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Opening Hours

Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm


Art Agenda Nova
Batorego 2, Krakow

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Red>Mateusz Sadowski


Curator: Michał Lasota

Excitability by definition is the ability to respond to stimuli that are most often associated with the conditions of the external environment.
The manner in which the issue of excitability is examined by Mateusz Sadowski is quite specific. The process begins with exploring the subject on a very personal basis. The end result is, however, photographs and video, creating the impression of cool, neutral, even research records. In fact, it turns out that both intimacy and the objectively constructed objectivity are only elements to build a certain situation, a kind of ambush for the viewer.
A real study of the title excitability is carried out by Sadowski on the observer himself. It draws him into a game in which particular works become stimuli that provoke the creation of their own, not external, but rather internal, environment. The images Sadowski creates are supposed to act like a well-constructed trap, from which the viewer, if he can be caught, will come out richer for the experience. So he goes more about the sensory feeling of the whole than by penetrating it with his mind.
Sadowski deals with issues quite commonly raised in today’s culture; a picture of nature created by a modern man, his attitude to nature, an impossible dialogue between savage and civilized people, corporality, sexuality. Eroticism, however, is not described by means of culturally established canons. It is rather the original idea of this concept. However, these problems are not so much the viewer’s data as the ones tossed as clues. They’re born under the epidermis before the self thinks.
Ultimately, the goal of Matthew’s works is fulfilled when the viewer looks at their surface like in a mirror. Nature’s representations are only a tool to build a sense of nature, not so much in the general sense as in human nature. Despite the autobiography of the image declared by the artist, the viewer has the impression that the film speaks about himself.

Anna Miczko

Mateusz Sadowski
b. 1984 in Szczecinek
He deals in photography, video and installation. Since 2005, he has been studying Intermedia at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań. Author of solo exhibitions (Galeria ON, Poznań, Galeria Stereo, Poznań). Videonale 12 (Bonn, Germany, 2009), Samsung Art Master (2008), Mediations Biennale (Poznań, 2008) participated. Collaborates with the Stereo Gallery from Poznań.

Review of the exhibition / SPLOT DECEMBER 2009

A secret point of blood – anxiety …

The exhibition by Mateusz Sadowski, opened at the end of November in Galeria Nova, “Excitability” is the first presentation of the work of this young artist in Krakow. Several of the works presented on it were also included in the exhibition “Excitability” (Stereo Gallery, Poznań). This does not mean, however, that the earlier exhibition guides us on the interpretive trail of how to understand the title “Excitability”. Sadowski’s works are a surprising mixture of suggestion, metaphors and possible meanings, which means that the viewer can arrange elements of the exhibition in any way, creating their own unique story.

Subfebrile state
The exhibition consists of four video installations and one photo, which were arranged in three rooms of the gallery. Each of the halls is a kind of “revelation” of the issues raised by the artist. In the first room there is a video of Gęsia skin and a painting of Dziad. The goose’s skin depicts a fragment of the male body (arm and torso) in such a close-up that we are able to see the goose bumps that arise on pale skin. The camera slowly moves over the body, and the skin bristles with cold. In the distance, green shapes appear, suggesting that the filmmaker is standing outside. We can accurately observe the wavy movement of the skin, which can give us chills by reflex. On the wall next to it hangs a picture of Dziad, depicting the well-known majority of us only from literature, mulch. Perhaps that is why it resembles the personalized figures of Wyspiański’s dramas rather than the usual straw rests. The presented grandfather has a clearly human shape, what’s more, he was dressed in a blue shirt, evidently associated with work in the office. It is worth noting that the grandfather is built of thistles. In this simple way, we have received a completely new quality from ordinary mulch: a weird barbed figure in an office shirt. You do not have to look far to find its physical counterparts in the gray everyday: just go to the post office or bank, and there are such nervous mulches waiting there for us, bristling with each other and consumed by stress. We can see them also on the street … or in the mirror. I dread to think. Hair on the head of hedgehogs. Cory runs through the squares. Goose skin … Like doctors, through a series of associations, we are guided at the first sign of excitability: subfebrile state. SYMPTOMS? Irritation and delirium, morbid images flashing in front of my eyes.

Since Dziad i Gęsia skin is a kind of a harbinger of disease, the installation located in the next room presents its advanced stage. It consists of two videos that were already presented at the “Fire” exhibition. The first film presents a paper forest of tiny Christmas trees. The camera nervously wanders between the white cutouts, and the whole is accompanied by restless, mantra music, which introduces the viewer into a kind of trance. As a result of looking into the “winter” landscape, we can have the impression that we are sneaking between the Christmas trees, we run strayed through the forest. As in a bad dream, we run away from an indefinite threat or seek a way out, which, however, we never find. The style of the film can be associated with primitive fairy tales for children who were once shown on bedtime television. In this way, the projection may become a visualization of a morbid childhood memory. The screen on which the video is displayed is hidden in an ingenious, styrofoam construction, creating a kind of mound with a viewfinder through which the film should be viewed. This is the original complement to the narrative, which forces the viewer to come into full contact with the impermanence and fragility of the material, which is Styrofoam. Right next to it is the next projection, which again shows white Christmas trees on styrofoam. This time, however, the “forest” is burning: paper cutouts are slowly digested by fire. The whole is depicted in a slow motion: the fire is quiet, but the paper is relentlessly consumed; the image is vibrating by the heat in the air, in which the tongues of fire are still spinning. The longer we look at the fire, the more it loses its real physical dimension to us, becoming an abstract play of lights and shadows, an absorbing conflagration that absorbs our thoughts. There is something catastrophic about this image. Burned cutouts, a trivial symbol that can be matched to many meanings, becomes a kind of evil divination. Anything that could be associated with trees, they were burned down irretrievably. The symbols turned to dust. With the rest, what were the symbols? Paper. Impermanent. Flammable: they are today, they are gone tomorrow. Perhaps this is why they are burning: you have risen from dust, turn to dust. Thus, the feverish dreams turned into a gloomy prophecy. However, you can look at the installations from a different angle: it is difficult to say that the cut-out theme was a “catastrophic document”. It is in the end a cut-out, depicting a simple tree – a child’s Christmas tree. In a sense, the projections, thanks to their simple-minded stylistics, may seem funny and jocular … of course by the time. The longer we look at the trees, the more insecurity we feel. What is behind this sleepy tale?

Core of darkness
Recent works are located in the middle room. Paradoxically, although this room is the room from which the exhibition begins, the works in it should be discussed at the end, because they constitute the culmination of it. Of course, they are also, for obvious reasons, an introduction to the exhibition. The first installation consists of three fixed projections connected in a row. Each of them presents a young girl sleeping in a meadow. The first picture shows a general landscape: a meadow, a girl lying among grasses and a forest in the background. It is the middle of summer, golden and warm light falls on the meadow. It is probably hot. The woman is in a relaxed pose. The next scene is a close-up of the girl’s face, now her sensual lips are visible, the shadows of grass fall on the smooth skin. The last projection is even closer, this time on the woman’s chin, visible from the angle at which she would probably be visible to her possible companion. The installation is complemented by the equipment itself, through which projections are projected: loud, rumbling, old projectors, which thanks to openings in the cabinet leave streaks of light on the ceiling. Warmed up, they also produce heat, which is not without significance in the context of summer paintings. The mere fact of using old-fashioned projectors is a tribute to the past and introduces a melancholy mood. The viewer is drawn into the play of the senses and fleeting moods: drowsiness, dreamy, but also erotic arousal. In this way, the subject of excitability returns to us again, which is the irritation of the senses. The artist still uses the motive of dreaming: once it is a morbid phantom, sometimes a dream memory of summer. It may also be a surrealistic vision, as in the case of video Root. This is one frame depicting a man dressed in a black tracksuit that lies on the ground. His legs are braided around a tree trunk, most likely pine. The scene takes place at night, except for the earth, the tree and the man, only darkness is visible. Everything is colored for a reddish color. There would be nothing surprising in this scene if it were not for the fact that it is turned upside down. The trunk suddenly became the root of a man who wrapped his legs around him. The image, thanks to a simple procedure, has become a disturbing vision of a small figure, from which a gigantic root-stump grows, brazenly shoving into a dark “ground” that is not really tangible, homely land, but a terrifying emptiness, mysterious, unnamed darkness. Meanwhile, the man calmly smokes. It is difficult to say what it feels like to stare at the abyss – it is hooded. The boy reminds me of a yard tracksuit, one for which it is better not to be approached on the street. The gigantic root evokes unequivocal sexual associations, and its grotesque dimension immediately puts the receiver in amusement. So this is our human root, our primordial – everything starts here … Or maybe everything ends, falling into a dark abyss. The root is a work that probably most clearly shows the features that characterize Sadowski’s art: wit mixes here with seriousness, melancholy with brutality, and the simplicity of the performance in a paradoxical way evokes an avalanche of associations and is a reflection on the most serious subjects.

biografism – artist’s strategy?
A striking issue is, emphasized in the introductory text to the exhibition and by the artist himself, the autobiographical aspect of Sadowski’s work. This is to be a specific strategy of the artist who transforms his own experiences into symbolic clues, aiming to “entrap” the recipient and “enrich him with the experience”. His works are to be a specific mirror in which the viewer is viewed. Consideration of Sadowski’s works from such an angle, however, seems to be quite trivial. Such a (auto) biographism is a feature of every work of art and no artist will escape from it. It is enough to recall Dubrovsky’s famous thesis that all texts are written in autobiography – even a bank account or the Bible. A work of visual arts is also a kind of text, which is why it is inevitably subject to this principle.
Much more important in Sadowski’s works seems to be his ability to create narrative from simple elements of reality, often trivial details, which, thanks to artistic interference, extract their second bottom for the recipient. Paper cutouts, Styrofoam, or, as in the “Fire” exhibition, gelatine and toys – all this, thanks to small gestures and slight shifts, changes its status. What was known and familiar is suddenly disturbing. Sweet jelly beans turn out to be a vampire’s jaw, paper Christmas trees – a forest full of gloom, a summer afternoon in a meadow turns out to be a stage that is eroticized. The artist can undoubtedly “do something out of nothing”, and this skill has always been appreciated. Sadowski, in a single move, points at what Nelly Sachs said, a secret point of blood – anxiety. It reminds me of a malicious child who silently steals to you to stick a pin into your body … That’s how excitability is born.

(Karolina Plinta)