Critics’ Picks

Paola Ciarska, Untitled (Cześć, Pani Ciarska [Hi, Ms. Ciarska] Series), 2017, gouache on board, 7 x 5".

Paola Ciarska, Untitled (Cześć, Pani Ciarska [Hi, Ms. Ciarska] Series), 2017, gouache on board, 7 x 5".


Paola Ciarska

IMT Gallery
Unit 2/210 Cambridge Heath Road, Unit 2
January 12–March 11, 2018

Paola Ciarska’s first solo exhibition in London is akin to a comic-strip reimagining of the British television game show Through the Keyhole. Her series of painstakingly intricate paintings—each not much larger than an A6 postcard—chronicles a series of rooms: the homes of friends, family, and acquaintances of the Polish-born, Newcastle, England–based artist.

The miniature scale of these eight works from 2017—each one Untitled (Cześć, Pani Ciarska [Hi, Ms. Ciarska] Series)—demands close attention, and repeated looking unfolds strange new frissons and surprise details. One room, with garishly striped wallpaper and a green exercise ball, is adorned with photographs of S-M and hardcore sex scenes; a feather boa incongruously spruces up the doorway. Another of the interiors, with candy-pink windows looking out onto bleak moorlands, is strewn with ephemera: a bong, lava lamps, a Henry Hoover, a Moomin, and an inanely grinning poop emoji on the bedside drawer. A third room is similarly unruly: 1970s furniture and checkerboard linoleum, festooned with potted plants, odd tchotchkes, and an aquarium. The abiding fascination of the show is the way it maps how taste corresponds so closely to personality. The show’s notes tantalizingly list the various owners of these homes—among them a go-go dancing punk DJ, the parents of Ciarska’s partner, and two retired police officers—inviting intriguing detective work into these domestic lives.

All of the images are set against a luridly patterned wallpaper, a print apparently inspired by the home of Ciarksa’s grandmother. Furthermore, each of the interiors features a naked woman in various poses: smoking in front of the TV, on all fours in front of a webcam, or waving a selfie stick. Even in our modern urban isolation, Ciarska seems to suggest, we’re never really alone.