The modernist lines of sculptures In conversation with Laura Serra on Dorota Morawiec-Winiarska’s Marseille exhibition.

For the period from 18th June to 16th July 2022, artist Dorota Morawiec-Winiarska was invited by Kolektiv 318, an art gallery and a curatorial group focusing on the impact that 20th century architecture heritage has on design and visual arts, to exhibit a series of artworks at the UNESCO World Heritage Le Corbusier Unité d’habitation – the Housing Unit, in Marseille. 

A selection of drawings and sculptures was displayed there, complemented by illustrations by the Polish graphic designer Marina Lewandowska, connecting with the visual universe of Le Corbusier, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of this landmark piece of modern living. 

The exhibition underlined also the craftsmanship of Dorota’s work, recreating her workshop and creating a dialogue between her work, the lines of the building and overall modernist aesthetics, which has also strongly shaped the Polish visual environment.

We had a great pleasure talking to Laura Serra, the co-founder of Kolektiv 318, about this exhibition and her encounter with Dorota Morawiec-Winiarska.

Dorota Morawiec-Winiarska, ATELIER 2022, Kolektive318, Marseille
Dorota Morawiec-Winiarska, ATELIER 2022, Kolektive318, Marseille

CL: Where did the idea for the invitation of the Polish artist Dorota Morawiec-Winiarska come from?

Laura Serra: We started to exchange emails with Dorota in February 2020. I was coming back from Poznań where we, as Kolektiv 318, had exhibited the vase Krystal by Malwina Konopacka. Dorota had been following our long collaboration with Malwina (projects such as the exhibition La cité that we organised at the housing unit in 2017, or the exhibition Odyssey in Prague in 2018).

Unfortunately, we launched the process just when the pandemic started so we couldn’t meet each other: the project was carried out remotely.

CL: How did you discover her works?

LS: I discovered Dorota’s work through Instagram one year before. I was captivated by the atmosphere of her workshop and the dialogue between her sculptures and pastels and the graphism art by Marina Lewandowska. The two artists studied together and collaborated ever since so I was glad to bring together their works in one exhibition. The modernist lines of Dorota’s sculptures were underlined by Marina’s illustrations: suddenly they appeared to me to be similar to the statues from the ’50s and ’60s that we find in the public space in Central Europe: on modernist squares or esplanades… The connection to architecture and urbanism seemed obvious to me.

photo by Wojciech Skibicki
photo by Wojciech Skibicki

CL: What feelings do her works evoke?

LS: I am fascinated by Dorota’s research and her ability to create shapes that generate a feeling of timelessness. There’s a strong connection between her workspace and the artworks she creates. The human figure is a recurring theme in her work. Her notebooks contain tons of drawings powerfully representing her sculptures, which also include a recent large-scale artwork. She is always trying to go further.

CL: Le Corbusier housing unit in Marseille celebrates its 70th anniversary. Why did you decide to show Dorota’s sculptures and drawings on such an important date? What connections do you notice between the work of Le Corbusier and Dorota Morawiec-Winiarska?

LS: During each exhibition or collaboration, we try to explore a different aspect of Le Corbusier’s work. Before working as an architect, Le Corbusier’s first wish was to become a painter. Fate decided otherwise but he continued working on chromatic palettes and introducing human figures on murals or through tapestries. He also enjoyed spending time at his workshop located in his own flat in Paris, drawing and working on sculptures with various collaborators. 

Another of his great interests was the idea of the Modulor, a standardized human silhouette used to design the structure and dimensions of the housing unit.

In Dorota’s work, we find the same fascination with the human silhouette. As we were preparing the celebrations of the 70th anniversary, I thought it would make sense to show her work and to recreate her workshop (a place that has special significance for her, represented tirelessly – and often literally – through her pictures), mixing artworks, notebooks and sculptures.

Dorota Morawiec-Winiarska, ATELIER 2022, Kolektive318, Marseille
Dorota Morawiec-Winiarska, ATELIER 2022, Kolektive318, Marseille

CL: In the gallery you show works of several Polish artists. Where did the desire to represent Polish art in France come from?

LS: Some years ago, I was working in the fashion industry and helped develop retail brands in Central Europe. I was living in Czechia at that point and I was of course exploring the whole region in detail. In Poland, I was impressed by the impact of modernism on the new art scene, an example of which was the discovery of Magdalena Łapinska’s work A Dream of Warsaw. I was also fascinated by the quality of and the attention to graphism and how this interest for fonts and lines was materialized in the city landscapes. 

After my return to France, I noticed that the Central European design scene still remained uncharted. I started to introduce the French audience to modernist design from this region and to curate different artistic projects. Poland is one of my main sources of inspiration and when I opened the Gallery at the housing unit, I took the opportunity to develop projects with local designers and artists as Dorota. Among others, we collaborated with Malwina Konopacka, Andrzej Wieteszka, Edgar Bąk or Mikołaj Długosz.

CL: What was the reception of Dorota’s works in France?

LS: It was very positive. We had the possibility to show her sculptures and drawings to gallerists coming from the contemporary art fair Artorama (a special event was organized at the housing unit for the 70th anniversary), and many collectors and artists were impressed by the many sides of her work, its technique and Dorota’s savoir faire.

Dorota Morawiec-Winiarska, ATELIER 2022, Kolektive318, Marseille
Dorota Morawiec-Winiarska, ATELIER 2022, Kolektive318, Marseille

CS: The gallery is located at the famous UNESCO World Heritage Le Corbusier housing unit. Tell us more about the building itself and the atmosphere around it.

LS: This year, we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of this iconic building that has inspired so many architects and artists… We opened the gallery in 2016, just some months before the UNESCO World Heritage classification. Since then, we have breathed modernism nearly 24 hours a day. This might be at times overwhelming, especially as we work and live in what is after all a vertical village, but we are happy to have managed to build a bridge between this landmark piece of modernist architecture, suspended above the Mediterranean, and our own visual and intellectual journey through the Central Europe. We enjoy sharing the exhibitions with the visitors, a very international and passionate public composed of urbanists, architects, designers… And of course, to have the occasion for certain projects (we are right now producing a short film with the Estonian artist Ingel Vaikla), and to collaborate with the residents. Many of them have lived in the building since the end of the ’50s and have moving and exciting stories to share. In addition, these last years, Marseille has become a very attractive artistic scene and we feel this energy in the building.

CL: What is the main idea of Kolektiv 318 and how was it born?

LS: The idea to open a gallery had been with us for many years. Our stay in Central Europe (where we worked for a long time) motivated us: in the region many design studios were being created, new fairs organized, a very dynamic context.

Thanks to the strong connection of Central European design scenes to architecture, there came the idea of opening a gallery at Le Corbusier housing unit. Since then, choices have been driven by the relation of the exhibited artists or studios to architectural forms or modernist aesthetics. With international museums and institutions such as IAM, UMPRUM, Estonian Design House, The Slovak Center of Design, The Isokon Gallery etc., we host and co-curate exhibitions devoted to modern architecture. When events are to take place outside the housing unit (for example our exhibition last September for the European Capital of Culture Kaunas 2022, at the Iljinai family house), we always attempt to create a relation between the context and the content. It is a lot about a trialogue between the artists or designers, us and the place.

Dorota Morawiec-Winiarska, Mother and child, pastel on paper, 21x297 cm
Dorota Morawiec-Winiarska, Mother and child, pastel on paper, 21×297 cm
Dorota Morawiec-Winiarska, Mother and children, 21x297 cm
Dorota Morawiec-Winiarska, Mother and children, 21×297 cm
Dorota Morawiec-Winiarska, ATELIER 2022, Kolektive318, Marseille
Dorota Morawiec-Winiarska, ATELIER 2022, Kolektive318, Marseille

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