Essay written on the occasion of the Prix HSBC pour la photographie 2016, on the series “Post” by Marta Zgierska.
The images are sharp. Absolutely sharp, formidably precise. They are simple images. Photographs which focus on an object. A single object, centered, marked out. An object that photography sets up in a space, its space, definitive and uncomfortable No approximation, no effect, no gloss. The clarification and distancing of things. Putting elements into place. The pieces of a puzzle that is yet to be assembled. To be gathered together. To be reconstructed.
The sharpness of the images combines with the permanence of the light that makes it possible. With its consistency, its repetition. An extremely white light, paradoxical, flattering at the same time as sculpting. A formidable light, excavating details but not enhancing them. An operating room light. Surgical.
Photography and sculpture have more to do one with another than painting and photography. Here more than ever. Sculpture invents space, its space. Objects, contrary to appearances, are not its subject. Indeed, these objects allow space to be structured rather than other objects to be represented and displayed. Here the photographs are softly toned, to gather the force of the whiteness, to denote the sculptures. They observe and clarify the space, not the objects. Confined space. Framed, which leaves barely any escape. Nos escape in fact. Impossible. Because there is necessity. Everything is necessity. For survival.
The compressed car evokes César’s artwork. An upright hand marked by a trickle of blood refers back to performance art. The chicken on its stand draped in black velvet, back to a fine arts and art school tradition. We could multiply useless repetitions. Yet, it is not about this at all. The jacket is too large for the fair-headed child.
Everything is sharp. Precise. There is unease. Discomfort. Brusque. Without apparent emotion. Devoid of all pathos. All explanation. Permanent but never spectacular tension. Irreducible tension.
Absolute necessity. Because the elements must be named so that they can then be uttered clearly. The wound of a coat streaked with blood. Spattered. But sharp. Irremediably sharp on its wall. In an impassable way. A matter of necessity.
Self-portrait. Danger of a genre. Continuous risk. That of narcissism. That of complacency. That of false identity. Of the displaced protection of one’s image. Nothing of a sort here. Yet it is a selfportrait. It is nothing but a self-portrait. Because there was no other type possible. Because it was necessary to go through a moment of reconstruction. To allow for a reconstruction. Self-portrait in snatches, fragments. But sharp. No romanticism. No gloss. Sharp. Always sharp. No narrative either. Each image is a frozen tale. Not a story. Not a development. A statement. Sharp. A need for statement. There is memory. The shaping of memory. Memories, old or new, which create their space. Sculptures. The light sculpts memory laid bare. Then the fragments must be combined, assembled, pieced together, put aside. To reconstruct and not construct. We do not start from nothing. We never, in fact, start from nothing.
Accepting the representation of self. Up to the molding. Un to the idea of the identical which borders on identity itself. Like the minute distance that separates the sculpture of a face from the death mask. Diversity of expressions in order to signify life that continues. White against a white background. But the white does not exist. Plaster against a light back-ground. Painful and calm variation of the portrait. seen from the front, from above. Both in relief and flattened on a background. Pinned, by an unknown entomologist, like the variations of a species. Again a statement of different phases. Re-creation. Memory as well. However, nothing scientific, apart from the appearance. But, here again, necessity. To assume. Therapy? Perhaps. Some expressions take on a new meaning: looking at yourself from front on.
An indisputable approach because it is indispensable. Vital. Steady images respond to trauma. Or accompany it. Or substitute themselves for it. Or express it. No other possibility. Just images which also refuse to choose their status. Neither symbolic not metaphorical. Merely indispensable. There.
Feelings, although they are not expressed, are evoked. Imagined by a me who looks. Fear. Suffering. Constant cold. Clinical white that is white but always clinical. Spaces that are never vast. Which never breathe. Constrained spaces. The way everything is constrained after the accident. In the process of returning. The most difficult will probably remain the piecing together of the grey monochrome puzzle. Difficult or impossible ? Very difficult, in any case, to finish.
Terrible accident. Spectacular. Everything is broken. Everything. In a great noise. Later today, now, there are the after images. White. Absolute silence. Sharp.
Christian Caujolle, journalist and writer. Founder of Vu agency and gallery.
To the images of the fragments of body covered by wax add now real indoor scenes about which we would not know to say if they are glimpses of a boudoir, beauty salons, simple workshop views or what else… It could be about a fiction narrative, some kind of dystopia, or the psychedelic expression of the genre of Twin Peaks. A narrative of that personal story of the cult of the image… With these images, Marta awakes this phrase that Louise Bourgeois (…)
So here we are in the world of trompe l’oeil, of this illusion that aims at the perfect repetition of reality.
This is a genre well identified and codified in the history of art, the meaning of which has evolved over the years: first memic virtuosity, then subtle play with reality.
The series by Zgierska depicts an unusual, intimate self-portrait. Each sheet features the artist’s face imprinted on it moments earlier. However, traces of her image remain concealed, blurred and obliterated in the photographed forms. The concept of “taking off the mask” is a cultural archetype.
Essay written on the occasion of the exhibition by Marta Zgierska at Biala Gallery, Lublin (Poland) February 2019. it’s an analysis of the autobiographical approach of the artist.