Critics Back

Natalia LL, Piotr Krakowski, 1993

Natalia Lach-Lachowicz is an internationally recognized conceptual artist and co-founder of the PERMAFO Gallery. She has presented her work in all the world’s most important museums and galleries. Residing in Wrocław, she is not so well known in Cracow.

With her husband Andrzej Lachowicz, she has presented works at the Arkady Gallery (1973), and also took part in a group exhibition entitled Protografia during the VI International Graphic Arts Biennial(1976).

Together with Andrzej Lachowicz, she gave the name “notional art” to a kind of conceptualism that is specific to the Wrocław artistic community. Her later work remained tied to the insights of conceptualism, as shown in her statements and theoretical commentaries to her artistic works. In the reflection entitled Loose Space (1987), the artist states, “In artists work that is taken seriously, it seems impossible to separate the manual from the mental procedure. Theoretical reflection may be an anticipation of what is actualized, but it may also be that it comes as a deep synthetic motivation for what arose from an intuitive quiver of the heart and hand. This kind of interdependence between thought and material has been very emphatically stressed in conceptualism, whose postulates have become a permanent element of art. Since art, which is expressed in works and thoughts, has to be motivated internally, then the space, the do-main, the dimension in which this creation takes place, is an essential matter.”

In large part, the works Natalia LL has presented since the early 1970’s have been photographs, used in an untraditional way, as a material in itself, leading to new and different artistic effects, creating new forms of notation, new systems of artistic visualization.

According to the artist, photography, through its ability to multiply and tautologize, creates a new iconosphere that has nothing in common with the real world; the world created by photography, as Andrzej Lachowicz stresses, exists outside the reality recorded by photography. Photography is not a record of reality but rather a kind of materiality, like the reality described by language. This leads to the idea of “conceived reality”, to isomorphism of visual and mental notation.

Natalia LL suggests that by making “artificial photographs” she registers a credible, authentic “artificial reality”, since in genuine, tested reality this kind of photography cannot exist. But revealing this artificial reality through photography makes it possible to see the world in manifold dimensions and beyond measured time. The experiments in “artificial photography” were directed, as the artist states, against “the common-sense understanding of art, treating the visual process as leftovers of inferior thoughts, waste products of the mental process”.

Given that our perception does not allow a stable model of visual information to be created, the artist postulates the need to consider the men¬tal process as well, and she affirms the indivisible link between visual perception and the whole mental set that accompanies each visualization. This is a complete process and it should be treated holistically. Tying her work to the holistic theory of her husband and to the concepts of art of the extreme, she presents Categorical Sentences within the Field of Post-Consumer Art. she juxtaposes colour photographs of herself with quasi-academic statements on art. This is another attempt to equate two kinds of formalization, mental and visual.

Categorical Sentences… was a rationalized attempt at a particular kind of visual mental realization: the creation of a visual construction that would match a certain content, and vice versa; each grammatical-semantic sentence construction would have a visual equivalent.

As in this concept, so in other works of this kind (such as her “artificial photography”, mentioned above), there is a desire to demonstrate the unreliability of what we perceive normally, in terms of what results from our subjective impressions. Natalia LL wants to understand art as “inner experience”. She considers art a “self-conscious projection”, expressed in “the collectivity of contents, an inexhaustible source in every human being”. She arrives at this through different acts and events, such as Dreaming (1978) or Pyramid, special artistic processes that disclose the contents of “our unconscious, our individual inner-ness”.

In these events, as the artist herself points out, we arę dealing with a continuation of earlier interests in “the commonplace and the trite, as a field for artistic penetration”. The artist is interested in everyday reality in art ( Transforming Pose, 1972). In this way she wishes to prove the complete artificiality of art; then, through other means of artistic formalization, as in Dreaming, she also tries to show the commonplace and the normal on the plane of the unusual. It consists of dreaming itself, understood in a purely “internal” way, accessible only to the dreamer; then an “external” layer of dreaming, the participants in the event and the whole of the surroundings, the gallery interior; and finally “an attempt to materialize, calling forth an equivalent of unreal dream, the making of a fictitious document”. “The state of physical presence, and at the same time the absence of our consciousness in night dreams” are what interest Natalia LL here.

In these notions, there is a clear return to artistic intuition through the insights of conceptualism. The artist demands “intuitive, imaginative revisions, because the accepted process of metalanguage does not cover reality in all of its complications and all of its richness”.

It is easy to see that in her conceptual experiments Natalia LL represents a direction that differs from the one pursued by the Art and Language group, or by Kosuth or Burgin. Those artists were interested mainly in the systematic explication of the very concept of the artistic act, the circumstances by which art exists or may exist; consequently, the theoretical side is what comes first, and not until later is there a practical demonstration of the results of these notional remarks (which demonstration might be performed at last, or not). After analysis of the essential morphological features of a work of art, the problems of interest to these ultra-fringe conceptual artists broadened into an examination of the context of the artistic act, and from there to a whole complicated system— “art”, with all its conditions and peculiarities.

Natalia LL is anxious to grasp and present an exceptionally complex and constantly changing system composed from reality. She uses photography as her particular medium, but not only photography, because she puts on various events and performances as well. Along the way she is seeking the relation between theoretical reflection and artistic creation, but she also examines the creative process itself, the role the artist plays in it. Natalia LL’s artistic efforts are important for the creative process itself, and for the creative values embodied in every form of creation, whether due to unconscious processes or to intentional design. The artist postulates “an art which is done by objectivized means, as better matched to our sensory structure, but in which these means are strictly subordinated to artistic intuition”.

This way of thinking, and this kind of theoretical foundation, can be discovered in the cycles on display at the International Cultural Centre: Plato’s Forms, Vision Heads, Eschatological Landscapes , and also in the installation entitled Panic Zone.

The artist uses her experience to harmonize mental processes with concrete forms of visualization, creating works that are full of expression, producing their own unmistakably intentional dramatic tension. This intensified dramaturgy and expression affects the approaching viewer, consciously eliciting effects that are as aesthetic as they are artistic.

This is an exhibition which leaves a deep impression.

Piotr Krakowski
1993 Warsaw

OBIEG 09/10