Sławomir Elsner, Uwe Wittwer
September 28 – December 16
Uwe Wittwer, The Massacre of the Innocents after Rubens, 2023, watercolour on paper, 54.1 x 74.4 cm
The dialogue, or rather its next iteration, between painters Slawomir Elsner and Uwe Wittwer was inspired by Kieslowski's A Short Film About Killing (Decalogue V) and the news of war and humanitarian crises percolating through everyday life. In addition to three works in the format of an old TV set that directly refer to scenes from the film, the exhibition includes works that allude to the iconography of St. George, St. Michael, but also a vanitas still life, a scene of the slaughter of innocents, or paintings of a starscape in which various mythologies are embedded, though also a possible last glimpse before death of a soldier hit by a bullet. More than a story or a lecture on death, the juxtaposition of these images brings to mind as much the chaotic as the persistent search for ways to familiarize killing as part of our reality. This multifaceted meaning of the tragedy of violent death includes questions of human dignity, violence, the suffering of victims, meaning and meaninglessness, the banality of evil, loss, witnessing, forgetting and remembering. All of this is impossible to come to terms with despite its unstoppable return to each of us. Just as anxiety numbs speech, witnessing causes the existential perplexity of not being able to convey what death was. The first death is always the death of another person. The paintings go further than a simple description, but at the same time the encapsulated impression in the visual composition shields from the unbearable.
All works are on paper painted with watercolors or drawn with colored pencils. They are all united by a particular sensitivity to the medium, which, especially in the case of watercolor, is a painting of the negative revealing what the brightness of the paper limits, as opposed to painting on canvas, for example. The unique feature of painting on paper, especially watercolor, is the presence of every trace, a record of the whole at every stage - there is no room for retouches and returns. The inexorability of paper in this aspect reveals its noble and delicate character. Also uniting these works is the nature of blurring, which enhances the power of evocation not so much of the representation itself, but of its emotions and meaning. Thinking about the exhibition and this subject, I have the irresistible impression that life goes on between the forgetting necessary for daily functioning and the remembering needed to avoid past mistakes, among other things. While we are vulnerable to the past, the power of art is to store empathetic memory especially at this time when the future is plunged into ever more disturbing uncertainty. The fuzziness of the image itself corresponds to the vibration between the private lives of individual people and the stigma that the dimensions of historical experience exert on them.
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