14 July - 28 October
Within the practice of Paulina Olowska (b. 1976, Poland) industry, leisure and socialist symbolism effortlessly occupy the same visual and cultural space. Her realist paintings, drawings, ceramics and collages borrow imagery from Eastern European and American popular culture, creating a cross-cultural reference, whilst engaging with the concepts of consumerism, feminism and design.
Paulina Olowska’s work for the Liverpool Biennial is Grace, Charles and the Sunflower, a mosaic that references the socialist belief that through the creation of a public work one can influence and present optimistic visions of a better world. The idea is based on a Polish mosaic from the 1960s situated on the side of a public school in the village of Raba Zdroj, where the artist lives. Despite its history, the mosaic remains unprotected and unmaintained: this kind of popular, public, post-soviet art is no longer favoured by the Polish government and there is a strong possibility that it will be demolished in the future. By presenting a similar mosaic in Liverpool, Olowska aims to champion the value of these works and suggests that they should be protected as part of the country’s National Heritage.
The main motif in Olowska’s work is a stylised sunflower that contains at its centre a famous British image from 1969, captured by photographer Norman Parkinson: Vogue America’s Creative Director Grace Coddington powdering the nose of Prince Charles at Windsor Castle. This gentle gesture ties together the worlds of fashion and royalty. In Olowska’s practice, the fashion world is often used to references major political events and the permeability of culture and society.
Recent exhibitions include San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, USA (2016); Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool, UK (2016); Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (2016); Manifesta 11, Zurich, Switzerland (2016); National Museum of Contemporary Art, Bucharest, Romania (2016); Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany (2015); Tate Modern, London, UK (2015); Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto, Portugal (2014); BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK (2014); and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2013).