Critics’ Picks

Grzegorz Siembida, Untitled, 2021, oil, spray and tar on canvas, diameter 47". Photo: Adam Gut.

Grzegorz Siembida, Untitled, 2021, oil, spray and tar on canvas, diameter 47". Photo: Adam Gut.


Marta Sala, Grzegorz Siembida

Le Guern Gallery
25 Katowicka street
May 8–June 23, 2021

Travis Jeppesen’s 2019 essay “Queer Abstraction (Or How to Be a Pervert with No Body). Some Notes Toward a Probability” asked whether nonrepresentational art could ever be understood as queer or nonbinary. Curator Tomek Baran took Jeppesen’s question as the starting point for “WOW,” an exhibition that brings together works by Marta Sala and Grzegorz Siembida. Both artists escape classification, making use of seemingly spontaneous and yet exacting gestures that situate their paintings, textiles, and installations somewhere between construction and destruction. Baran plays on this ambiguity by allowing the works to spill over from the gallery interior out into the adjoining garden.

Sala’s WOW, 2021—the work that gives the exhibition its name—hovers between assemblage (in terms of technique) and painting (in terms of effect). The artist stitched together discarded scraps of fabrics and plastics into a configuration that was then suspended in the gallery space as a kind of double-sided or transitive image. Siembida, meanwhile, builds up dense, textured surfaces on canvas and paper. In an untitled tondo from 2021, organic forms in oil paint clash with spray-painted spirals and heavy daubs of tar. The emphasis on texture carries over in nine untitled acrylic compositions on paper, 2019–21, which appear to have been heavily influenced by graffiti. Out in the yard, Sala’s large-scale assemblages hang from clotheslines or lean against tree trunks, allowing sunlight to stream through, while Siembida erects sculptures from metal rods fitted with enamel jugs and plates produced in the late 1960s by anonymous craftswomen in a factory in Olkusz, Poland. Their presence nods to the division between art and craft – yet another binary to which the artists refuse to conform.

Translated from Polish by Joanna Figiel.