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Mala Gallery
8, Zamkowy Sq., Warsaw (Old Town)
February 3-29, 2004



Basia Sokolowska - Chrysalis

Basia Sokolowska, from series „Chrysalis”, exhibition in Mala Gallery, Warsaw, February 2004.

A RANGE of similar, yet different forms appear in Sokolowska’s new series of photographs. It is not easy to define these abstract and irregular shapes in changing, glittering colours. Clear yet opaque, luminous yet sombre.

Motionless, whilst suggesting a secret life, processes taking place within. Although made by the artist, these objects evoke organic or mineral forms, resembling shells, cocoons or chrysalides. The title emphasises something natural, precious and mysterious. The word chrysalis is phonetically similar to chrysolite – a golden-green precious stone. The artist has deliberately chosen a title layered with visual and linguistic meaning.

Surely, inside these objects something is changing and growing, just like inside a chrysalis which shelters a growing butterfly. The artist merely hints at rather than reveals the content of her objects emphasising the metaphorical nature of the images. Looking at the photographed forms we wonder about the character of the creature about to emerge. Will it be friendly or menacing? Seductive or repulsive? We do not know. Despite our fears, luminous colours and beautiful shapes emerging from clear space attract us hypnotically.

Informed by Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, the images reflect a dual nature of a chrysalis. Like any dwelling, a chrysalis acts as a shelter where we feel protected but also where we are trapped, isolated from the world outside.

Mystery, space, light and beauty are the trademarks of Sokolowska’s photography. In spite of contemporary art’s disregard for beauty, she considers it an important quality that deepens and purifies our perception of art and thus shifts the relationship between viewer and image to a more intimate and immediate level.

As in her earlier works, the artist photographed these images in a domestic environment. Exploiting the richness of natural light, she creates niches of light and shadow enhancing the intricacy of shapes and textures and endowing the images with mystery. The construction and photography of three dimensional forms and stress on spatial character is a new element in her work. By using a classic photographic technique of type–C processing and printing, and avoiding digital manipulation at any stage of production, the artist stresses real, not virtual existence of the objects recorded on film. Here photography maintains its primary, documentary role.

Five years separate Chrysalis (2003) from Ars Moriendi (1998), Sokolowska’s last body of work. The artist does not hurry her creative process allowing the images to evolve and mature. Each new series has to go through many stages of drawing, research, and numerous rolls of preliminary photographs. Perhaps for this reason final images, exhibited and published, are flawless and fully resolved.

Not only visual perfection, but also the message conveyed is of crucial importance for the artist. Withering plants photographed through a dark, red veil in Ars Moriendi series speak of the process of dying. Chrysalis turns towards light and life and new possibilities life brings. This series is a landmark in Sokolowska’s work. Mature and complete, touching on the aspects of existence, it opens new possibilities for the future direction of her art.

Monika Kuc

Basia Sokolowska, from series „Chrysalis”, exhibition in Mala Gallery, Warsaw, February 2004.

Basia Sokolowska, from series „Chrysalis”, exhibition in Mala Gallery, Warsaw, February 2004.

BASIA SOKOLOWSKA’s photography, already presented by Mala Galeria several times, draws its inspiration from the broad spectrum of cultural, historical and artistic heritage. The artist’s earliest series “Carmen Infinitum”, compiled in Australia, where she was living at the time, was based on images from art history, mainly Old Masters. Her subsequent series was also marked by profound humanistic and ontological concerns. “Ars Moriendi”, a series produced a few years ago resulted form the artist exploring themes of life and death. This also applies to “Chrysalis,” currently on show. There is more to this precisely defined series consisting of fourteen photographs of artist made objects than just a mere play of form and colour. The images suggest many layers of meaning.

The artist photographs objects she arranges herself without resorting to maniupulation of any kind, using pure ‘analogue’ photography. The photographs are endowed with an aura of understatement, thus expanding the sphere of poetic mystery and drawing on the intuition of the viewer.

Such photography activates deep layers of imagination and produces a fresh interpretation of our material environment. It counteracts the increasingly spreading banality of thousands of images, flooding us daily by the media. Images that we have learnt no longer respond to.

Basia Sokolowska’s photography, with its consecutive stages, proudly presented by Mala Galeria, is one of the most consistent and coherent bodies of work the gallery has exhibited over the years. It is an open ended artistic vision. We will be coming back to it in the future.

Marek Grygiel
Warsaw, 4 January 2004

Basia Sokolowska, from series „Chrysalis”, exhibition in Mala gallery, Warsaw, February 2004.


Basia Sokolowska at Mala Gallery, Feb. 3rd, 2004. Photo: A. Mazur

Basia Sokolowska
Born in Wroclaw (Poland) in 1961. Studied History of Art at Warsaw University and in Sydney. Graduated from the University of Sydney in 1987. Over the past 14 years her photographs have been shown in over 30 individual and group exhibitions in Australia, Poland, France, Austria, Latvia and Slovenia. Her works can be found in the collection of the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris and many private collections.

Photographic series:
- Carmen Infinitum 1990-1991
- Interior/Mieszkanie 1993
- Beyond Surface 1994
- Shadows of Immortality 1995
- Ars Moriendi 1998
- Chrysalis 2003


See also:

Opening of Basia Sokolowska's „Chrysalis” exhibition in Mala Gallery in Warsaw on February 3rd, 2004. Photo A. Mazur

Earlier in FOTOTAPETA:



Basia Sokolowska „Chrysalis” - Mala Gallery, Warsaw, February 2004.



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