Krokus Gallery cordially invites you to Klaudia Kosziba´s solo show
Curated by Gabriela Kisová
Opening reception: Thursday, 13.9.2018 at 7pm
preview from 17.00
Sulphur is a yellow crystalline substance. Yellow is Klaudia Kosziba’s favourite colour, it is to be found in almost all of her paintings. Sometimes it is bright and clear, sometimes it is invisible albeit present, as in its absence the final colour tone could not have been achieved. The colour of sulphur is very specific – as if produced by adding a touch of white and a touch of ochre to lemon yellow. Or by beating an egg yolk with some butter. Each cell of our bodies contains sulphur. Sulphur is healing but it can also be toxic. In the Book of Genesis we read that God rained fire and brimstone (sulphur) on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah as a punishment for their sins. In medieval alchemy, sulphur represented the principles of air and fire; Paracelsus associated it with the soul. It was one of the key components used by alchemists attempting to produce the Philosophers’ Stone. Due to its radiant energy it was associated with the Sun. Sulphur is a metaphor for the creative power of the fire that burns in the centre of all things and which is the bestower of life. In the painting The Sulphur of the Heart (Síra srdca, 2018) we see the pregnant Virgin Mary surrounded by angels, carrying her son, the Saviour, under her heart. Both sulphur and the heart are used as symbols of birth, of coming into being. According to James Hillman, the founder of archetypal psychology, the heart in the chest is not merely your heart: it is a microcosmic sun, the cosmos of all potential experiences that cannot be owned by anyone.(1)
Ash signifies transformation – it stands at the end of a process, it is a remnant, what is left behind after a fire has burnt its course. And at the same time it is also a beginning, a purification. Death and birth inside a single matter. The alchymists believed in the so-called first matter (materia prima) as the basis of everything, and blackness (nigredo) was considered to be the start in the process of individuation, of transubstantiation of matter into something unique. Klaudia Kosziba uses ash in her paintings, applying it as one of the first coats that lay the basis for the further work with colours and structures. At closer inspection, her paintings reveal the sedimented layers, the rough surface, the folds, the tiny lumps that cast shadows onto the canvas. The colour grey and its variations dominate, the monochromatic paintings swallow the colour spectrum. Changes in perspective and light conditions alter the paintings’ seemingly muted colour scheme. Contact with a painting’s surface is the moment of initiation in the process of looking at it. As the American art historian James Elkins notes, our eyes are too good for us. They show us so much that in the end we are not able to grasp it all. Therefore we tend to look at things as briefly and as efficiently as possible. But we should not forget that paintings are very complex things and that there are so many different things to see in them. We should thus lay effectivity and speed aside.
A book published in 1922 dedicated to the work of the renaissance artist Piero della Francesca (1415/1420-1492)(2) played an important role in the way Klaudia Kosziba’s new paintings came into being. The book contains high quality black and white reproductions of the artist’s works. Apart from being a painter, Piero della Francesca was also a theoretician of art, a mathematician, an author of tractates in the period when paintinig was becoming an art.
One more detour into alchymy: one of the things the alchymysts sought to achieve was the transformation of common metals into gold in a process of transmutation (in chemistry, the transformation of one element into another one). This term comes close to capturing what Klaudia Kosziba seeks to do in her paintings. She too believes in the unique transformation of matter. She uses photographs, in this case the black and white reproductions of a colour painting (Della Franscesco’s paintings use intense colours and contain many warm hues), and in the lenghty process of painting changes them – their dimensions, focus, she picks details, highlights elements such as hand gestures, facial expressions, structure of the drapery, the architecture of the space. What she’s doing is in effect painting from an original with the aim of its transformation. The discrepancies that occur both consciously and in a state of uncontrolled creation are crucial. They constitute an overstepping, a change in the original intention as expressed by the concept of pentimento. In visual art, the term denotes a change in the author’s intention that occurs in the process of working on a picture when the original drawing or painting is overriden in the subsequent layers. Klaudia Kosziba’s highly specific approach is close to the off-modern logic defined by Svetlana Boym: a logic that draws to the surface the wounds, the cuts and the scars, the ruins, the lingering affect of a touch. This specificity resists being classified and does not permit us any comfort. In a time when we often feel that everything had already been written and painted, the off-modern logic treads the side streets and takes on the character of continual improvisation.(3)
In Klaudia Kosziba’s works, Renaissance iconography and painterly narration disappears in places, then reappears, at times we encounter references to biblical imagery, such as the Annunciation or the Resurrection. Images surface from our memory: we saw this before, somewhere. Transmutation of the original forces us to dig deep into our knowledge of other paintings as well as into our knowledge of the world. And this requires time. If we are willing to spend it, we – in the words of Winfried Georg Sebald –„enter into narrated time and into the time of culture.“ Or we come to realise that the motif of the newborn Christ is the archetypal image of the birth of man. Klaudia Kosziba’s pictures are full of faith that goes beyond the framework of institutions, it is faith as an anthropological constant. What she genuinely strives for is to give paintings their soul back. She searches for mystery and miracle in them. Her art is not merely a material and an intellectual adventure but, above all, a spiritual process.
(1) James Hillman, The Thought of the Heart and the Soul of the World, 1998
(2) Piero della Francesca. Achtundsechzig Tafel mit einführendem Text von Hans Graber, Basel 1922
(3) Svetlana Boym, Off-Modern, 2010
Gabriela Kisová, curator
I am grateful to Klaudia Kosziba for her comments on the text and to Marek Burcl for his help in producing the exhibition.
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