Beata Szczepaniak: „Weight of the Sculpture”


Beata Szczepaniak: „Weight of the Sculpture”


exhibition opening: 13.07 (Friday), 6 PM / admission free


Many cosmologists believe that apart from the world we know there are many more similar ones. That we coexist with numerous versions of ourselves, who live in related realities, next to us, in a parallel time, although in another dimension. These worlds are uncountable; they differ in details and laws of physics, but they are still part of a single Multiverse. In this context, our reality ceases to be obvious. It resembles the borderline of a mirage with its blurred edges and concave shape observed in geography classes. The edges of the Earth are not blurred and we keep moving forward. Faster, faster, further forward. Run, run. And as we escape from somebody, from something, we are passed by a multitude of small worlds; spheres so fragile that a single touch is enough to crush them. One of such spheres is flowing in the gallery space – it keeps spreading, as if trying to squeeze its structure through the white walls. The room is submerged in eerie semi-darkness, which makes for an atmosphere of a nearly fanciful creation. This is why we feel uncertain already when we pass the threshold and step in.

Smooth figures keep rolling by, everything is in disorder, fluid forms are emerging from under a white pedestal. Spherical masses are dispersed on the floor, hidden behind vertical pillars. The word “sculptures” is hiding beneath our tongue. It seems this definition best describes the objects we observe. Still, the word doesn’t escape our mouth, because these sculptures are no sculptures at all. Their forms resemble animal bodies – at the same time soft and heavy. Like small beasts, unknown to us, they squat around our bodies and live their own lives.

A piece of paper appears in our hands. A sketch prepared for travellers, which will help them find their way in the new reality. The map guides us towards individual structures, yet it doesn’t show the way. And this is because there is no way – no beginning and no ending, which means we can observe each of the creatures in any order we choose. This is why we helplessly, tentatively bump into individual works.

Some of them are black spots shining in the artificial light, which look a lot like familiar puddles. Their sizes and locations differ. We notice that “Deposits” are not scattered only beneath our feet: they also seep in through the walls and corners of the room. They defy the laws of physics as we know them. At the same time, other works strive to follow these rights. Vertical standards are set by heavy shapes dangling from the ceiling, which were placed in the centre of the room in this world. One of them is hanging threateningly. A gentle gesture is enough to set this shape in motion. A visible weight, which we identify with the material the object has been made of, may pose a threat to our body. We don’t come closer.

In this room we will frequently experience ambiguous emotions. There is a contrast between the wish to escape from some works and the craving to touch others. The tactile nature of the objects is also determined by the cycle of photographs titled “On sculpture.” It presents the bodily contact of a human being with the new reality. In the black and white photographs, a feeble body, nearly dependent on the element it touches, crumbles apart when in contact with a large, white mass. It tries to adjust to its concave and convex shapes and find its own form therein. Still, the attempt is in vain, as if there was no place for human physicality in this world. This world is not subject to human corporeality; rather, it exists independently, somewhere next to us. We can see that the body in the photographs is a female shape. The face hidden behind long hair, the silhouette covered with the loose fabric of a dress. The person portrayed in the cycle is in symbiosis with the vitality of the sculpture she is touching. As she is lying down, huddled under a work larger than herself, she looks small and submissive.

The photographs reveal another thing, far from obvious. They say somebody has been here before us; somebody has touched these objects and entered into a relation with them in a way we never will. We ask the question: who and what are they – these sculptures and this person?

The map in our hands is already crumpled in the corners, but it keeps leading us forward, to a group of imperfect cubes. We read: “An attempt.” These are fragments of something larger, focused in one place yet chaotically scattered, just like most of the objects we will see. They fit in the apparent garage-like chaos, although we can see that the disorder we observe is only a clever deception. By whom? The cubes form a composition, striving to create a perfect figure. Yet each of them is imperfect in its own shape: uneven edges, concavities, traces left by their creator. Ceramic elements encourage us to play. They are small blocks we can use to build something new or add to the larger work.

“An attempt,” we repeat. At what? We are irritated, because more and more questions seem to be arising. Nobody whispers answers to us and we keep circulating, moving around, absorbed by the strange world seeping in to the room. The strings of space have ruptured and we, poor people, no longer understand our surroundings. Nobody uses scientific definitions to explain the laws or quotes the names from schoolbooks we know from the history of art, sociology and other branches of knowledge we have grown to be familiar with. We are left to our own senses.

And this is when we suddenly feel at peace, because the smell of the rusty, evenly distributed cubes reaches our nose and we can nearly see the scratching sound, as somebody was creating these shapes. Who? We are slowly getting accustomed to this space. It becomes a logical construction. After all, we have spent considerable time here. It is nearly with relief that we read the title of the collection of cubes: “Order”. It is one of the apathetic works, positioned in one place without any motion inherent in its elements. The positioning of the cubes shows even lines between the reddish walls. As we follow this path, we try to find any discipline in the construction of the whole room. And we discover it in the cycle titled “On balance,” dominated by swaying vertical shapes. Again, we are instinctively careful as we see the unstable objects. We don’t want to damage the works, so we pass them at a reasonable distance.

The titles we have seen keep rolling through our head: “On sculpture, “On balance.” Now we know that somebody’s telling a story. A story about their reality composed of uneven structures, crawling, black shapes and unstable geometry. It evokes a sense of distress. The spherical pink form resembles the proverbial ball and chain. It is sweet and nice, yet awkwardly large, showing its own inherent weight. “The gravity of sculpture,” we whisper these words to describe this space.

And now we know, because all the works now come together as a single idea. The crumpled piece of paper – the guide to this room – now turns out to be a set of guidelines handed over by an external entity. Somewhere between the words we notice the final clue. A delicate name seeping from among the newly gained knowledge. We read: “Beata Szczepaniak”. The sculptor who created this reality. She avoids the pedestals we tend to associate with museum presentation, because in fact nothing is displayed in this room. The works are just here – they stay and exist, they belong to these walls and to the present situation. They seem to depart from the idea of works as objects – they look more like another kind of living beings.

We trace circles with our fingers around the fading letters. The female body we saw in the photographs has now gained a name. It belongs to the person whose hands have created the works we have seen. Although in the title they are referred to as sculptures, they are now living beings for us. A fragment of a greater whole – of an entity that made us transform our world view and leave our previously gained knowledge behind. Because now something new has grown in this space, some strange passage between one and the other. Once we come to terms with it, our body will fit next to one of the works, gently clinging to its shape.

Daria Grabowska