'Three Feathers' Oil on Canvas, 160x130cm, 2022
'Five Feathers' Oil on Canvas, 160x130cm, 2022
'Four Feathers' Oil on Canvas, 160x130cm, 2022
'Two Feathers' Oil on Canvas, 160x130cm, 2022
'One Feather' Oil on Canvas, 160x130cm, 2022
'Six Feathers' Oil on Canvas, 160x130cm, 2022
'The Feather Collector' series
Wioletta Kulewska solo exhibition at Valletta Contemporary Malta
4th March to 16th April 2022
Curated by Anna Stec
Wioletta Kulewska’s solo exhibition at Valletta Contemporary Art featured her latest series of large-scale paintings, watercolours, collages, sculptures and installations; a body of work instigated during Kulewska’s residence at The Pedvāle Art Museum in Latvia, 2021.
Kulewska’s paintings oscillate between abstraction and representation. In her practice, she explores threads associated with spirituality and human relations within the natural world. Kulewska is interested in the imagery of prehistoric cultures, analysing its contents, signs and symbols. Her practice is informed by her travels — trips to the Baltic, Caucasus and Eastern Mediterranean territories have resulted in encounters within the ancient world, that have served at points of departure for the distinct narratives found in her extended body of work. Forms of peculiar souvenirs brought back from these expeditions, such as small artefacts or elements of nature (feathers, shells, bones), can be found across her canvases. The image thus becomes a kind of afterimage of the objects, impressions and experiences gathered, with Kulewska's artistic practice combining elements of research across philosophy, archaeology and anthropology.
The artist’s sojourn in Latvia in August 2021 was an important time in her research on religion, understood as a philosophical reflection on the world. The works created during this time result from her inquiry into ancient Latvian culture and Baltic mythology, in particular their message about living in unison with nature.
The titles of the large-format paintings, such as for the triptych Rose, Blood and Fire, their expressive colours and formal aspects, refer to motifs appearing in Baltic myths and beliefs, as well as local Latvian aesthetics. Both the paintings and the series of objects featured in the Feather Collector exhibition (sculptures/totems or small openwork installations resembling the traditional himmeli) contain varied symbolic meaning. The recurring motif of the feather, as used in art, religion and folklore across distant cultures, represents angels and the afterlife, symbolises purity and freedom, but also serves a purely decorative role as fashion accessory.
However, the literary associations triggered by the paintings are of secondary importance for the artist. Kulewska is primarily interested in issues of a formal nature: the painterly properties of the objects, the composition of the paintings, the interaction of colour and material, which together help the viewer to interpret the work in an intuitive way, by establishing a connection with the extrasensory dimension of art and the array of references hidden in the collective subconscious.
The works within the exhibition at Valletta Contemporary are a fusion of the visual ideas gathered by the artist, shared by many cultures and traditions, which Kulewska subjects to artistic reinterpretation, in order to create a painterly universe of her own. What emerges is a reflection on the significance of nature, myths and rituals in the modern world, on the concept of time, identity and the essence of art, which is the guardian of mythological language, so crucial for the history of culture.