Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw
Museum on the Vistula, Wybrzeże Kościuszkowskie 22
“Paint, also known as Blood” is the first large-scale international exhibition devoted to women whose painting practice re-evaluates stereotypes concerning submission and domination.
The title of the exhibition, borrowed from a book by a former hunter, Zenon Kruczyński, marks a perverse reference to a term popular in hunting jargon that stands for the blood of a hunted animal. However, the show does not tell a story of the subjugation of women. The invited artists propose an affirmative version of womanhood by endowing their bodies with agency, autonomy and power of self-determination. The eponymous paint becomes a visceral, sticky matter that leads us towards the point where all meanings collapse. It blurs the categories of power and objectification, thus provoking the question of when do we look, and when do we look away?
At the beginning of the 1990s, third-wave feminism introduced a new, sometimes self-mocking and ironic, unconstrained and exhibitionist tone in the debate on the images of women in culture, their social roles and desires, the physiology of their bodies, and identity. The exhibition demonstrates that — despite the advancing digitisation and dematerialisation occurring in social media —firmly embedded in the body, its pleasures, and traumas, painting remains an exceptionally evocative medium for representing human experience. Owing to its affective and performative nature, the painting appears primarily as a leap into the subconscious and a practice that serves reflection on that which is repressed, perverse, embarrassing, prohibited.
Increasingly, contemporary women painters create private and introspection-based pieces saturated with disturbing sexuality; works that are sometimes obscene, audacious, and simultaneously not devoid of humour or grotesque. Affect serves the invited painters to reflect on an extraordinary, intricate network of meaning: excess and pleasure, but also the experience of violence, violence often characterised by ambiguity.
The exhibition presents the work of Polish artists in the broader context of international women’s painting, which takes on the challenge of representing the intensity of the external and internal worlds. The ‘monstrosity-mirrors’ — as Agata Bielik-Robson writes — become the ‘eye of the Gorgon. Something that simultaneously frightens, overwhelms, takes one’s breath away, but also summons, demands, interpellates.’ In the context of current social transformations, the postulates of equal access to reproductive and sexual rights, and the race and class struggles, women’s painting provides an important contemplation on the violence inscribed in the orders of seeing and consuming images — how we look at them, what we see, and how others see us. And yet, this is not the kind of painting that seeks to forcibly instruct, provide current affairs commentary, or to admonish. Rather, it calls for alternative scenarios and, most of all, the freedom of expression and the presence of multiple, intersecting identities.
Lena Achtelik, Darja Bajagic, Gosia Bartosik, Kamilla Bischof, Agata Bogacka, Martyna Borowiecka, Agnieszka Brzeżańska, Chelsea Culprit, Martyna Czech, Olga Dmowska, Angela Dufresne, Isabelle Fein, Viola Głowacka, Penny Goring, Jenna Gribbon, Hyon Gyon, Karolina Jabłońska, Katarina Janeckova, Cheyenne Julien, Ewa Juszkiewicz, Celina Kanunnikava, Irini Karayannopoulou, Allison Katz, Simone Kennedy Doig, Caitlin Keogh, Stanislava Kovalcikova, Dominika Kowynia, Sarah Ksieska, Katarzyna Kukuła, Agata Kus, Sasa Lubinska, Reba Maybury, Monika Misztal, Magdalena Moskwa, Marta Nadolle, Paulina Ołowska, Julia Poziomecka, Christina Quarles, Autumn Ramsey, Megan Rooney, Dana Schutz, Tschabalala Self, Agata Słowak, Paulina Stasik, Frieda Toranzo Jaeger, Alex Urban, Aleksandra Waliszewska, Ambera Wellmann, Issy Wood, Amelie von Wulffen
The exhibition is to be followed by a publication containing articles by Barbary Klickiej, Aldony Kopkiewicz, Natalii Malek, Magdaleny Roszkowskiej, Chrisa Sharpa, Natalii Sielewicz and Macieja Sieńczyka.
Curator: Natalia Sielewicz
Project management: Szymon Żydek, cooperation: Julia Kern-Protassewicz
Exhibition architecture: Sandra Bartoli, Silvan Linden. Büros für Konstruktivismus
Key visual: Ludovic Balland. Typography Cabinet
Graphic design of the exhibition and the catalogue: Kaja Kusztra
Managing Editor: Kacha Szaniawska
Promotion: Magdalena Kobus, Iga Winczakiewicz
Website: Daniel Woźniak
Public program coordinator: Tomek Pawłowski
Educational program: Dominika Jagiełło, Marta Przasnek, Marta Przybył, Cezary Wierzbicki, Katarzyna Witt, Jolanta Woch i zespół „Użyj Muzeum”
Realization: Jakub Antosz, Marek Franczak, Piotr Frysztak, Józef Górski, Szymon Ignatowicz, Jan Jurkiewicz, Paweł Sobczak, Marcin Szubiak, Maciej Turowski, Michał Ziętek, Sebastian Żwirski
The publication Woman, affect and desire in contemporary painting accompanies the exhibition “Paint, also known as blood. Woman, affect and desire in contemporary painting” at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw (7.06–11.08.2019).
The book consists of an essay by the curator, Natalia Sielewicz, five literary texts inspired by the paintings presented at the exhibition or relating to it in a metaphorical way, as well as biographies of fifty artists invited to present their works as part of the exhibition.
The catalogue is both a supplement to the curatorial concept, as well as a kind of album and guide to contemporary women’s painting. The literary texts contained in it open new fields of interpretation of works presented at the exhibition and constitute a starting point for a reflection on the title: women, affect and desire in painting. The richness of reproduction and accompanying biographies, in which the authors made succinct introductions to the work of artists, are, however, a substantive complement to the exhibition “Paint means blood. A woman, affect and desire in contemporary painting.”
“Everyone knows what the female complaint is: women live for love, and love is the gift that keeps on taking”. These are the first words from Lauren Berlant’s book The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture. With these words, Natalia Sielewicz, the curator of the “Paint, also known as blood” exhibition begins her essay in the book accompanying the exhibition.
As she further writes:
“When I started working on the exhibition “Paint, also known as blood. Woman, affect and desire in contemporary painting “, I asked myself: is my curatorial practice driven by a feminist rage, or rather feminine rage, in order to use the dichotomy proposed by Berlant? Can the anger of a woman and feminist anger be disjointed at all? How, as a woman, I find myself in a world of sentimental fantasies and personal disappointments that determine my everyday life?
I often used to reach for a picture of the painting found on the internet. It was a self-portrait of the Dutch painter Marlene Dumas entitled “From Ophelia to Medusa” (2005). The painting perfectly reflected the position of the artist, who in one of her interviews confessed that her intense, affective painting is located between the pornographic desire to reveal everything and the erotic need of camouflage. In her work, Dumas has repeatedly entered into a dialogue with the male-centred tradition of Western painting, moving smoothly from what is erotic to pornography, not only in the field of the canvas but in the way of representation and configuration of the view of the recipient”.
The motto of the exhibition is taken from Marlene Dumas’ poem:
“It’s the pleasures of painting.
The poses of pleasures.
The privilege of being looked at.
The ploys of seduction.
The light of the night.
It’s nothing personal.
It’s plain delight.”