Alina Szapocznikow. Sculpture Undone. Material Influence.

'Breast in a green cloth' (Fetish 2) 1970-71

Madonna of Kruzlowa (motherhood) 1969

'Nice Tits' Sarah Lucas 2012

I thought it useful by way of contrast to the posting regarding Camilla Low to discuss another artist that approached sculpture entirely differently. I do this so my preceding post doesn't sound prescriptive such that it seems as if I am interested specifically in a set of rules that define sculpture. There are huge variances and a very diverse range of approaches. I think this ties in with many of my previous posts on painting where I express similar appreciation for both the abstract expressionists and the formal expressionists. Each have their particular approach and probably seek to communicate the core idea of abstraction in their own unique way. I think both types of panting could tackle the same subject matter and arrive an equally stimulating visual response. As a visual artist that is what interests me rather than having any particular predilection toward one style or the other.

I personally think that pure expressionism requires a tighter set of controls to work although what those are I think are undefinable beyond perhaps the neat definition by Denis in 1890 which I mentioned in my Sylvester blog post. I am not saying this is a correct definition but rather something I engaged with during my project and I tried to understand within that perspective. There will obviously be a wide variance in perspectives but I wanted to construct a range of blog posts that developed around a choice of common idea rather than me trying the impossible task of representing lots of viewpoints. I speak primarily of what is influencing me at this particular time in my studies and I would expect this to alter and develop as I grow as an artist and I gain more knowledge at degree level.

Alina Szapocznikow is slowly starting to get the recognition in the west that she has in Eastern Europe and in particular her birthplace Poland. Her name may not be common parlance in the history of art but if you have encountered Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas from the British art scene then you will most definitely have seen Alina Szapocznikow's direct visual impact if not her name in connection with these artists. Sarah Lucas work 'Nice Tits' 2012 might suggest a form of feminist progress (or not) in the 53 year gap between that piece and Alina's 'Madonna of Kruzlowa' but it certainly suggests a direct sculptural influence. Tracey Emin's drawings also exhibit deep similarity to Alina's from the early 1970's.

I think looking at Alina's work sparked my interest in melting polythene and working with the innards of that material and the residues. Her work explored a range of materials including; polyester resin and polyurethane foam which she would heat, pour and cast and generally distort. At the time these materials were almost exclusively used within the construction industry so Alina was one of the first catalysts for me to start exploring industrial materials and the processes of altering them to see what might happen. The unusual use of these materials led to inherent stability issues and problems of fragility in her sculptures. Many seeming to bend, twist, sink and distort under the weight of gravity or through the acts of cooling, heating and pouring. I found to my cost just how fragile these materials are when using them in ways other than which industry has designed them for. Of course the joy is in using materials in ways they were not meant to be used so one is able to explore and be surprised and hopefully find creative leads worth following.

I chose to write about Alina after Camilla Low as I wanted to highlight my interest in artists that are both geometrically formal and artists who are profoundly experimental in their use of materials, methods and forms. I presented a visual unlocking of the space in which the sculpture plays its role and here I wanted to look at materiality of the sculpture itself that has no reference to a world beyond it. It asks the viewer to look at it and look at it alone not the space that it occupies.

Alina's eventual conception of sculpture became a world of the 'provocative object'. One might define her oeuvre as experimental body art as she exists beyond the confines of Surrealism in terms of the solely imagined object. Her work has a concrete feminist, political and sexualised edge based profoundly in experience rather than flights of unfettered imagination. These aspects are those picked up so well by Sarah Lucas but when Alina was making her art it was highly unusual to be working in that way. Too much of Alina's work perhaps has got lost in her tragic story rather than made visible in the uniqueness of her actual art.


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