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Body as Experience, Art as Cognition, Lech Lechowicz, 2003

The most recent work series by Natalia Lach-Lachowicz, “The Birth According to Body”, “The Birth According to Spirit” (2000) and “The Birds of Freedom” (2001-2002) have marked a new stage in her vast artistic career, the stage being a single fragment of her differential achievements.

IN SPITE OF BEING FRAGMENTARY, they represent well both, her artistic standpoint of the past, as well as the more recent one. Contrary to ever more popular latest artistic phenomena pertaining to the body, her works have never been meant to shock. They have always been related with an artistic aspect vital to her, namely with the art as an individual experience which – once exceeded – bears cognition based on this very experience. “For a long time now, perhaps always, I have been fascinated with the art cognitive power”. (l) For this very reason, in her art the body has never been merely a motive, neither its representation in the picture has been focused on it, and on it only. It has always been aimed at touching upon more general problems of interest to her at a given time.

The works by Natalia LL from the seventies, the multiplied body images served a conceptual thought on the body as a sign, or the body as a link between the bodily – spiritual human nature on one hand, and the physical world – on the other. It has been expanded through performance where the artist herself, including her body, plays a specific and double part, as the subject and object of the performance. It indicates the human structure dichotomy, the tensions but also the complementary relations between the bodily and the spiritual.

A similar dichotomy approach has been typical of the works by Natalia LL in the latest two decades. She has frequently used photographic pictures. Her works do not so much attempt to describe these problems, but rather to experience and recognize them through art. Selecting photographic picture as a tool, corresponds very well to these works personal and intimate character. Photography allows for a deep and intimate self observation and certain detachment.

Photographic picture, however, has one trait that can seriously disturb this process. It contains a veristic literal approach towards what has been represented, particularly suggestive in the case of body being an object of the picture. To avoid it, Natalia LL applies creative processing of the object and its picture, so as to remove veristic emphatic overtones -from the final character of the piece of art based on the photograph – frequently making it difficult, if possible at all, for other artists to achieve this universal dimension in the works similar in content and technique.

In the series “Vision Heads” (1989) and “Plato Forms” (1990) she deformed her facial features through manual, painting interference on the photographic picture surface. A specific deformation of the body and its photographic representation, making the body devoid of its identifying features, shifted originally the artists, and then audience’s interest from individual and personal issues related to the person identification, towards more general problems.

This approach has been developed and expanded in the recent work series. Each photographic picture was interfered into either during the exposition or in the course of digital processing. None of them shows the artists face, since everywhere it is covered with the mask. In “The Birth According to Body” and “The Birth According to Spirit” the face is hidden under the plaster mask – casting; in “The Birds of Freedom” – under a gas mask. Thus, Natalia LL has made her identifying difficult, so as the viewer does not focus on the individual , she has shifted his attention from pure personal topics, and directed it towards universal problems.

In the course of the creative process, the artists personal experience – leading her to a specific form of cognition through art – while subliming, gets universal in the piece of art, and only then it can turn into the viewer’s individual experience. These two experiences are an important target of the art by Natalia Lach-Lachowicz. Experience, however, does not always result in cognition. A certain effort is needed here, both on the part of the artist, as well as on the part of the audience. Undoubtedly, the artist has made this effort leading to the manifesto of “individual inner self revealing an artistic process”. (2) A similar effort, bearing a similar result, must be undertaken by a viewer facing this work of art.

Lech Lechowicz

(1) N. Lach-Lachowicz, “The Birds of Freedom” II. (November Ist 2002) p. l (typescript, LL files).
(2) N.Lach-Lachowicz, “Art as an Inner Experience”, 1979 in “Permafo. Unidentified Energies”, Wrocław, 1981, p.12

Translated by Małgorzata Zipper