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“Let’s Make a Deal” – Wiktoria Walendzik & Konrad Żukowski in Gdansk City Gallery

 

A rococo swan sculpture is standing on the mirror floor in a small gallery room. At the back of the swan’s head a crocodile head protrudes with its bare sharp teeth while a cobra and a lizard slither upwards on the swan’s back. As if that was not enough, there is a boar and a poodle attached to the swan’s side, there is also a seal bonded together with some other part of this huge bird. I am not entirely sure whether this is a chair or a small carriage in a haunted house because the aesthetics of the entire piece resemble garden gnomes more than sculptures from ancient times. Nevertheless, I would not take anything for granted. After all, the title of the exhibition is “Let’s Make a Deal”.

 

"Let’s Make a Deal" exhibition, Gdansk City Gallery, 2020

“Let’s Make a Deal” exhibition, Gdansk City Gallery, 2020

 

The curator, Gabriela Warzycka-Tutak, invited two artists who represent the youngest generation to create a project at the Gdansk City Gallery. The invited artists are Wiktoria Walendzik, a young creator of installations, and Konrad Żukowski, whose artistic activities mainly focus around painting. Both of them are still under 30 years of age, but despite this fact, they have already managed to make a name for themselves in the Polish art scene. Just like many other young artists, they divert their attention away from the, so-called classic academic art and avidly follow the latest trends or the style they developed on their own. Very often this style does not have too much in common with high culture, but derives extensively from civilization dump and uses motives much more common to online memes than art.

For such young artists aesthetic values are no longer as important as meanings and codes which their works embody. Wiktoria Walendzik and Konrad Żukowski truly „gave it a go” while working on the project for the Gdansk City Gallery, not letting anything or anyone stop them, ignoring tastes and appropriate style. The accompanying fairy tale quotation “Mirror, Mirror, one the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” suggests an additional intrigue as well.

"Let’s Make a Deal" exhibition, Gdansk City Gallery, 2020

“Let’s Make a Deal” exhibition, Gdansk City Gallery, 2020

"Let’s Make a Deal" exhibition, Gdansk City Gallery, 2020

“Let’s Make a Deal” exhibition, Gdansk City Gallery, 2020

"Let’s Make a Deal" exhibition, Gdansk City Gallery, 2020

“Let’s Make a Deal” exhibition, Gdansk City Gallery, 2020

The above-mentioned ”Swan” (by Wiktoria Walendzik) is a piece which dominates the space in the exhibition room. If I were to make a comparison between this work and something we know from our everyday life, the first thing on my mind would be plastic surgeries which many women currently undergo. They wish to increase the size of their lips and subsequently decide for more and more operations. Eventually they stop looking like themselves and, to make matters worse, their faces are not acceptable anymore from the point of view of aesthetic values. In both examples the more is considered the better. A swan, a crocodile, an otter, a cobra, a lizard and two polystyrene icicles which hang from the ceiling nearby and reach the mirror-like floor, cutting right through its surface. Do not forget the exhibition title – “Let’s Make a Deal”. The same “Swan” could successfully be used as part of the stage set for a play directed by Cruella de Vil.

Let’s now focus on the latter, as theatricality is a key aspect of this exhibition. This play continues up until now. The artists play with us and with one another. According to the curator of the “Let’s Make a Deal” exhibition: “The presented content is a variation on dreams about divinity, triumph and success. It is a metaphor of aspirations of the world of art.” Wiktoria Walendzik and Konrad Żukowski invited us to the world of illusions and imitations using a genuine theatrical gesture. Thanks to them we find ourselves in a quirky Paris Salon where artificial gemstones pretend to be real diamonds. “Shine bright like a diamond” is one of the mottos of the “Let’s Make a Deal” exhibition. But despite the fact that Rihanna sings so in her song, diamonds are naturally matt and do not sparkle. They merely reflect light from their surroundings. Maybe we can see the same here. We imagine things completely different than what there is in real life.

 

"Let’s Make a Deal" exhibition, Gdansk City Gallery, 2020

“Let’s Make a Deal” exhibition, Gdansk City Gallery, 2020

 

Artificial baubles are in abundance at the gallery. Konrad Żukowski created a work of “mountain crystal”. Just like Wiktoria Walendzik, he went for the maximization strategy. By attaching subsequent elements he created a fair-sized object sticking out in all directions. He used diamond-looking glass to draw a picture on the wall composed of obscure smaller drawings – cigarettes, snakes, distorted faces, bandits, guns, samurai swords, machetes – “very wild west”. On the opposite side we can see a diptych, which was also created by Konrad Żukowski. An exploding volcano spitting out glowing stars, both in the literal sense of this word and the “blonde stars” falling down headfirst. One of these heads landed in the smaller picture nearby – it is also positioned upside down. But its reflection in the mirror floor is natural. Is it Beata Kozidrak – a Polish music star and a pop scene dinosaur, who has been on stage for nearly 40 years?

Is it then possible to go the whole hog without overdoing it? Probably not, because going the whole hog means taking a risk, overcoming boundaries and diving headfirst in deep water. What about making it in a controlled manner? It is almost impossible. It is like saying that someone moderately overdid something. If we, however, focus on exaggeration, overdrawing or baroque character as our starting point, we may end up with a pretty amazing Monty Python flying circus, that is a quite entertaining comedy. When we look at our reflection in the mirror floor at the Gdansk City Gallery we may expect it to reflect everything in the room. In fact, it distorts the picture and presents its mere outlines. What we really see in this mirror floor depends entirely on us.

written by Daga Ochendowska

translated by Joanna Pietrak 

edited by Mikolaj Bartkowiak

 


“Let’s Make a Deal”

Gdansk City Gallery

curator: Gabriela Warzycka-Tutak

1/02-22/03/2020

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"Let’s Make a Deal" exhibition, Gdansk City Gallery, 2020

“Let’s Make a Deal” exhibition, Gdansk City Gallery, 2020

"Let’s Make a Deal" exhibition, Gdansk City Gallery, 2020

“Let’s Make a Deal” exhibition, Gdansk City Gallery, 2020

"Let’s Make a Deal" exhibition, Gdansk City Gallery, 2020

“Let’s Make a Deal” exhibition, Gdansk City Gallery, 2020