Magdalena Więcek, quarry St. Margarethen (Burgenland, Austria), 1963
Courtesy Estate and Archive Magdalena Więcek
The conflation of the works by Magdalena Więcek and Natalia Załuska in the context of the exhibition PAS DE DEUX is due to the cultural resonance chamber and frame of reference of their common country of origin, Poland, as well as to the fascination of the young artist Załuska for the aesthetic innovations of the 1950s and 1960s: Magdalena Więcek, who died in 2008, counted amongst the most significant sculptors of her country, yet had an impact far beyond its borders. Karl Prantl already invited her in 1963 to his legendary symposia. Her sculpture which was created at that time can still be seen in the quarry of St. Margarethen in Burgenland, Austria.
The large-format markings of Magdalena Więcek, executed with spray paint on paper, which can be viewed in the exhibition reflect the fascination of the artist, who was born in 1924 in Katowice, for the spectacle of forms and colours of the industrial epoch. The images are geometric structures, sometimes slightly displaced and shifted, and with a light veil of brownish or steel grey hue; they are reminiscent of rusted metal or of machinery elements which have been exposed to wind and weather.
Other works depict red lines which interact with curved, rounded complexes of forms on a black background. They call to mind the micro-world of biological organisms as well as the infinite vastness of the cosmos, in which the planets begin to dance. Yet they are also equally suggestive of the blue lines of conceptual artist Edward Krasiński – another artist who is an inspiration for Natalia Załuska.
Magdalena Więcek at the beginning of her career still had to fight against the dictates of the Socialist Realism of the Stalinist era. She had to emancipate herself from this in order ultimately to discover her own visual language informed by Minimalism, the legendary exhibition Primary Structures (1966, New York) and Abstraction.
Natalia Załuska took up such precepts, yet nevertheless varied them in accordance with her own aesthetic notions which are located in the post-heroic space of an art that creatively administers and shapes the heritage of the revolutions. On her canvases one frequently encounters irregularities, sections, scarifications and scratches that disturb the symmetry of a perfectly executed geometry and break the illusion of an art of the intact beauty of form. An intuition for the vulnerability of things and people becomes apparent, which further develops those narratives that were formed by Magdalena Więcek under completely different socio-political conditions as epigrammatic, aesthetic positings. Both artists are united in their striving for a balance between nonchalance and control, a balance which is constantly newly negotiated; a balance between aesthetic symmetry and violent or paradoxical interventions. What Adam Budak wrote about Natalia Załuska is also, with the benefit of hindsight, applicable to Magdalena Więcek: “The artist activates the surfaces and creates a sensual polylog between the layers of her works.” A polylog which not only occurs within the works, but which, over time and space, allows the heroic avant garde to collide excitingly with the anything goes attitude of the present.
(Thomas Miessgang, 2018)