Aleksandra Waliszewska / “absurden, obszönen Steingötzen der Tschanvölker” / Neuer Kunstverein, Vienna, 16.9-15.10.2017

Waliszewska’s art is characterized by her fascination with dark, dream-like scenes in which the macabre is confronted with the grotesque, and beauty encounters horror. In her early work, she investigated the art of theItalian Quattrocento, interested specifically in the way the paint was applied and in its colors. She was particularly fascinated by the paintings of Piero dellaFrancesca, Massacio and Giotto. However, her work also calls to mind the work of Vermeer, Balthus, the portrayals of Goya and the medieval paintings of Hans Memling.

Waliszewska’s25 x 35 cm gouaches often show young girls in danger, mostly portraits of herself but sometimes hybrid beings whose sex remains undefined. Her focus is on subjects such as violence, cruelty, torture and sexual repression, sadistic men and evil animal beings similar to humans. Waliszewska can be read as a chronicler of the “human condition” given the monumental, phantasmagorical world she composes, consisting like a kaleidoscope of images and stories, a world in which age-old fables are confronted with a frightening present; it is a chronicle that seems to recount a world fluctuating between hope, happiness and the apocalyptic.

“(…) mystical beings such as a spider woman, a dragon, or Eve from the Old Testament seducing Adam put in an appearance in these scenarios which – in the tradition of that late 18th century painter – are reminiscent of the paintings of Francesco Goya. These are pictures revealing the sheer scope of man’s imagination, an imagination driven by fears, violence and sexual desire. In Waliszewska’s pictures, sexual desire, which vacillates between innocence and seduction, longing and violence, life and death, is almost always present. This renders these pictures at once tragic and comical, perfidious and naïve, profound and banal. It is this which makes them real, like life itself (…)”.
In an interview with Maurizio Cattelan, Waliszewskaironically described her work as “a warning about evil before the beginning of the time of delight and gentleness.”

Waliszewska’s work has influenced various artists, including the writer Szczepan Twardoch and his cartoon film “Piwnica”. In 2012, inspired by Waliszewska’s work, director Athena Rachel Tsangari produced the film “The Capsule” (2010) – Waliszewska not only co-scripted the movie, but also played one of the main protagonists. The film was shown at Dokumenta 13 in 2012. Both films, “Piwnica” and “The Capsule” will be complementing the Waliszewska retrospective at Neuer Kunstverein Wien.