12 January 2019 - 10 February 2019
1st Floor, 47 Approach Road Bethnal Green
London E2 9LY
Shapeshifters is a group exhibition featuring work by Sascha Braunig, Sandra Mujinga, and Maria Pinińska-Bereś. The show will focus on how these artists deal with the ambiguities and slipperiness of subjectivity, identity and visibility within their painting, sculpture, video, and performance work. Bewitching bodily presences are evoked through symbolic and metaphoric references. Throughout history, the feminine has been considered an untrustworthy, unwieldly and emotional force. But what happens when this stereotype is deconstructed and reclaimed? In these works, the figure – or its absence, a spectre – looms; forms become de-gendered and disembodied; shifting, transmuting and negotiating their own selfhood against that of the assumptions and judgements projected onto them by external social, cultural and historical traditions. The artists conjure human/animal/witch/alien hybrids from a landscape of sensual materials and settings. The body and its fragmentary parts are broken down and abstracted; re-formed as a kind of corporeal architecture.
The anthropomorphic forms in the work of Maria Pinińska-Bereś also challenge and deconstruct notions of the embodied self, gender and representation. Colour plays a major part in Pinińska-Bereś’s work, which has a distinctively ‘feminine’ palette of primarily pink and white. The work rejects arbitrary associations of these colours with girlishness, and instead they appear simply flesh-like and charged with a powerful sexual energy. In sculptural pieces such as Swirl on San Marco and Window. De-Construction of the Leaning Tower, the body is broken down and de-hierarchised into an abstract mass, all erotic fleshy folds and soft sensual squishiness.
Pinińska-Bereś was preoccupied with, what she described as, the existential problem of bearing the burden of the ‘standard’ of femininity. Her work confronts a generally felt condescending attitude towards the feminine or acts relating to female labour (domestic, reproductive, emotional). The artist used symbols which play off standardised notions of femininity, taken from both everyday experience and the mythological. The broomstick, Sabbath, is exemplary of this, both being a household cleaning utensil (a tool which Pinińska-Bereś included in performances such as Just a Broom, 1984), as well as a symbol of magic and witchcraft. Pinińska-Bereś transforms rituals of the everyday into something more potent, mystical and mysterious. The symbol of the witch (as featured in Sascha Braunig’s Floe and Shower Scene), or its absence (as in Pinińska-Bereś’s Sabbath), evokes a feminine being that has the ability to shapeshift. Appearing and disappearing, it is a reminder that our selfhood is constituted from the ability to perform and negotiate many selves at once.
The artists in Shapeshifters explore the universal experience of embodiment, and question what happens when the ‘body’ manifests in newly imagined ways. How does this affect our concept of our own subjectivity? And, when we are liquified or broken down into parts, stray limbs, or data, how does this change our ability to relate to the world around us, both in terms of our relationships with other people as well as our environment?