No 4 (84) 2010
October - December


Red Trails

One can hardly talk about the output by Izabela Żółcińska in terms of chronologically followed stages of artistic and intellectual reflection. The works by this artist seem to strike a dialogue and essential relations with the earlier pieces, thus they develop contexts, supplement and comment on one another. Her pictures, drawings, objects, projections and installations function as though they were the varied symptoms of one and the same phenomenon. The very term "phenomenon" seems significant for her art. The metaphor of a capillary tube, being a sort of the artist`s emblem, can be applied to describe the nature of her art.

Magdalena Wicherkiewicz

Art historian, she writes on contemporary art.

Magdalena Wicherkiewicz

THE ART BY IZABELA ŻÓŁCIŃSKA HAS BEEN DEVELOPING IN THE SPACE where the aesthetic gets in touch with the organic, scientific and technological. She has been particularly clear in the area of biology since one of the objectives, to define it in poetic terms, is to "track" the manifestations of carnality, the question about the definition and symptoms of life. Izabela Żółcińska has attempted to discover and describe all these, referring to inanimate matter. This is why the majority of her works exist in the context of architecture, and in relation to modern technology. The mentioned context is strongly visible in the capillary idea. This is the project -involving multiple motives and media - pursued by the artist since 2004 till today, where she has redefined, for artistic purposes, the functions of biological and physical phenomenon, i.e., a capillary system. Izabela Żółcińska has developed a new environment for it - she has adopted the visual qualities - a branching red, thin line; she has revealed an operation rule - a reverse flow, and stressed an aesthetic aspect - cooperation, co-responsibility, empathy. She has been checking if the capillary phenomenon can function in a drawing, a picture, an installation.

The first presentation of the capillary system took place two years ago at the Simonis Gallery in Warsaw ("Capillary Drawings", December 2008 - January 2009). Then, the capillaries marked their presence in traditional artistic media: painting and drawing, as well as in the form making use of their expression means, i.e., an installation. Pictures by Izabela Żółcińska are flesh-colored, slightly glowing. Warm. The pink - besides serving as an analogy to the delicate, warm skin - is a colorful synthesis, placed "in between" the two hues important for the artist: the white - light, and the red - life; the warm and the intense. The manner of painting a picture is of great significance. It is not made right away, it is coming out through applying subsequent coats of paint. Even several dozens of them. It is like an organism composed of tissues (tissue - a woven fabric: an analogy to weaving has been essential here). Looking at her pictures, only after a moment one grasps that under the pink matter something is faintly showing, vibrating, living... One time more intensive, at other occasions weaker red threads/ capillaries/ lines. Pulsating. The red is slightly fading, softening, melting in the pink...It loses its "revolutionary" power. It turns warm, safe. Focused on life.

The process where a picture "is coming out", something is appearing while we participate, is practically present in all works by the artist. Looking at her pictures one has an impression of being there, breathing the atmosphere and taking part in the phenomenon; one is rather following the symptoms, than watching the object. These are the pictures to be felt, though they represent motives borrowed from reality: interior fragments, private objects, everyday use objects, clothing items... Everything that is close to us, personal, what surrounds us, to what we can relate. All these places/ objects are covered with capillary lines, indicating that one leaves his red, living trait on each object one happens to touch. On the other hand, one receives capillary impressions of the organisms one enters into relations with. Everyday one is a member of the "capillary exchange", an energy transfusion of red. Last but no least, the capillary cycle by Izabela Żółcińska has been strongly present in her drawings. In this case, one is also taking part in the process of coming out. There is no "direct" access to her drawings; they are covered with a coat of Perspex. Drawing is important as far as painting is concerned. Painting by Izabela Żółcińska has not been "painting like", rather "drawing like". The role of a line is essential: a thread, a capillary, a membrane, a string, a warp, a rhizome. A line - it is connecting, relating, developing, forking, twisting... it has no beginning and no end, it is transforming. There is something obsessive about drawing, as the author says. Devouring. Growing. The latter being also of great significance.

This June the capillary system appeared in the architectonic space. Izabela Żółcińska has spread a network of red neon over a fragment of the wall of former water reservoir, the so called Cistern, close to the Warsaw Ujazdowski Castle. This has been both; a next stage of capillaries` spread and growth, and their claming yet another space, as well as an important event as far as the context of the architectonic object is concerned. The Cistern used to be an important element of the water and sewage system in the period when the Ujazdowski Castle housed the Ujazdowski Hospital. Through an artistic gesture, the architecture has revealed its carnal qualities, opened its nearly organic, pulsating interior - "bowels", vessels, canals (it is interesting that this function had never been fully made advantage of earlier). It is worth adding that today, after the revitalization by Tadashi Kawamata, a Japanese artist, the Cistern has become a location to present projects focused on striking a dialogue with the architecture.

In case of „The Wall of Warmth" installation, yet another form featuring the capillaries - presented as off September 23rd on a dilapidated wall of the mansion in Hoża 42, St. in Warsaw - the links with architecture are ever more symptomatic. This time the capillary system not merely reveals a life giving energy, indicating the life going on inside the building, but it is turned into a therapeutic tool. Izabela Żółcińska has conducted the symbolic "revitalization" of an inert urban tissue fragment, taking an advantage of a synesthetic impact of red in order to "enliven" and "warm up". "The Wall of Warmth" conveys a subtle message. In spite of the fact that it features a red gleaming neon, its structure remains fragile. Like a network of subcutaneous vessels. Woven. It is entwined around the building tightly, nevertheless it is sublime. The capillary neon is glowing, emanating; never spreading an even, intensive light. "The Wall of Warmth" is a type of a phenomenon; more of an energy than an object. The structure is not hard and durable in a material sense. The term "phenomenon" is here very well suited. Izabela Żółcińska uses the word "phenomena" while referring to her capillary projects. A phenomenon, something that comes into sight, something that can exist in specific circumstances; something that is not lasting, static, clearly defined.

An important aspect of the approach by Izabela Żółcińska involves taking out what is animate in the inanimate matter. A specific process of "stretching" the carnal. In the case of such works as "The Wall of Warmth", the division - established by culture - into the animate and inanimate matter has been wiped out. The living aspect is also present in cultural artifacts: architecture, urban space (frequently one metaphorically speaks about "an urban tissue"), technology. The animate is not only an attribute of nature. Nature, culture, matter and the immaterial are permeating, affecting one another, developing an environment. The are in the process of a constant, flowing dialogue. Artistic efforts can highlight this exchange, make it perceptible.

The pervading, common impact and interrelations pertain to the category of fluidity, the latter being the topic followed by Izabela Żółcińska from the beginning of her artistic quest. This is best evidence in the "Plus - Minus" (2007), an expanded project covering projections, objects and the "Omnia vidit" site specific installation. As the author stated, all these are "a type of a visual bodily fluid". The juxtaposition of the visual and fluidity is directed towards an eye - "the watery sphere": an eye is moist, an eyeball is immersed in liquid, the seeing process involves fluidity. It could be the reason why pictures included in the "Plus Minus" animation exude a spectral, dreamy aura. One has an impression that human silhouettes - mowing in a slow motion - are immersed in semitransparent liquid, unveiling a sort of primeval, embryo like carnality. In the "Omnia vidit" site specific event, a component of the "Plus Minus" project, Izabela Żółcińska has taken over, so to speak, the space of a former votive chapel in Orońsko: animations and individual pictures have been placed side by side with votive plaques, as though a life giving, red light was let inside. All these have been complemented by sound. A viewer has been plunged into surroundings, faced with practically carnal experience of space.

The sphere of senses is the area where Izabela Żółcińska has been implementing her concept of the "expanded carnality" and searching for opportunities to reveal it. She has taken up a specific "game with senses", observed the zones of their impact and their shared, synesthetic exchange. The project involving senses - sight, hearing, smell - goes back to the year 2002. This has been "The Humanized Room" presented in the Rotunda Gallery in Poznań: "A small room, a rotunda. Snow-white. The symbols of eyes and ears have been placed in space, at a right height (by reference to an entering person). When one gets closer, they appeal to a given sphere of sensitivity. In the "ears" one can hear a certain repeated word, while in the "eyes" one can see a certain image. In the middle of the room, at the palm height, there is a niche filled with an aromatic substance" - this is how Izabela Żółcińska has described her installation. It is significant that the reflection pertaining to senses appeared so early in her career within the context of space, architecture. Eyes and ears "are opening" us: our inner world onto the outer. They help to communicate, they link and transmit. Certainly it is not accidental that the capillary network in "The Wall of Warmth" repeats the scheme of a human eyeball blood supply... This brings to one`s mind a metaphor of a "seeing building". Again one is back to the eyesight domain, the sense specially valued by culture. An eye and the act of watching have been an essential area of reference for Izabela Żółcińska. In spite of the fact that a "pure" reflection over an eye is quite rare in her output, a trace of an eye is very clear. Looking means the "first touch", or as the artist says, "one is touching with an eye before touching with his hand". This is not a sensual touch yet, rather a potential touch.

A sense of touch is connected with feeling warm. When touching, our body leaves a trace - warmth. The capillary project presents specific "touch prints" - red traces on clothes and shoes. These are the "life symptoms", at the same time the warm tracks. Following this thought, one should quote an interesting analogy. Heat receptors - Ruffini cells present in deeper epidermis layers - carry the scheme resembling a capillary network, a fractal like branching rhizome. Further, touch as the only of senses, involves mutual exchange, when one is touching, one "receives a feedback", one is being touched to. The touch and eyesight relation reveals yet another context. Culture elevates and sublimes a sense of sight (and hearing), while touch... it seems dubious, primitive (even tough originally one learns the world through touching), too carnal. Could it be that by means of combining these two senses Izabela Żółcińska has challenged the culture rooted differentiation?

The process pursued by Izabela Żółcińska - where she "makes carnal", searches for/ digs out what is animate, tracks symptoms and the meaning of traces - can be defined as the presentation of the "body with no organs". The author does not bring out the body as such, neither she brings out its fragments. Instead, she is focused on some of its properties, and attempts to get closer to the phenomenon of carnality; to render its palette and temperature. Paradoxically, the phenomenon of the body exists outside the physical. It is contained in tissues, links and plexuses, capillaries, inter relations. It does not have distinct borders, neither it has a beginning nor an end. It is spreading, branching, devouring floating. Thus, artistic efforts carnally oriented involve filling in, revealing,  making aware, enclosing...And awaiting for this living landscape to emerge and show... To color the space around red.

Izabela Żółcińska

B. in 1975. Studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań in the period 1998 - 2002. Diploma in artistic education under Prof. Roman Kubicki and Prof. Jan Świtka in 2001. Diploma in painting under Prof. Jan Świtka and Prof. Alicja Kępińska in 2002. Pursued areas: combined media - painting, installation, performances in public space, culture animation. Holder of grants by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage in 2002, 2007, 2009; and by the In Situ Contemporary Art Foundation in 2005, 2006, 2007.

More significant exhibitions:

2002 - „Uczłowieczony pokój", Galeria Rotunda, Poznań
- Festiwal im. Jerzego Buszy, „Random in Radom", Muzeum Sztuki Współczesnej, Radom2008 - „Plus Minus / Faza REM", projekcja w przestrzeni publicznej, Galeria Ego, Poznań
- "Plus Minus", Pienkow Art Gallery, Knoxville- "Rysunki kapilarne", Simonis Gallery, Warszawa
- „Ikony zwycięstwa - transFORM", Humboldt Umspannwerk, Berlin
- „Zjawiska kapilarne", instalacja, Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej, Zamek Ujazdowski, Cysterna, Warszawa - „Ściana ciepła", instalacja, ul. Hoża 42, Warszawa


Izabela Żółcińska is the winner of the 2010 EXIT Award.

The Award granted to honor the exceptional today ability to combine sublime artistic sensitivity with a powerful impact of monumental projects presented in urbanized public space.

The award is a statuette by Sylwester Ambroziak, a sculptor. Former Award Winners: Eugeniusz Markowski, Wojciech Prażmowski, Jerzy Truszkowski, Leszek Golec & Tatiana Czekalska, Jarosław Modzelewski, Józef Robakowski, Piotr Wachowski, Krzysztof M. Bednarski, Andrzej Cisowski, Mariusz Woszczyński, Marek Ejsmond-Ślusarczyk, Wojciech Ćwiertniewicz and Eugeniusz Minciel.