PAULINA OLOWSKA: SQUELCHY GARDEN MULES AND MAMUNAS AT PACE
Pace's exhibition featuring Paulina Olowska will showcase a collection of paintings, collages, films, and sound installations throughout their Hanover Square gallery. Focused on female perspectives and narratives, Squelchy Garden Mules and Mamunas extends Olowska's investigations into Slavic folklore, mythology, and our inherent connection to nature.
The title, inspired by Olowska's video installation of the same name, originally displayed in the artist's 2022 exhibit at Kistefos Museum in Norway, reinterprets Slavic mythological figures in a modernist context. Olowska transforms the traditionally menacing Mamuna, a female swamp demon associated with rivers and thickets, into earthly androgynous nymphs with a touch of magic.
The exhibition features large-scale paintings, named after Slavic deities, portraying Olowska's Mamuna muses in northern European birch and pine forests. By utilizing fashion photographs from sources like Polish Vogue and photographers Arthur Elgort and Branislav Šimončík, Olowska subverts mass media to resurrect female mythological figures. These paintings depict women in communion with nature and the viewer, challenging notions of interior and exterior with ornate chandeliers created in collaboration with artist Jessica Segall. Adorned with ceramic and handblown glass mushrooms, pinecones, fruits, and vegetables, the chandeliers symbolize Olowska's commitment to artisan craft and artistic exchange. They draw inspiration from the Wood Wide Web, a concept by Dr. Suzanne Simard, suggesting that fungi can generate electrical signals through their mycelial networks.
In the upper two galleries, Mamunas emerge from video installations within woodland hollows, resembling gilt antique mirrors. These installations offer a literal window into Olowska's reconstructed matriarchal world. The framed painting Kadenówka Bouquet (2023) is based on an image from Artist House Kadenowka Foundation, founded and presided over by Olowska. On the lower ground floor, Olowska stages a tableau vivant featuring costumes from her Kistefos performance, mirroring the composition found in her paintings. The handmade mannequins, illuminated by softer lighting, evoke a corporeal presence, echoing Olowska's interest in animism.
Simultaneously, Olowska presents new and existing works in her exhibition, Visual Persuasion, at Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Torino. Additionally, her iconic performance, The Alphabet, will be showcased at The Serralves Foundation, Porto, as part of their live program on November 5.
Squelchy Garden Mules and Mamunas is on from 22 Nov 2023 to 6 Jan 2024 at PACE, 5 Hanover Square.
Cover image: Paulina Olowska, “Chess player 1,” 2010, Oil on canvas, 68.9 by 49.21 inches, courtesy of Metro Pictures, NY
Emma Lee is an arts writer for FETCH London. She has written for Vogue, The Art Newspaper and The Financial Times and specialises in art news and art market analysis.