Works on nature and the sacred

polish artist WIOLETTA KULEWSKA speak with Lara Zamit on his works currently on display at Valletta Contemporary laden with symbolic meaning.

The feather collectoran exhibition of works by Polish artist Wioletta Kulewska curated by Anna Stec currently on view at Valletta Contemporary, features the artist’s latest series of works created during an artist residency at the Pedvāle Museum and Sculpture Park in Latvia Last year.

Kulewska describes these works as a fusion of visual ideas and a reflection on the notions of time, identity and spirituality, as well as on the meaning of myths and rituals in the contemporary world, in which it is necessary to seek a new spirituality.

Talk to Malta weather on how his paintings confront the notion of spirituality and the sacred, the artist said that his works are deeply rooted in mythology, especially that of the ancient Baltic peoples who searched for answers to fundamental questions, mainly in the world of nature, which they considered sacred.

“These ancient people attached particular importance to the worship of fire and identified the most important deities with the forces of nature,” said the artist.

“Five Feathers” by Wioletta Kulewska

“These ancient traditions are still cultivated in parts of Latvia – there is a significant growth of the ancient religion and the neo-pagan movement in the Baltic region.”

Despite this ancient spiritual connection to nature, Kulewska argues that the connection between contemporary man and nature is broken.

“The climate crisis, wildlife emergencies and even violent wars all show that the existing relationship between man and nature is broken. There is a deep need for understanding and a need for change in our society,” she said.

Kulewska’s work, in addition to its formal qualities, is loaded with symbolic meaning. An example of this in his paintings comes in the form of depictions of feathers juxtaposed with ultramarine blue, which may indicate references to the history of ancient art, where blue symbolizes the sphere of the sacred.

Feathers are a common motif throughout the exhibit.Feathers are a common motif throughout the exhibit.

“It can represent infinity, the immaterial, the beyond and purity. French artist Yves Klein identified blue with elusiveness and intangibility, emptiness and freedom. He thought he survived spiritually and that his work would be more complete,” she explained.

“My paintings are a vocabulary of gestures and patterns, enigmatic, mysterious and open to interpretation. I want them to think about the mystery of life and the mystery of our existence. Painting itself is a symbolic and mythical activity. Asked to explain how her paintings are also linked particularly to archetypal notions of the feminine, the artist first expressed her interest in ancient cultures and conducts considerable research on painting, symbolism, mysticism, mythology and religions. heathen.

The relationship between man and nature is broken

“During my research, I came across Marija Gimbutas, an archaeologist of Lithuanian origin, who claimed that “the world was at peace when God was a woman”. According to Gimbutas, men and women in the ancient world lived in harmony. Women ruled temples and in doing so held important positions, while men performed physical tasks such as hunting, building, and navigation.

“The deities these people worshiped were predominantly female, and their values, emphasizing non-violence and respect for nature, came from the female realm. It was the marauding Indo-Europeans, precursors to Western civilization, who destroyed these societies,” she claimed.

Ancient female figurines discovered during Kulewska’s travels also appear in her paintings and watercolor studies, particularly due to her wish to reconstruct the idea of ​​a goddess.

“Ancient civilizations lived in unity with all of nature. They glorified the natural forces, worshiped them and sang for them. Religion played a huge role in the past, and the temple was something of a center of life. The finest artifacts were produced for the temple. The goddesses played the primary role of queens and mothers, not the secondary role of wives or lovers for the male deities,” she said.

The feather motif is one of the main elements that appears in the latest series of works by the artist presented at Valletta Contemporary. She explained that bird feathers are a natural miracle and are found in the folklore, religion and art of many distant civilizations.

“The feather motif is a common denominator in my explorations of aesthetics and spirituality, and it suggests a reference to an otherworldly universe. In many cultures, feathers represent a connection to spiritual realms. Coming from birds, feathers symbolize freedom, both mental and physical, from the limits of the earth.

Other elements such as small artifacts, shells, bones or twigs can also be found on canvases, installations and colorful totem-like objects displayed as part of The feather collector exposure. The artist said these afterimages of experience and inspiration, brought back from various travels, come from the particular assortment of objects collected by the eponymous “collector”.

“As an artist, I use my collections directly for paintings, research and studies – sometimes incorporating individual elements into my work. My artistic practice thus combines elements at the intersection of philosophy, archeology and cultural anthropology,” she concludes.

The feather collector runs at Valletta Contemporary through April 16.

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