No 1 (89) 2012
January - March

Reduced Portraits

Halina Trela, the winner of the Grand Prix of the 19th "Promotions 2009" Young Painting National Review, organized by the Legnica Art Gallery, has been also rewarded by the "EXIT" Editors.

Anna Kania

B. in 1980. Historian, art critic, curator. She publishes her text in the “Format” art magazine. She works for the City Museum in Wrocław.

Anna Kania

LARGE SIZE, BLACK-AND WHITE PORTRAITS OF OLD PEOPLE, drawn with coal or painted - when looked at from a certain distance, they deceptively resemble photographs - have been typical of the works by Trela. She is tracking these down in an immensely vast resources of the Internet, the very special spot where concepts of lasting and time gain a completely new dimension. Anonymous physiognomies, fished out of their previous virtual frames, take on a new identity and start to function in totally new contexts, thus winning a life after life.

Frozen masques, that look at a viewer, hide an inexorable truth about an inevitable fact of passing, and do not let one stay indifferent to this. The artist refers to this phenomenon in a specific way in her drawings. The latter are prone to changes corresponding to the process of human aging: they are transitory, fading, thus under constant degradation. Trela has focused on this to underline the fragility and sensitivity (passing) of the very matter of coal drawing; particularly impermanent technique, easily damaged. Deprived of the fragments considered by the artist redundant, they have been initially reduced to the forms of profusion systems.

The artist, for years fascinated with human faces, has always chosen portraits as topics of her pieces. To accentuate the message conveyed by her pictures, she has constantly offered large size works as though to overwhelm viewers. As a result of this trick, one has an impression to be watched by a picture masque, not the other way round, when a picture is looked at by a viewer.

An additional formal move, mentioned earlier, involves breaking them into parts (a sort of a puzzle), arranged in a manner so as a picture needs to be complemented. One might have an impression that some fragments disappear, while simultaneously remaining in one's mind. This is the case of partially de-fragmented drawings which activate viewers imagination to supplement and search for missing elements not to be seen. Trela has initiated a subtle game with viewers' customary habits, suggesting references to the "permanent" matter of existence, as well as to the void (blank areas). Parallel, the artist has contrasted the reduced drawings with pictures being, in a sense, their opposite. These are images of faces, written into a square, painted in oil on canvas and carefully fixed with varnish. These pieces, much more resistant to damage than drawings, can be considered completed or "dead", as far as any inner processes under way are concerned. With regard to centuries-old tradition of the medium, Trela approaches this type of pictures as a trace of the finite (since there are no visible changes in them, as one can observe in drawings). Thus, in this case, they offer an evidence of the illustration of death.

This is why the artist's creative search has been largely focused on a foresight how a piece of art is to function and how it is to be perceived. She has been testing this in the installations specially arranged for the purpose. She packages her pictures in plastic wraps, thus reducing them to products, goods which contents cannot be fully defined. This gesture, however, offers an opportunity for potential interpretations; in this case, it could be a path of life (registered in facial lines and wrinkles?). Trela considers installations the most personal since they are less universal than traditional drawing or painting techniques. Thus, the installations let her express herself in the most individual manner.

The pieces by the young artist can be approached as a specific comment on our life, the reality we exist in. Complex, multi motive nature of the topic calls for various means of expression. This is why the artist has applied a whole range of media; from drawing, through painting, to installation. These elements can be treated as a whole (as a statement of her personal strategy); on the other hand, they can be viewed separately. The merit of this artistic proposal is that - regardless of the fact whether one puts on an exhibition a single picture or a single drawing, or a whole set of them - in each case the message is clear and distinctly appeals to viewers' reflections.

Halina Trela, the winner of the 19th "Promotions 2009" Young Painting National Review, the Legnica Art Gallery.