EMBODIMENT is a cross-disciplinary, film - photographic - painting project. Works are documenting the process of covering women's bodies in abstract paintings.
Experiment escapes any attempts at easy classification. A viewer prone to compartmentalization faces the question which art form is he contemplating and whether it is a scandalous and eccentric escape from a cliché.
In Pawel Korab Kowalski’s project woman’s body becomes a support. It is like a membrane between the real world and the spiritual world. Covered in white pigment and illuminated with strong light and high-key lighting the body is annihilated. Nudity which symbolically uncovers cosmic source and the mystery of creation is obscured by a layer of white primer. Boundaries of the body slowly appear after colour is applied. The paint embodies the model. It is a process of body painting as much as painting with the body. Korab builds two perspectives – first, the flat and abstract, based on almost constructivist line scheme and second, created by details and value brings forward the anatomical shape.
Artist automates the creation, to some extent, by taking photos more or less every 30 seconds. Catching the transformation of the work becomes the aim, freezing the crucial moments and the possibility of going back in time, of taking a step back. For every work 400-600 pictures are taken registering the story of consecutive embodiments. Following the process of creation becomes important, observing new versions as well as choosing the most interesting moment. Photographic recording of the process of painting reclaims its irreversible nature. Recording allows catching the key moment of mysterious balance which is inevitably followed by degradation of the work.
In primitive cultures body painting was associated with ceremonial and initiation rituals. The oldest examples of adorning skin known in Europe date back to 5 thousand years B.C. Body painting is universal across the globe, regardless of the latitude, age, gender and social status. It had apotropaic function, possessing the power of protective talisman, and was also a mean of non-verbal communication. It could express cosmic activity. Connected with rites of passage, it was determined religiously, erotically or therapeutically.
Korab, by evoking and “embodying” the model pursues her destruction. Beginning and ending blend together in a timeless cycle of death and rebirth, when every following step of creation process brings the painting closer to blackness. A symbolical return to the womb occurs, achieving a non-existence, when one enters the realm banished from memory – one’s own sub-consciousness. Heidegger describes it as being-towards-the-end. It is a moment at the foundation of the self-creation act, impulse that drives the artist.
Painting themes used by Korab are interfusing and overlapping geometrical shapes: zigzagging lines, dots, chain-like forms, polygons known form geoglyphs and petroglyghs. They direct viewer’s attention to entoptic phenomena perceived in altered states of mind, their genesis reaching back to pre-indoeuropean traditions. Historical memory in the ornamental form accumulates and retransmits aspects of spiritual culture.
The artist, uses archaic theme of lines and triangular shape of womb known in Europe for over thirty thousand years, which signifies a woman in Sumerian writing.
The rows of elliptical dots are introduced in geometrical compositions, reminiscing links of a chain symbolising the joining of Heaven and Earth, male and female element, World of Emanations and the chain of entities. Artist is accompanied by a desire to merge figuration with abstraction, what is material and spiritual and at the same time that what is real and surreal.
Nature is constantly evoked. Yet it is not the object, something external. On the contrary, it is an immanent feature to be confronted. The order of Nature’s setup is modified by artist’s intention. The impression of space is achieved through dynamics of forms and colours and their interaction. “Colour’s will”, sort of a “chromatic debauchery” differentiates his works from paintings of primitive cultures. Intense, bordering on phosphorescence colours are led to the utmost expression and become an instrument of articulating emotions. Korab uses large colour intervals. He builds his paintings on tonal and complementary contrasts. Many works are dominated by loud Klein’s blue hues which are particularly difficult to include in the overall colour harmonics.
Artist in the act of creation becomes the great shaman obtaining trance-inducing power thanks to the energy released in the painting.
As a man the creator is confronted with the power of a woman maker. Through the painting he crosses the boundaries of sex to reach an initial complementarity. Entity and nonentity in the final phase of this efemeric piece are inseparable. The male element merges with female element creating a balanced structure of joint energies.
Katarzyna Haber - curator of exhibition