Anna M. Szaflarski at Kunstverein Reutlingen

Artist: Anna M. Szaflarski

Exhibition title: Between Swimming and Dryland

Curated by: Imke Kannegießer

Venue: Kunstverein Reutlingen, Reutlingen, Germany

Date: June 30 – August 25, 2019

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Kunstverein Reutlingen

“Between Swimming and Dryland”, presented by Kunstverein Reutlingen, is Anna M. Szaflarski’s first major institutional solo exhibition in Germany. This exhibition brings together more than 20 works by the Canadian-Polish artist, including works specifically created for the exhibition halls of the Kunstverein Reutlingen.

The exhibition title “Between Swimming and Dryland” is inspired by the artist’s athletic career in competitive swimming as a teenager. The fictional term “Dryland” describes the doctrine of swimming exercises outside the pool. But regardless of the location, whether in the water or on land, and how often practiced, the artist repeatedly had to overcome the effort of leaning her body forward, surrendering falling fall and immersing herself into the water. Once the body has acclimatized to its environment, the senses reformulate. In her works, Anna M. Szaflarski deals with the boundaries of the physical body, of consciousness and the question of how the body is embedded in its environment, or how it is constituted by it. While the body seems to become “porous” in the water, the body on the “dry land” is defined by negotiated conditions.

Drawing from her interest in microbiology, sociology, art history and literature – filtered through genres of fantasy and science fiction – the works alienate us and confuse our perceptual experiences by transporting us into invented worlds. Sensory impressions are clouded and conventional body knowledge is questioned.

The drawing series “The Hill erect their Purple Heads” (1-9, 2018) and “Power is a familiar growth” (1-7, 2019) combine ideas found in microbiology and zoology. Visually, they recall comics drawn by American Mark Schulz, especially in their utopian and apocalyptic formal language. The artist mentions the essay “The Uncanny” (1993) by artist Mike Kelley (*1954, †2012), in which the precarious border between the animate and the inanimate human figure is discussed, as an inspiration. The grotesque character of Szaflarski’s illustrations is directly connected to her figures losing their visually-identifiable humanity; instead they dissolve or fragment, exhibiting behaviours of biological cell reactions during a viral infection or jellyfish gestation. The supposedly natural, although conditioned forms of togetherness, are questioned.

The new production “Klecks Klecks” (2019) is a collaboration with Belgian artist Remko Van der Auwera. The 15m long and 3m tall cotton fabric was dyed with pigment and ice, a special technique of batik. The slower process of melting the ice, however, creates a more fractal appearance and rich watercolour gradients. During the dying process the fabric is carefully folded, thus creating a mirroring effect similar to an ink-blot test, or so-called Rorschach. In 1857, the Baden-Württemberg physician and poet Justinus Andreas Christian Kerner (*1786, †1862) published a bestiary of his “random beings”. These folded ink stains where then elaborated with pen and ink, and complemented his poetry and were understood to open up spiritualistic and occult dimensions in his consciousness. The work invites us to devote ourselves to pareidolia, the phenomenon of recognizing supposed faces and familiar beings or objects in inanimate things and patterns – in this case the fabric.

The installation “It filled the Wells, it pleased the Pools” (2019), created especially for Reutlingen, consists of an oversized table set with ceramics and is thus reminiscent of an everyday meal. The vases, soup bowls, plates, cups, and jugs are anamorphic in shape, bulging as if containing an agitated life-force. In places the pieces appear to have burst open, revealing illustrations of human anatomy, inspired by surgical images from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. In contrast, the two dissected heads placed at the ends of the tables lay petrified. The relationship between object and subject becomes animistically blurred, in which a single organism emerges in an amorphous silhouette. The clay works are a cooperation with the Polish ceramist Olga Milczyńska.

Anna M. Szaflarski, Installation View, Between Swimming and Dryland, 2019. Kunstverein Reutlingen, Photo: Karolina Sobel

Anna M. Szaflarski, Installation View, Between Swimming and Dryland, 2019. Kunstverein Reutlingen, Photo: Karolina Sobel

Anna M. Szaflarski (in Collaboration with Remko Van der Auwera), Klecks Klecks (Detail), 2019, Pigment on Fabric, 3 x 15 m. Kunstverein Reutlingen, Photo: Karolina Sobel

Anna M. Szaflarski, The Hills erect their Purple Heads (Detail No. 5), 2018, ink on Paper (Serie 1-9), 46 x 61 cm. Kunstverein Reutlingen, Photo: Karolina Sobel

Anna M. Szaflarski, Installation View, Dwell in Possibility, 2019, various Materials on wood, dimensions variable. Kunstverein Reutlingen, Photo: Karolina Sobel

Anna M. Szaflarski, Dwell in Possibility (Detail), 2019, various Materials on wood, dimensions variable. Kunstverein Reutlingen, Photo: Karolina Sobel

Anna M. Szaflarski, Installation View, Between Swimming and Dryland, 2019. Kunstverein Reutlingen, Photo: Karolina Sobel

Anna M. Szaflarski, Installation View, Between Swimming and Dryland, 2019. Kunstverein Reutlingen, Photo: Karolina Sobel

Anna M. Szaflarski (in Collaboration with Olga Milczyńska), It filled Wells, it pleased the Pools (Detail Pitcher), 2019, Ceramics, Chalk, Watercolour, Wood, Dimensions variable. Kunstverein Reutlingen, Photo: Karolina Sobel

Anna M. Szaflarski (in Collaboration with Olga Milczyńska), It filled Wells, it pleased the Pools (Detail Pitcher), 2019, Ceramics, Chalk, Watercolour, Wood, Dimensions variable. Kunstverein Reutlingen, Photo: Karolina Sobel

Anna M. Szaflarski (in Collaboration with Olga Milczyńska), It filled Wells, it pleased the Pools (Detail), 2019, Ceramics, Chalk, Watercolour, Wood, Dimensions variable. Kunstverein Reutlingen, Photo: Karolina Sobel

Anna M. Szaflarski, Liquid, 2019, Watercolour on Paper, 80 x 60 cm. Kunstverein Reutlingen, Photo: Karolina Sobel

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