“Strength and Beauty”
A very subjective history of Polish mothers
Curator: Killy Koren
This exhibition allows a clear gaze into the eyes of beautiful, young women, whose figures dissolved into a consciousness of fear and danger during the Second World War. In this exhibition, Kowalewski presents ten large prints – portraits of women who had endured the holocaust on their own flesh; who survived, raised families and died, while leaving behind a second generation of brutal war trauma.
Exhibition Strength and Beauty engages in the collective Polish-Israeli history. He offers his audience a fresh gaze, free of cynicism and irony. The images that inspired his works are taken from small photographs that appeared in travelling or other documents, which were used by these women during the war. In his working process, he enlarged these images on photo-papers which were placed on aluminium sheets. By means of a unique printing technique that incorporates 3 different colours, a special affect was generated so that the image can be seen differently from every angle. The special florescent colour will eventually dissolve and the image will be preserved only under a preserving coating layer. Hence, the viewers are struck with an original, fascinating piece – a combination of mental painting and photography. Kowalewsky focuses on what exists beyond the visible spectrum. He portrays these figures as mythical beings as he gently and touchingly manipulates their aesthetic image.
Kowalewski allows himself to adore the women who survived this horrifying plague of human evil by representing them as larger than life icons. Hence, by artistic means, he rebels against Totalitarian regimes and mocks their awaited affect on the human psyche. The artist offers his audience a new perspective, thus, enabling certain relief from the heavy burden of a fixated memory as he amends a distorted heritage. By means of strength and beauty he transforms these women from victims to goddesses. In this unique exhibition, the rough shell that preserves these individual survival stories – is being shattered. A divine light peers through and illuminates these figures – their beauty and courage, while granting the audience an experience of purity and tenderness.
The recent death of Kowalewski’s mother left a grave impact on him. Sophia, who was not Jewish, lived in Warsaw and served as a soldier of the Polish Underground. In this stage of his life, out of a deep internal monologue and a quest for self identity, Kowalewski decides to linger and examine the details that constitute the identities of women who participated in a great tragedy.
Pawel Kowalewski, born in Warsaw in 1958, made his first artistic steps during a time of a heated battle in his homeland – a period of transition from a Communist regime to a Democracy. In 1982, Solidarity Party, led by Lech Walesa, succeeded in bringing about the desired change, and in 1983 Kowalewski was one of the founders of Gruppa – a group of six young artists who rebelled against the regime in Poland. With their works, they attacked obsolete aesthetics, escapism and Drafted Art, while pushing forward intellectual and philosophical painting. Gruppa’s prominent activity helped shape the contemporary Polish art field. Kowalewski creates his works in the spirit of Expressionism. His style is swift and intuitive, while his works span across various genres, seasoned with humorous and ironic punch lines. These subversive artworks invoked a new discourse within the Polish art scene.