No 1 (97) 2014
January - March

The Tour among Symbols

Barbara Pilch has been a visionary. Further, she has got a rare skill to develop the world full of feelings in the cold space of the gallery. The artist has been creating her own reality and invited one to share it.

Bogna Błażewicz

She writes about art, film, literature. She lives and works in Poznań.

Bogna Błażewicz

THIS ENCLAVE, PERMEATED WITH METAPHYSICS, has been expressive and intensely marked by the author, thus not all feel comfortable there. Some audiences happen to reject totally the visions by Pilch. Some say there is too much theatricality... However, who is to be controversial, if not artists?

The "Lost/Saved" exhibition has been yet another example of the courage of the young artist to follow her own path, to be guided first of all by her intuition, sensitivity, and to speak the voice of her own. The exposition - that covers sculptures, installations and painting - has occupied all exhibition space of the "Arsenal", and by no means it has been minimalist.

On the porch downstairs, visitors have been greeted by a human figure sculpted in black painted wood, holding a red cushion with the embroidered motto: "Save what is lost", addressed to everybody who decided to see the presentation. It is quite easy to negate the logic of this catchphrase, since how can one save something that has been already lost. Entering the exhibition by Barbara Pilch, however, one visits the spiritual world where anything is possible... Behind a small partition there was an installation entitled "The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil" (the only piece with a title), referring to the Biblical tradition, that directs a viewer to the author's course of reflection on the crisis of the widely understood Christian values in the contemporary world. In the darkness and silence, from time to time one could hear a thunder accompanied by a flash illuminating the interior of a burned, gloomy tree trunk; placed in the middle, in the earth dust scattered on the floor...

The upper room offered the surprising luminous red that radiated from pictures painted on transparent circles, suspended in the space that cast purple shadows onto the floor. Thus, she has achieved a magical circle inside which there has been a red mandala put on the floor, featuring an embroidered prayer. Exuberant shapes of cuddling figures have been merged together so as figurative painting has been occasionally turned into mysterious abstraction.

Not far away from the circle, there has been a pyramid upholstered with fabric. One had an opportunity to peep inside this through a number of small window panes (featuring very personal drawings that presented scenes from everyday life of the artist) to see the bottom filled with prepared worms and insects. Over these on a very thin line, there was a diminutive human figure in a kneeling position, sunk in a small glass pyramid protecting him from falling down to the bottom symbolizing decay and disintegration...

Larger than life figure of Christ, sculpted in wood, has been the only piece presented in the last room. This has been the end of an exhibition tour. After passing a whole range of symbols that alternated between affirmation of life and fear, finally a viewer reached the character associated in the Christian world with the Gospel and hope.

Barbara Pilch has been aware of a logical trap contained in the motto embroidered on the cushion: "Save what is lost". Nevertheless, she has been determined to appeal to every viewer to take up his own decision, whether to reconcile with the loss, or not let oneself lose heart in the face of adversities in order gain hope, the first symbol of which - in the course of the exhibition tour - was the light emanating from the inside of the "Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil", and the final, the sculpture depicting the Savior.

If a viewer has not read the message by the artist, or simply rejected it, he could - at the level of emotions and visual impressions - experience an exciting tour of the exhibition. He could wander around in the dark, waiting for yet another thunder and flash, sensing the danger and beauty of the light and darkness contrast, he could face mysterious, red circle of characters casting purple shadows, or he could peep inside a strange pyramid...

Has the accusation of extensive theatricality been justified? I believe that the exhibition perception might have some features of theatricality, or of a private spectacle, but certainly this is not the failing but strength of the expressive and visually uncompromising presentation by Barbara Pilch.

Barbara Pilch, "Lost/Saved", the "Arsenal" City Gallery, Poznań,
December 2013 - January2014.