Artur Malewski's first solo exhibition in the UK features his latest project Za zamkniętymi powiekami wszyscy jesteśmy czarni (Closed Eyelids Make Us All Dark) which much like his entire work up to date exudes dark and sinister character. Malewski frequently finds inspiration for his work in horror movies and film noir. He is at ease exploring world of urban legends or even occult themes. He brings creepy and disfigured creatures to life. Creatures that might still “populate” the bleakest corners of our mythologies even though we try to deny them. Malewski focuses on otherness” and likes to confront us with beings and occurrences that exist on the borderline between rational, imaginable, tamed and wild, terrifying and absolutely beyond our control…
Right now, we see Malewski focusing on a phenomenon known as sleep paralysis, which is best described as a state in-between wakefulness and sleep. It happens when body is still immersed in a deep sleep but one’s mind is awake which often leads to hallucinations. Some anthropological research points at this phenomenon as an explanation behind the old folk beliefs in a night demon who paralyses its victims to sexually abuse them. According to a number of sources - between 30% to 50% of the population have experienced this type of sensation at least once in their lifetime.
As a part of his forthcoming project Closed Eyelids Make Us All Dark Malewski has created the image of Popobawa demon – a winged, bat-like creature with one-eye and huge genitals. As the folktales want us to believe this demon is known for his indefatigable sexual powers and homosexual tendencies; he uses both in order to deprive men of their own vitality. His appearance is usually preceded by the sound of scratching and a foul smell. During the London show the sound of pencil scratching a paper will definitely be a food for thought for the viewers. Is Popobawa going to raid their imagination too?
He furtherly plays and provokes viewers in his video installation “Foreigners” showing an erotic foreplay between two gay zombies. Their perverse cuddles seem little too close for comfort if you happen to be the audience, additionally everything is overseen by Popobawa’s cyclopean eye and his monstrous genitals. Our eyes follow the camera and we find ourselves gazing at the charred and cracked surface of something that was recently burnt down – it‘s all utterly dark and sullen ("NSWE"). Malewski is meticulously trying to materialize our fears, hal7lucinations, even sexual fantasies. He’s doing so employing both narrative and illustrative means and his penchant for metaphors is quite evident.
The titular dark that defies us all as soon as we close our eyes, refers not only to darkness or blindness but also to those obscure outskirts of our imagination that we try to banish even from our own consciousness. I would even go as far as saying that Malewski acts on similar instincts as Popobawa, invading our thoughts whilst we are subjected to the “viewing paralysis”, suspended in this peculiar space – stretching between life and art, between the real and unreal. It is expected that stepping inside the gallery may come with some perils. Malewski-Popobawa is likely to violate your trust in what you see and what is cognizable with your mind and reason. It might dangerously arouse your imagination and open your inner eye. Enjoy!
Artur Malewski (b. 1975) — visual artist working in the field of installation, sculpture, and video. Artur lives and works in Szczecin (Poland).
The exhibition is curated by Marta Smolińska and supported by the Polish Cultural Institute in London.