No 2 (82) 2010
April - June

Lame Horses – The Dead Eternally Alive

One of the poems by Friedrich Hölderlin, referring to a fairy tale from Nűrtingen, describes a belief that evil people – murdered or suicide – are roaming the world as three-legged, laming horses.

Anna Czaban

Culture expert, she lives and works in Poznań.

Anna Czaban

A CONCEPT TO ENCLOSE THE EVIL IN A LAME ANIMAL has been a personification of dangerous energy, if  not an attempt to tame and familiarize it. A painstaking wandering has been a form of redemption. Drawings by Monika Szwed, presented on the latest, one-man exhibition entitled "The Road", have been rooted in this story. They describe an endless human wandering, suffering, inner transformations and transfigurations. The artist has brought back the old prophecy to communicate human fear and apprehension of questions about the good and evil.

A series of drawings on parchment, mounted on the exhibition, has been arranged to offer a defined narration, a story on life. This life only seemingly resembles our everyday reality, being inhabited by dangerous spirits or the evil personified. Inconspicuous lemurs, and lame, artificial or even dead animals - rendered in pastel drawings - delude one's eyesight, simultaneously referring to the peculiar abysses of what has been left from folk believes and the dark recesses of children's sensitivity. "The Road" runs from childhood - where innocent games unnoticeably turn into cruel malice, and with the time passing, grow to become disgraceful crimes committed by adults. A sense of tensions and anxiety - accompanying the situations depicted on the drawings - comes from contrasting scenes offered by the artist. Two nice kids are building a dummy house next to budding flowers squeezed in tight cages ("Black Cages"). The safety of a family home suddenly turns into the idleness of a prison. Indoctrination might break and deform the pure beauty of children's character. Or could it be that children are not crystal clear by nature? Actually, they happen to be really cruel, while their untamed imagination might bear truly hostile ideas, particularly when they attempt to imitate adult games ("War Games", "Mimetic Desire"). An obsession with the evil has been revealed not only in the pictures that illustrate executions - "Execution", "The Tollund Man", or merciless tortures - "Punishment".

One of the most terrifying drawings - entitled "Evidence Has Been Seized in the First and in the Second Room" - features in the foreground a dead squirrel twisting an electric wire in a suicidal gesture. Occasionally, the evil takes a form of an ill fate, an unfortunate incident that is haunting one, as a shadow, through his all life. It appears at the most unexpected moments, like obtrusive pricks of conscience, a nightmare, an unpleasant sense of the evil presence. The "Dogs" illustrate an old, tired dog guarding a wooden coffin bent to resemble a chair. The dead eternally alive cannot rest in piece even in the beyond. Lemurs, inhabiting the artist's imagination, personify the dead. In Madagascar - where they enjoy special respect - lemurs are called "night spirits" or simply "the spirits of the deceased". The scenes presented by the artist, however, have been full of distress and hidden sorrow. The characters are rarely reconciled with their fate; they do not wish to remember the sad past ("One Cannot Come to an Agreement with Every Location").

Further, the road leads to redemption, purification. To achieve this, the artist has applied familiar symbols, such as water. The surface of black water, spa buildings, old people homes. "The Votive", like a votive of thanks, features a rabbit striking thanksgiving rhythms, next to a boy wearing a surplice by the aquarium with a dummy of a family living room enclosed tightly inside.

Minimalist drawings by Monika Szwed, have been largely based on family related motives. Childhood years marked with trauma which has stigmatized future interrelations of adults, blocking the way to achieve happy and healthy contacts with fellow men. Frequently, it is seen as an obstacle to a sense of fulfillment and reconciliation with oneself. The outlined path, a history of adventures, is an inner human journey, the process of getting mature which - according to folk believes - never ends, it is still going on after one dies.

Monika Szwed, "The Road", the "Arsenal" Town Gallery, Poznań, April 2010.