06 March 2015 - Our Arty Blogger is back! Des Kenny gives a personal response to our current exhibition by Bartosz Kolata - Circus.
Bartosz Kolata's paintings occupy the walls of the Ground Floor Gallery space in Draíocht’s until 25 April 2015.
The artist combines old photographs of the Barnum and Bailey Circus with present day news events as a theatrical backdrop to explore the human condition. Past and present histories blur and merge seamlessly and a scene which may appear innocent and humorous has sinister undertones.
Bartosz Kolata - The Swank Assemble
In The Swank Assemble a monkey walks on stilts, a clown magically produces a bouquet of flowers and a dog owner tilts her dogs head joyfully for the photographer. This calm warm scene is upended by insidious interlopers seeking equal attention from the cameras phlegmatic eye. Two masked men stand menacingly above a kneeling hooded man, frozen in ragged fear, waylaid by a murderous fate. All the while the imperturbable ringmaster orchestrates the scenario for public consumption with emphatic attention to detail since all publicity is good for a cause.
It is the combination of innocent and invidious imagery together in a painting which unsettles the spectator and makes viewing these works an edgy experience. Finale Parade incorporates all the usual imagery associated with a performance in a circus, an elephant sits obeying a female trainer while a dancing bear follows the compulsive rhythm of the band and a trapeze artist defies gravity. Yet in the foreground a youth jumps up and down on prostrate figures and the disconcerted audience wonder nervously if this is part of the entertaining act. Should they laugh and clap or cry stop. The boundaries between reality and theatricality are suspended and the audience search vainly for a ring master to take control and grant meaning to an absurd situation. Of course any ring master will suffice, as long as order is restored even if reason is circumvented and ignored.
Bartosz Kolata - Balloons Party
Unsettled, the viewer begins to question all seemingly benign imagery. Are the children in Balloons Party being groomed for indecent acts or is it just a normal happy celebration? Have all the recent abusive cases concerning children destroyed our discerning judgement when looking at a seemingly happy painting like this. Our natural equilibrium is destabilised and cultural certainty about what is benign and malign has no coherent value anymore and this uncertainty is filled with paranoia.
Sometimes the artist use of present day imagery is less provocative and disturbing when there is an indisputable narrative in the painting. In Spectacle a bust of Putin the Russian leader holds centre stage, surrounded by a yellow haired dancer and a female puppeteer. The metaphor is obvious as Putin invokes the puppeteer to pull the stings to his instructions and he controls events without direct involvement.
Bartosz Kolata - Generals' Feast
In Generals' Feast a young officer is about to be clubbed to death as he sits at the generals table. No doubt he has conveyed mutinous thoughts that do not equate with the Generals. The scene is filled with a clown a ballerina and various circus types who are impervious to the violence occurring. The story line follows the actor’s actions in a defined fashion leading to a conclusion that is predictable.
The tension is increased when the artist leaves no guideline to the paintings meaning and permits multiple interpretations. A woman is surrounded by eleven clowns who are all painted with smiling faces yet her face is vacant and not filled in by the artist. Each clown has his own identity and performs to that character in the circus but without their clown persona would they disappear into the anonymous ether of the unsung like the faceless dancer they encompass? They must maintain their masks to remain real.
Bartosz Kolata - Her and clowns
This is one of many interpretations to this enigmatic work and another spectator may chronicle a separate explanation.
Desmond Kenny is an artist based in Hartstown, Dublin 15. He is a self taught painter, since he began making art in 1986 he has since exhibited widely in Ireland and abroad, solo shows include Draíocht in 2001, The Lab in 2006 and Pallas Contemporary Projects in 2008. His work is included in many collections including the Office of Public Works, SIPTU, and Fingal County Council. Kenny's practice also incorporates print making and he has been a member of Graphic Studio Dublin since 2004.