Painting and memory / family photographs

“Family stills” work in progress

Most people agree that family photos represent “something emotional” for the individual owner, no matter what the images actually show: staged ritual events or snapshots of the everyday.” Sandbye, Looking at the Family Photo Album: A Resumed Theoretical Discussion of Why and How

Memory is a hybrid – like our everyday living among other people. It is made a mixed agglomeration of tangled thoughts, feelings and inner universes of those around us and including us. I think in some way we all have been lied to – in fact we do not remember almost anything about our first days being alive. Childhood seems to be a story that we were told.

“(…) if one can remember some experience, Locke’s says that one in fact had that experience. It is by this reasoning that Locke arrives at the most controversial portion of his theory which suggests that the converse of the previous argument is true: if one cannot remember some experience, then one did not have that experience. Memory is therefore, according to Locke, a necessary condition of personal identity.” Piccirillo, The Lockean Memory Theory of Personal Identity: Definition, Objection, Response

Does my identity depend on what I remember and know? If I don’t remember it, then perhaps it didn’t happen to me. But if I remembered it, maybe I would have understood myself better. Today I am deciding about what happened – I can create fictional images. I can also, like a scientist, investigate scraps of memory and photographs, which are the only proof and basing on that I can create my own theory of my past. My personal big bang.

No. These memory puzzles that I can see, together with those missing ones, do not build a whole, constructed unity, which I represent as an adult. It looks more like a chaos – almost nothing fits. I think this sort of collage is interesting – a messy one. Mystery and nostalgia are wrapped around the foggy images of what I think is part of my memory. I can’t tell the difference between what I experienced as a little child and the story in my head that was built throughout years by other people…

Thoughts on visual art and vulnerability. Part 1

DSC_0059“But most of all, I think, we fear the visibility without which we cannot truly live… And that visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength.” Audre Lorde, Brainpickings

Recently I went to see an exhibition Medicine in Art at MOCAK (Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow) and became a little bit obsessed with some photographs of XVIII century anatomy models. The photograph of a small doll with a few parts out hit me with its amount of symbolic meaning. The pose of a woman is revealing some element of shyness and defensiveness, her face is hidden in a shadow. The statue is made with elegance and respect for beauty of a human body. Combining the expression of emotions with a brutal exposure of the insides it seems to be making an important connection between physicality and emotions (soul?). To me creating art is like going through a surgery, because when I stand in front a blank canvas I am faced with myself. And I start digging.. I take a knife and I cut through the skin, the nerves, I want to get to the core. I want it to be real but it is something I only realized not long ago. The need of being liked and accepted was quite big in me – in life also. I was and still am (perhaps like most of us) a victim of media and pop-culture. I believe it was visible in my art. I always felt like something was wrong with my images, I could not connect with them once they were finished. I subconsciously tried to act and look like something – something made up. The way I am working now – cutting through the labels and finding real meat – is painful. It never ends.

“Making something is like a fight. I start out with an idea of what I want the object to be, and I try to impose it on the material. Usually the material resists me all the way. If I can stay open and have the courage not to hang on to my original idea, the material starts to speak back and tell me what it wants to be. A lot of meaning comes out in the fight that I couldn’t have known before starting. It becomes this back-and-forth relationship. When my work takes my body to a physical and sometimes psychological extreme, it becomes a complex relationship. It makes me face certain things about myself which are hard to deal with; I find something incredibly valuable about bringing the body to that edge. Something happens physically in the work, but also psychologically that I believe in and count on.” Janine Antoni, BOMB Magazine

In the interview for BOMB Magazine Janine Antoni talks about the process of resisting and pushing into a physical object, which then becomes also a psychological experience. I think in painting the process of pushing an idea and then letting it speak back to us is quite similar. But we have to let go of a fixed thinking and set our mind free. For example in 2014 I started a series of portraits and I began with a self-portrait (I will write more on that subject in future posts) but the work expanded into a more experimental and emotion – driven process. Faces slowly started turning into dream-like scenes and body parts became part of a landscape. The relationship between me and me in the image surprised me with its complexity and opened up a variety of possibilities of creating a portrait and understanding it.