Temptations, Marvels and Delights
In his book “The Map and the Territory”, Michael Houellebecq, paints a picture with his words: on canvas Bill Gates meets Steve Jobs for an afternoon game of chess. Both of them became visionaries of the new era by taking up innovative enterprises and initiatives. For Houellebecq this scene is an allegory capturing the history of capitalism. A meeting of those two figures is a subject potent enough to abandon its literary prototype and live his very own life. A painting of Julia Curyło may be considered an effect of this action. This particular painting may be a good starting point to enter the world of the artist’s motifs, get to know the problems she is concerned about. Jobs and Gates land on a desert this time and there, surrounded by a rocky landscape they appear as contemporary saints equipped with branded attributes. We can notice also other famous products (MacDonald’s meal) in this ironic scene commenting the phenomena of consumption. What make it even more interesting, however, are the questions it asks about the form of contemporary spirituality, about imagination you need to resort to in order to familiarise the unknown. Hence the desert, the long-time place of mystical revelations is combined with the aesthetics of mass production. Such juxtaposing of traditions, asking questions about religion in its broad sense are the driving force behind many of Julia Curyło’s works.
The figures of saints fly by like a dream, they appear all of a sudden in our cities taking shapes of plastic straws or children’s balloons that you can buy at fairs. Everything here seems to be boarderline; placed between real space and kitsch marvels, between cheep products and real figures of saints, between irony and an honest declaration of faith. There is a good dose of coquetry, flirt and sympathy for the imperfect images. The naivety of the Lambs of God invites us to play with them, befriend them, step out of the comfort zone. Materialised religious images are domesticated objects. Even though they are floating in the air, they are very down-to-earth, brought back to our reality by the cheep material they were made of. Visiting places that we all know well, they make their way into our imagination in an even more suggestive way. The painting of Julia Curyło cherishes banality and, therefore, it often becomes banal itself. It is not, at least in my view, pretty at first view, it is rather irritating, made of icing sugar, of visual templates drawn from social consciousness, which is neither rejected nor directly criticised by Curyło. Quite on the contrary, she seems to always get engaged in some kind of an ambivalent relationship with it, becomes fascinated by it, which helps her consequently stick to the subject and the form she has developed for herself. Such attitude on the other hand, exposes her superficiality and inability to cut herself from the material world. Questions about the contemporary form of spirituality accompanied the artists also when she decided to confront herself with the Large Hadron Collider. It is common opinion that science in its rationality, especially the field of science like physics, has not much to do with religion. However, what they are both trying to achieve, it to answer the question about the ultimate beginning. The question going beyond the horizon, the question requiring faith or at least imagination, a question which art is trying to domesticate.
The process of painting is in this case a lesson how to explain the complicated problems about theology or translate the sophisticated language of science into approachable and quite schematic visual forms. Translation fit the metaphysics and questions about the beginning of the Universe, which surpass our understanding, within simple paintings providing us with some answers. The artist reaches for the aesthetics characteristic for devotional items, figures that can be bought at church fairs propagating one vision of saints and the supernatural world. Their form is inspired by pop-art aesthetics, which introduced the cheep and easily accessible tinsels to the world of art. The presence of inflatable animals may reveal connections with the art of Jeff Koons, or express emptiness and the lack of inner life. The paintings look like compositions of toys and figures placed in real scenery, which lead their secret life as dolls and plastic beings. Numbness, stiffness and evident lack of blood running in their veins are another, less friendly side of their nature. Visions, revelations are presented not in a straightforward way. It is natural that plastic breaks the rules of decorum, a proper and acceptable representation of religious content. It is a proof of flimsiness. Despite the artist has declared that she treats painting very seriously, the ironic commentary, witty remarks towards the status of art and the rules that govern this world present in her works cannot go unnoticed. In her works she often refers to artists as hens, which makes cultural institutions henhouses, where and thanks to which chickens can grow up and unfold their wings, learn about the necessity to respect hierarchy. All mentioned motifs are presented in a way that exposes their ambiguity. She gives us a bittersweet mixture that we must swallow, whether we want it or not. In the context of Lublin, a city of strong religious tradition, they may mean more than just a visual joke.
Julia Curyło, born in Warsaw in 1986, works in the field of visual arts. In 2009 she graduated from the Fine Arts Academy in Warsaw, where she studied in the class of Leon Tarasewicz. Her favourite form of artistic expression is painting. She is also an author or many installations, interventions into public space. One of her most famous works, The Lambs of God, presented at the Marymont underground station in Warsaw provoked a discussion on the state of the religious life of the Poles. In 2010 she won a Grand Prix of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage. One year later she was nominated for the Geppert Award. Her works were exhibited at numerous individual and collective exhibitions. Currently she is preparing an collection of works to be exhibited at the CERN centre near Geneva, where she will show the paintings inspired by the Large Hadron Colider.