No 4 (84) 2010
October - December

About Bettina and Her Two Grandmothers

Bettina Bereś has followed her own creative path without yielding to transitory trends. The artist looks with reserve at the changing artistic phenomena, nevertheless, occasionally she takes a stand.

Dorota Morawetz

Art historian, stage designer, original fashion designer. She cooperates with magazines on architecture, design and fashion.

Dorota Morawetz

SHE HAS BEEN GROWING UP IN THE ATMOSPHERE OF RITUAL/ ROMANTIC HAPPENINGS by Jerzy Bereś and feminism oriented performances by Maria Pinińska-Bereś. She has adopted her own position - opposing the declared vanguard approach by her parents - both celebrating and deconstructing everyday rituals. The artist - who usually expresses her ideas on canvas - has taken over a whole room in the "Two Grandmothers", where furniture, cushions on the bed, even curtains in the window have become the elements of her piece. This is a new gesture by Bereś, though one can find some forecasts in her earlier works ("Private Matters" made together with Beata Stankiewicz and Katarzyna Sobczuk; the Gray Gallery in Cieszyn and Bumper Gallery in Cracow, 2009). She presented there "little tapestries" - hung on the walls or placed on the floor - having the form of an installation referring to the home life symbols. In the content of seemingly ordinary statements - embroidered by the artist herself - one can sense a certain friction, related to neat hearth and home, usually idealized, and the comment on everyday reality contained in the embroidered sentences, where it appears difficult, frequently disappointing, nevertheless satisfying and full of joy. The phrase - returning over and over again during an arduous process of embroidering - gets so deeply ingrained in awareness, as though a person was rewriting many times the same sentences. It turns into a mantra casting a spell on reality, becoming a thought imprinted in one's mind. Further, it carries a therapeutic value, since the thought once verbalized /embroidered/ in a sense gets rejected, and ceases to pose any danger.

The room of "Two Grandmothers" has a different meaning. The author has been interested not only in the present times. She attempts to put herself within the context of the stories of two women close to her by placing herself in a certain continuum of female loneliness that she has observed in her family history. This offers her a new perspective to grasp a sort of bond between these women fates, and her own fate; all these against the background defined in terms of presence or absence of men in their lives. One learns from the words written on the quilt and cushions - close to the photographic images of the two women - that husbands of her two grandmothers were practically nonexistent. One of them was murdered in Kharkov, his young wife spent next 60 years of her life as a widow. The other married the lady when she was considered a spinster, and cheated on her for 50 years. When Bettina learnt these stories, she decided to confront them - "to sleep with her grandmothers in one bed". The loneliness caused by very serious matters - death and unfaithfulness - have been contrasted with trivial reasons. The texts: you do not have to watch TV eating your dinner embroidered on the table cloth, and my husband works 12 hours a day, including Saturdays and Sundays - on a napkin neatly folded on the armchair backrest, illustrate a condition of frustration or a protest against a lack of communication which can be easily interpreted as an absence.

Bettina Bereś reduces various types of female loneliness to the lowest common denominator, closing them in one room. A better world is behind this room windows, as evidenced by the embroidered words: behind the curtain there is a happier life. One should not, however, take these comments literally. They have been said with a certain reserve, a sense of humor and irony.

One should ask a question about the provenance of this room. Choosing this type of space to strike a dialogue with the past, the artist - more or less consciously - approached Kantor's concept of "a small room of imagination". Here the meaning offers more than the visual literalism. This is an attempt to illustrate a delicate and elusive sphere of personal memories, as well as related emotions and the condition of individual awareness.

Bettina Bereś, "Two Grandmothers", Flat 23, Cracow, March 2010.