Final Exhibition – Further Updates

In response to my discussion with Jonathan, I have prepared all the necessary text and narratives for 14 paintings and 7 videos. I have also added Ravens and Crows piece to the collection. I have made this decision for two reasons:

  1. I wanted to balance and even out the design of the frontal page of my exhibition.
  2. The Ravens and Crows painting is developed as a response to myself, my inner feelings, fears and longings. I felt that my display would be more complete and provide the ultimate visual appraisal of people, who I have met during my research journey. This concept will be also juxtapositioned against my self-analysis.

The new design proposal and the text are below:

New layout of the frontal page.

Painting 1: Three Haitian Girls in Red.

This painting portrays three young girls in a village in Haiti.  They are immaculately dressed in red in preparation for a Voodoo ceremony.

My main focus here is to create a sense of being “suspended in a vacuum”, while waiting for change. This develops a form of tension and drama.  The colour is dynamic and full of expressive turbulence. The faces of the girls are somehow twisted and deformed.  The logo element of underlay and the text add a sense of unreality by making the composition ambiguous and opened to interpretation. The flowers, symbolic of celebration, can be used as a reward for acting as a change agent, giving hope and enabling positive prospects in life.

Painting 2: Haitian Girl with Butterflies

This is a portrait of a young, beautiful and idyllic-looking Haitian girl playing with butterflies. I met her during my travels through Haiti, where most people survive on less than 1$ per day.

She is totally oblivious of her origin.

She does not understand, why she is consistently ostracised and bullied. Her skin is white, and her eyes are baby blue. She definitively stands out!

She has never heard of Poland. Her home is on a little island called Petit Goave.

She is a descendent of Polish legionnaires, who were sent to Haiti by Napoleon to suppress an uprising of slaves. However, having realised the extent of exploration and abuse, the Poles changed sides and fought in support of the oppressed indigenous people. Subsequently, most of them were punished and slaughtered. A few lucky ones managed to disperse to the islands.

Painting 3: Disabled Palenque

This is a portrait of a young Haitian girl called Palenque. She is heavily disabled.  Her arms are distorted and twisted. She is in constant pain.

Today, she is celebrating her 16th birthday.  Her eyes are full of joy and spark of life, and she smiles beautifully.

She is totally overwhelmed by an unexpected present from a stranger – a mobile phone.

Painting 4: Fragile Little Dreams

I was on a totally overcrowded coach in Haiti. All seats were broken, ripped and absolutely filthy.  I left early in the morning and with passing time, the refreshing sunrise breeze was replaced by a stinking stench of old sweat and … alcohol fumes.  I was travelling from La Caye to an unpronounceable and mysterious road junction (as noted by a woman in my hotel) hoping to catch a connecting minibus to Jacmel. The day was extremely hot and humid.  The bus was stuck in a traffic jam in scorching heat for over an hour. I kept looking through a dirty window to try to relax in this very claustrophobic and uncomfortable situation.  My attention was drawn to a minibus on my right. There was a young girl staring at me through the window.  She was expressionless, almost deadpan.  The hot sun created an orange glare on the surface of the glass. Her face was somehow integrated with layers of reflections of the surrounding area – mainly bustling traffic.

She was sat there, waiting with patience, stone-faced and humble. I smiled and took a quick and discrete photo of the bus and her.  My fellow travellers got really disturbed by this, annoyed and angry.  They did not understand my intentions. They disapproved of a tourist photographing their hardship. I realised that by displaying an expensive mobile phone to take this supposedly meaningless photograph humiliated the locals.  It created an unnecessary division between them and I. It also reinforced our differences and the diametrically opposite sides of life and the world. However, all this had made no impression on the girl whatsoever.  She remained untouched and unmoved, with exactly the same expression on her face.  I began to plan ideas for a painting.  The same evening, I started to draw and make notes in my little pad. I really wanted to protect my memories from being forgotten, before I return to my studio and translate my observations into a painterly interpretation.

Painting 5: Dreaming about The Island Girl

Dear Island Girl,

I am sailing through the Sea of Celebes

Will you go beyond the horizon?

Where the oceans meet the sea.

Where the waters are immaculate.

And the adrenaline is high.

“Her messy hair a visible attribute of her stubborn spirit. As she shakes it free, she smiles knowing wild is her favourite colour.

She didn’t just walk on the wild side,

she lived there, dancing in the streets

and setting fire to its sky.” J. Iron Word

Painting 6: Waiting for a Cocktail Called Pornstar

This painting portrays Tamar, a very poor girl from Tbilisi, Georgia.  Her special dream is to try an expensive cocktail called Pornstar.  Her desires, ambitions and aspirations are formed by brutal and vulgar contrasts between the opulence and status of the privileged and the suffering of the starving underclasses. This powerful contrast is charged with a broad range of associated high-level emotions and feeling, such as jealousy, anger and a total lack of understanding of the reasons behind one’s faith.

Painting 7: Punhana

Punhane, in Azeri, means ‘secret’. I have got to know her quite well. She was diligent, perceptive and intuitive. She made a very positive impression on me. Her outgoing personality was enhanced by a very natural look, reserved and introvert personality and beautiful young face with long hair and no makeup. 

Revealing her deepest secret could cost her life.

She is Armenian.  Since the war, both countries are filled with hatred towards each other.

Video 1:  Lockdown with The Wheel of Fortune Seller

Tumbling around with my thoughts – lockdown in a dark and claustrophobic chamber of an expanding pandemic – waiting for the end!

This video draws a parallel to the current global crisis.  Isolation and fear are overwhelming. Everything appears to be suspended in waiting for the return to my former hypnotic repetition of daily routines and distractions!

My project continues to change with a degree of unexpected persistency and without unnecessary overreliance on resources. This video piece reinforces that what really matters is the act of creation; whatever the circumstances.

My role as an artist is to comment on and respond to an ever-changing, dynamic and turbulent environment.

Therefore, my principal function is to observe the world with great sensitivity and translate my research findings into art, which communicates my thinking and reflections.

My work, in turn, acts as a beacon, pointing out at new possibilities of how to understand, digest and embrace the world!

I need to accept that my initial project ideas have been altered, distorted and, perhaps, contradicted in the light of the current, brutal and rapidly progressing events.

Video 2: Masquerade

This video piece covers a summary of the visual outcome of my research, practical experimentation and analysis.  It was developed in consequence of my investigation into hypnotic repetition over the last few years.

In contradiction to logic, opportunities arise in life to break the mundane phenomenon of entrapment and never-changing routine.

Perhaps, with increased sensitivity of observation, we would be able to free ourselves from this ballast and seek other endeavours and experiences to continue to make progress, develop and flourish.

This crazy pirouette continues forever. One broken cycle leads to another entrapment. New becomes old almost instantly. One fulfilment unexpectantly turns into a disaster and we remain unsatisfied, while travelling on a piece of rock through space – paradoxically, entrapped in a hope that the final destination is anything but death!

However, with great and vulgar arrogance, we continue to refuse to accept that nothing lasts forever and everything will turn into dust.

Dust and darkness (sic!)

Video 3: Bye, Bye, Wheel of Fortune Seller

This is my recent attempt to respond to the current situation. My project has redefined itself several times during a very long and turbulent journey through nine countries.  My observations and reflections have substantially changed their focus.

My initial interests were firmly placed on the uncertainties of tomorrow.  The context for my investigation was mainly related to a range of economic disadvantages of people in the countries, which I visited.  I was both: fascinated and terrified to learn how they deal with their daily lives.  How inventive and creative they must become to survive.

Subsequently, I realised that everyone is waiting for a new pivotal occurrence.  Something important to happen and bring about a significant and positive change.  One way of dealing with this lengthy, stagnant and monotonous process is to get subjected by the conditioning of a hypnotic repetition.

My visual exploration of workers, who were suspended in the vacuum of that process, followed.  I become intrigued by creating painterly responses based on analysis of workers in Asia. 

Video 4:  Bye, Bue, Burmese Monks

This video piece provides a documentary evidence of the process of washing of a painting titled: Three Burmese Monks.  It is a metaphorical interpretation of the meaning of cleansing and removal of dirt and stains from the memory. The canvas is cut out from the stretcher and taken through a hot wash cycle.  The outcome is unpredictable and the remains are disintegrated, sparse and fragile.

Video 5: Three Monks

The Three Burmese Monks were captured, while taking a break from their money collecting duties.  They entertained themselves by playing with a large group of pigeons. My primary source for this piece originates from Yangon in Myanmar. I was undertaking some visual research by recording activities in a remote market area of the city.

There were large numbers of child monks present. Most of their days are spend extorting large amounts of cash from the hard working, fearful and deeply religious market community. They are immaculately dressed in pink robes and sarongs. Simultaneously, they walk bare foot to project an image of poverty and humbleness.

However, the truth is different. They have got daily targets to fill their metals trays with a mixture of coins and bank notes to satisfy the needs and expectations of their superiors.

Video 6: The Bathing of Perl Twink

Pearl Twink lives in Lagos, Nigeria.  She is transsexual. She fears for her life and her sexuality is her biggest secret. She is a fashion icon. The piece tries to question the presumption within our prejudice and allows us to understand the contradictory point of view – the opposite perspective.  Therefore, forcing us to confront and reflect on our own behaviour in the context of making judgements without thinking and appropriate analysis. We simply devalue the status of a person from a different culture.  Labelling and categorising removes individuality and creates a climate for a lack of our responsibility towards them.

Heaven can only be with you in it.

Wherever you belong…

You are not the girl with long hair, oval eyes, luscious lips and perfect teeth.

You do not look like the girl on the magazine cover or runway,

Hell, you might even be straighter than an arrow.

But you are the most beautiful.

The way you love hard, laugh with abandon, push your glasses back to your face, wipe the sweat off your forehead, the way that crown dances on your head.

Sure, you are a queen,

Of hearts, of love, freedom, beauty, wisdom.

Your huge heart is large enough to hug all the children of the world.

you refuse to be undermined and wield your sword in the fight for truth.

‘WCW’ by Maryam Atoyebi

Video 7: Dialogue with Pearl Twink

This portrait is hypnotically hovering behind the text – emerging from the writing and vanishing again.  The model is looking down with pride and confidence. She is emerging through the messages and remains deadpan – a distant observer.

The video instigates a sense of a dialogue between provocations and her responses to them.  Despite the attention, she remains undisturbed.

The piece tries to question the presumption within our prejudice and allows us to understand the contradictory point of view – the opposite perspective.  Therefore, forcing us to confront and reflect on our own behaviour in the context of making judgements without thinking and appropriate analysis. We simply devalue the status of a person from a different culture.  Labelling and categorising removes individuality and creates a climate for a lack of our responsibility towards them.

The patterns and colours echo the culture of her native Nigeria.  They are vibrant and dynamic, reflecting the power of pure Chroma highlighted by the tropical sun.

Painting 8: Flower Girl from Batumi

Beautiful girl with pink flowers

Like a secret garden

Soothing sadness and regret

Through the misty silver tears

I reach out my hands to them

Still whispering one sentence

Why did you go away?

Nothing pleases me today

When the dreams were over

Who will heal my heart?

And wipe the tears from my eyes

Smile at me

Maybe among the old memories

Regret will be lost

(Based on text by Janusz Popławski)

Painting 9: One-Legged Pool Player

The One-Legged Player is totally on the task. Her appearance looks frivolous and theatrical to distract from her determination and the fact that she cannot afford to miss any shots. Her outwards image portrays glamour and fame, but the reality is diametrically different.

The One-Legged Player is frozen in a stretched position, suspended in the vacuum of repetition. Every shot is executed in an identical stylised pose in a hope to attract attention and increase the stakes, hence maximise profits.

I am hesitant to come to conclusions that there is something repulsive about it. The first impressions of wonder and curiosity are replaced with laughter and astonishment.  The performance continues regardless.

Painting 10: Thai Masseur

This is a portrait of a single mum of three.  She originates from a poor village in the North.  Her new life is in Pattaya.  Before the pandemic, her days were very monotonous and repetitive.  She used to work 17-hour long days as a masseur.  Now, in lockdown, her shop is closed.  She dreams about returning to her previous life and the former status quo.

Painting 11: Three Monks Begging

This new piece portrays three Burmese monks taking a break from their money collecting duties, while entertaining themselves with a large group of pigeons.

In the area, there were large numbers of child monks present. Most of their days are spend extorting large amounts of cash from the hard working, fearful and deeply religious market community.

They are immaculately dressed in pink robes and sarongs. Simultaneously, they walk bare foot to project an image of poverty and humbleness.

However, the truth is different. They have got daily targets to fill their metals trays with a mixture of coins and bank notes to satisfy the needs and expectations of their superiors.

Painting 12: Burmese Captain

This work portrays a Burmese captain in charge of a long boat. His job is to transport people and cargo from Ranong in Thailand to Kawthoung at the furthest southern point of Myanmar. His main clientele are poor illegal workers from Burma trying to earn a few baht in Thailand.

Following a long conversation with him, I become one of his passengers. To maximise income, he accepts as many people as possible. He even travels on the very front of the boat to save valuable space. This place is very uncomfortable and rocky. He is also fully exposed there to the power of the tropical sun. He tries to get some relief from the burning heat by hiding under a colourful umbrella.

The image is very clashing in colour – very kitsch. This is further enhanced by his crude and cramped body position.  His ankle reveals a massive tumour.

There is a gigantic growth on his leg, perhaps caused by prolonged exposure to the sun and continued contact with polluted water in the port.

My creative intention was to portray him in his usual setting, while crossing the same water many times every day.

The focus is on him. The beautiful surroundings no longer matter. He cannot see the landscape. He is trapped in his daily routine.

The colour of his shirt blends in with the orange stripes of paint on the boat. The umbrella is feminine and looks absolutely ridiculous.

Painting 13: Coach to Myiek

This piece portrays a coach driver. He is preparing to leave Kawthoung for a 20-hour long journey to Myiek. The road is terrible and unpredictable. His old coach must be in a top condition before the passengers are allowed to board.

The driver looks very tired and substantially overweight. He spends his life driving his coach between those two distant cities in Myanmar. 

Painting 14: Ravens and Crows Will Peck Us to Pieces

During my exercise yesterday, I managed to take this disturbing photograph. On the one hand, it reminded me of my primary source for Three Burmese Monks piece. On the other, the black crows drew references to a novel by a Polish writer Stefan Zeromski.

Ravens and Crows Will Peck Us to Pieces – is a relatively short book by a literature Nobel Price winner. It consists of three parts and has references to the atrocities of the partitions of Poland between Germany, Russia and Austria. These birds have also other common connotations. It is usually believed that that the crow is a symbol of bad luck and death. I am not superstitious, but this seen has terrified me.

Subsequently, I have developed an idea of using the crows as an overprinted pattern on my next piece. The idea is to compose a twin image to Three Burmese Monks and use our current pandemic predicament to create a painting about myself, while responding to the broader contexts of the crisis. I am waiting while working in isolation in front of my window.

Optimistically attempting to contradict Zeromski while waiting in a hope that ravens and crows will not peck us to pieces!

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