—text accompanying the exhibition Superficial
curated by Dorota Walentynowicz
pf gallery / CK Zamek, Poznań 2014
Landscapes are the states of the soul.
Within the landscape, transparent air suffuses shapes and the boundary between the visible and invisible, between the real and imagined is sustained through our flawed sight, which needs to look in order to see.
Claude glass, also known as black mirror, was a kind of pre-photographic lens used by artists and travellers, admirers of landscape. The world it reflected, its colours reduced and simplified, became more abstract, acquiring the sentimental quality resembling 18th and 19th-century painting. To a certain degree, the glass that Kama Sokolnicka applies to the world is psychoanalysis. The artist readily engages in a dialogue with its codes, which thus yields a singular perspective in the reception of her works. And even though the metaphors are not always identical with what we see, it does happen that the image of the ice sheet is interpreted as a reference to the iceberg under which, according to Freud, the human psyche is concealed, the tip being the conscious, while the subconscious and the unconscious remain submerged under the surface. If one adopts the post-Freudian concept of Hanna Segal, which postulates that artists embark on identity issues, Sokolnicka also hides behind one of the images—showing the aerial craft—which may betoken speculations and wishes regarding her life’s path. In the context of Sokolnicka’s work, the reference to a two centuries-old optical device, which was readily used during travels, is associated with the motif of research expedition which recurs in her art. Also, Claude glass was among the travel paraphernalia of a particular kind of explorer: the tourist which set out on the Grand Tour in the age of Enlightenment, a peregrination which in Poland was equally popular with women and men, who journeyed to mould their young souls and minds. If, however, one were to consider the use of the glass as it was originally intended, to capture the elusive poetics of abstraction, the artist seems to share the desire, keeping things more often obscured than exposed, or applying rather a monochromatic palette.
In the work of contemporary artists, Claude glass is frequently quoted in Andrzej Stasiuk’s prose. In the collection of short stories entitled Dukla (2008), the author mentions Lorraine, from whom the black mirror took its name. The Baroque landscape painter serves Stasiuk as a pretext to introduce deliberations on light into the narrative, since as the narrator and the protagonist of the collection claims: “It has long seemed to me that the only thing worth describing is light, its varieties and permanence. I am so much less interested in actions. I can barely remember those.” To a certain extent, it is thanks to the updated method of the master in Stasiuk that we obtain a key to Sokolnicka’s presentation at the pf Photography Gallery in Poznań. The issue of light, just as in Stasiuk’s reminiscences of the travel to a town in southern Poland, renders an order to the threads originating from several separate series of the artist and serves her as an alibi to display her works in a venue devoted to photography. Among those, the most “radical” is Confusional Arousals—an object/collage comprising a packet of photographic paper that had never been used—one that has not been “touched by light.” The title of the exhibition—Superficial—combines both threads, i.e. relating to psychoanalytical codification as well as photographic film; the latter records memories and experiences, just as our minds do when we are asleep.