Gosia Wlodarczak

Drawing is at the heart of Gosia Wlodarczak’s practice. She doesn’t work in a studio. Instead her drawings happen in real time in the exhibition space documenting the present moment as she witnesses it. For example, in 2012, as part of an ongoing series of ‘Frost Drawings’ the artist staged an 18-day drawing performance at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art. At ‘Window Shopping, Frost Drawing for GOMA’, Wlodarczak arrived each day at GOMA dressed in different outfits mimicking a mannequin in a fashion store window. She leaned against the glass facade of the museum entrance and drew her interactions with passers-by in a continuous white line on the glass. The resulting intricate networks of shapes act as an archive of that specific time and place, a ‘membrane’ between different states of being, while the white pigment references her childhood growing up in Poland looking out of frosty windows during winter. Wldoarczak migrated to Australia in 1996 and is based in Melbourne.

When did your interest in art begin? And how did you come to the medium of drawing?
As far as I remember, I was always drawing. I was an ‘arty-crafty’ child, printing with potato prints, making objects, sewing … I have always used drawing as a visual response to my world. As a child drawing was a way to illustrate the books I read, to visualise dreams and stories. As an adult my drawings came from working with a classical Renaissance perspective, then architectural analysis of space. These mutated into the conceptual response to the observed reality, often with appropriation of found marks.

Before going to university I had the notion I would love to be a painter. I quickly discovered though that painting, being very tactile and often delayed, was not my medium. I was interested in speaking through the mediums, and for me drawing is like writing.

Your subject is the present moment. Tell me about this.
I came to my obsessive interest in conscious awareness of the present during my second year of study when I fell ill and, after life-saving surgery, spent two weeks in hospital. I read the entire seven volumes of Marcel Proust’s novel À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time). Since then, what is a full concentration on my existence, the realisation of being alive perceived through awareness of what is happening now, has been the focus of my work.

Drawing is the basis of my whole practice, extending towards performance, interactive situations, installation, sound and film; I refer to it as cross-disciplinary drawing. I draw my environment as I see it, in real time. I think of my process as archiving my actuality. My works are often ephemeral, it seems contradictive to the meaning of the word archive but … nothing is forever, nothing can be archived forever. The archive is never fully archival. All our reality succumbs to the rules of entropy, processes of erosion and disappearance.

You don’t work in a studio. Tell me about your process.
I create sets of rules and conditions to inform and lead the way I work. For example I set a time for the drawing process before starting. In Window Shopping, Frost Drawing for GOMA the date and time signalled the work’s beginning and end. I don’t emphasise elements of structure in the fabric of drawing and I don’t make preliminary sketches … I allow the drawing to happen. I never alter my work after stopping the process. These kinds of external parameters allow me to … distance myself from any further interference, [and to] accept its final state.

The feeling of existing; the eye is seeing, the hand is drawing, brain processing and awareness of being in the moment, my body responding, something pulling my attention, accumulation of shapes … The drawing responds to my understanding of the present. Converting the living energy from that moment in time to the line. This is the rule I use in all of my work. My process is like a language, my alphabet if you like. I am talking about something using my own alphabet – using drawing as a language to address, to research, to communicate.

The Frost Drawings happen within the exhibition space documenting what it happening around you. In contrast at your 17-day drawing performance A Room Without a View (2013) at RMIT your outside stimulus was removed.
A Room Without a View was a black room enclosed within the black cube built in the middle of the gallery. Inside the room I only had my body, the outlines of the room, the fan on the ceiling, a set of steps and a hole in the door to look at. Everything was black. For 17 days I was in the room, drawing on its walls, the ceiling and floor using white pigment pen. The door was always closed – no one was present to see me drawing. There was a projection streaming out of the room to the screen in the gallery’s lobby and a live stream on Google-life.

One particular aspect of isolation I wanted to test on myself was related to isolation as a form of punishment for disobedient, aggressive prisoners. This style of punishment is based on outdated (19th and 20th Century) psychological research to cure aggression by solitude. It was supposed to calm people. The prisoners were deprived of all contact – they didn’t even see the eyes of those who brought them food. The isolation [was supposed to] cure them but it had the opposite effect. My experience was a broken isolation. I stayed in my room for seven hours a day. Despite knowing this [as the work progressed] I became more angry and irritated.

In A Room Without A View I inhabited my drawing. This was always something I wanted to do and I see it as an important experience in my practice. In my black room I firstly drew the room’s outlines and its few features: the lamps, the ceiling fan and my body over and over again. As the drawing grew on the walls, the drawing became my reality … I started to draw my already existing drawing and build my own reality through the drawing.

How important is the audience in informing your work?
It’s very important. I believe that our life and our state of being in the ‘now’ is reflected in others. My impression is reflected in the eyes of others; my presence is ‘imprinted’ on the presence of others, our movements and shapes construct and animate the space around us. All people and objects by being present in a particular space at the particular moment in time exchange energy and establish a state of in-betweenness – a shared space, which builds something else, a membrane, that holds all the activities within this moment. These membranes, constantly changing and thickening with layers of interaction, inform the shape of the future.

Another important aspect of the audience within the drawing process is distraction. The distraction caused by engaging in conversation, disturbances on site etcetera … creates distance, the delay between the action of my hand drawing and the creative process. I do not want to overpower my works by authoritarian decisions of the artist-creator. I want to use my process to document a specific situation within a specific time-space.

What are you showing in the Dobell Drawing Biennial?
I will be creating a performance drawing on glass titled On the Sky and Water, Frost Drawing for the Art Gallery of New South Wales. At the end of the third floor gallery is a huge window (measuring 3 x 10 metres) looking out to the water and sky.

Starting in the last days of the exhibition installation through the opening to a few days after (17–23 November) I will be standing at the window drawing what I see. My challenge is the open vista which makes one feel really minuscule. On the window I imagine will be also a reflection of the interior space behind me that is going to overlap and merge with the landscape in front of me.

What are you working on now?
I have been invited to present a solo exhibition at TarraWarra Museum of Art in Healesville, Victoria. In this exhibition, Found in Translation, I will show two large-scale works: a drawing installation from A Room Without A View and my first instruction drawing which will be in conversation with Ian Fairweather’s The Drunken Buddha (1965) [which is] a translation of a well-known Chinese tale. Creating an abstract alphabet sourced from 26 small details taken from the A Room Without A View drawing … I will visually encode a poem from Fairweather’s The Drunken Buddha series into a large three-panel drawing. In addition, I will perform a drawing on the large window in the North Gallery.

Gosia Wlodarczak is represented by Fehily Contemporary, Melbourne

EXHIBITION
Found in Translation
TarraWarra Museum of Art
29 November 2014 – 15 March 2015

Photographer Longin Sarnecki
Courtesy the artist, Fehily Contemporary, RMIT Gallery and the Art Gallery of New South Wales

 

 

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