her own.

In the seventies she used to present erotic photographs, body close-ups of an intimate situation which places the spectator in the role of the peeping Tom. Natalia presents this motif in a serial row, a method derived from the conceptual art. But each photo is modified. And all of them indicate that the erotic feeling cannot be fully expressed. What we can see is only the outer side of an internal experience and the spectator can have no part in it. In the installation “Allusive Space” of 1995 Natalia is quoting herself. The printed fabrics are stretched like scarves or form a dress material. We have here a series of photographs of the “intimate” type, photos of an intercourse which are chafing the seemingly decent bourgeois society. This is an ironical allusion to the traditional role of the woman confined to the household.

The repeatedly exposed photos of Natalia on a coach refer to the motifs of “artificial photography” of fifteen years ago. In these series Natalia has documented herself: happiness about her own body, admiration for it, the triumph of “everlasting youth and beauty”. Today having experienced getting old and the passage of time, she demonstrates us another, older body with skull as the symbol of death. Natalia is drawing up the picture of getting old and of death while asking the question what is left of man after his death. And these particular photographs indicate that we get here arranged photographs of her very personal visions and fantasies. The works create a reality that exists beyond reality and is documented with photographs.

Very peculiar are the drawings called “Amazing Triangles” which look at the first sight like geometrical figures filled with a tangle of lines. For Natalia LL an inspiration for these wavy lines and organic forms was her own pubic hair. Turning them by 180o she obtained these “amazing triangles”. Here too, as in the case of “patterns”, this is a play in which she engages our sense of observation and a reflection over the nature of art.

The human body is very important for Natalia LL, it is with her a means of expression which she uses for the presentation of complex and transcendental ideas: “The space of body/work of art shows the borders and at the same time the infinity of man”.

“Although the artist is through his body a finite creature he presents at the same time his spirit by means of that body as a medium (…)”.

Initially the series of photographs of bananas and anturias seem not to belong to the art of body, but they should be conceived as symbols of human body – the male this time. The banana became something of a trade mark of Natalia LL after 1975 when she had been representing Poland at the 9th Biennale of the Young Art in Paris with the works of the “Consumption Art” series – photographs of a well-made blonde girl, appearing naive and innocent who is eating a banana with a suggestive pleasure. The bodily pleasures and lewdness seem to be bound together in a natural way while expressing however m a satirical-ironical language men’s fears. In time Natalia discovered anturias. Not only because the banana seems to us already exploited, the application of this tropical plant is a good choice, but also because its flower sprout is m reality the plant’s sex organ. It is significant that this flower belongs to the species which is translated into German as a tail (Schwanz) plant. The plants and fruits have been fixed on the fabric by means of a special method (duplex); however the fabrics have not been placed on the wall in the traditional manner. They either acquire space in the shape of a cascade or form rays of the sun. The sun as a symbol of strength and energy but here it is made up of the same skulls adorned with anturias and bananas at the place where there had been mouth before. The young girl from the “Consumption Art” is here replaced by a skull, and instead of an allusion to sexual satisfaction there appears an allusion to death.

The video documentation “Brunhild’s Dream” shows us Natalia wearing a long black gown, with her head adorned with anturias, and cutting with sword a banana, getting her fingernails into it or piercing it with the edge of a shield. The Nibelung motifs, from which comes the mythical Brunhild, are familiar to us and consist of various elements: mythical, fairytale, historical and literary ones. Brunhild is a fictitious character with an interesting etymology of her name. In the ancient German “brunna” meant armour and “hiltja” – fight. In all legends Brunhild is depicted as a strong woman or endowed with magic power. Gunther who is courting her must fight her. He is replaced by Siegfried and in some stories, it concerns also the wedding night. Brunhild revenges herself on him and persuades Hagen to kill Siegfried. Natalia LL, in the role of Brunhild takes revenge herself, in a satirical and drastic manner, in harmony with the music of Wagner which she adores!

Natalia LL’s works are very personal. She is struggling in them with her own identity which finds its expression m the art of body, so typical of her, and which she calls “the most honest method of artistic expression”, “an art. of being oneself”. Indeed her works are deeply rooted in her very personal problems. She has studying European and non-European philosophy, Bible, Descartes, C. G. Yung, constantly seeking an answer to existentialist questions – about the sense and mystery of life and death, of good and evil, of creation and destruction. This struggle explains the general importance of Natalia LL’s works, despite the fact, or perhaps because they are so personal.

Stefanie Bauman

Kwartalnik Nr 1, 1996