Art on show in Brighton and Hove & East and West Sussex
Amazing stuff is emerging from this time of crisis. Artists in particular are finding their voice. Brighton artist, Marta Ptaszkiewicz, had announced the cancellation of her biggest solo show to date, in Brighton’s Fishing Quarter Gallery, timed to coincide with the opening of Brighton’s May festival – now also cancelled. But she’s taken it online, and found a passionate response from a bigger public than she is used to. The time has come for this artist.
Marta’s show is called Wanderlust, ironic in the time of COVID. As she says in her artist statement: “As nature was for nineteenth century Romantic wanderers, so it is for [me and my] art practice. Both experiencing the nature and painting process direct me toward inner worlds, acting as ways of unlocking the self, and becoming reflections of the states of being.”
The connections with COVID are profound, as we explore in this story.
“Marta’s art has matured into a profound voice on the nature of existence,” said critic and artist Raphael Delamer. “Beautiful journeys into the sublime, on land ocean and air, cosmos, consciousness and the divine erotic all are contained in here.”
Marta is a philosopher – with a degree from Poznan University to prove it – so the idea of the sublime is no stranger to her. Sublime is the sensation we feel when confronted with majestic, beautiful power of nature – when we feel how insignificant our individual human ego is. We feel the power of nature running though us, and we realise our powerlessness as individuals. The Victorians felt fear in these moments, and sought to conquer these fears by conquering nature. But that’s not the only way to react to the divine; we can also submit to it, realise we are only a part of creation. Close study of Marta’s work reveals this truth.
And isn’t that appropriate to this time of COVID crisis? Whether you think government reaction is taking advantage of the crisis to restrict civil liberties and enable billionaires to make more billions, or whether you think it just a realistic reaction to a public health hazard, one thing we can all agree on is that the human reaction to this crisis will change humanity in a profound way. We are seeing the power of nature, and reacting to this power like we haven’t done for generations – with respect. Air pollution with global warming gases has plummeted. Frantic selfish wealth creation has stuttered for the millions (though billionaires have made an estimated 200bn extra for themselves from the crisis).
Nature has, kindly, not wiped us out to achieve this respect, she has simply scared us. Now that’s love for you. Call this an experience of the sublime, and then you will see how relevant to the crisis is Marta’s work. Artists show us the way. How can we live a life without our precious distractions and stimulations – alcohol, drugs, materialism, not to mention sex addiction and other forms of masturbation? Answer: we can do art, engage with art, like me, a critic, or like my collector friends, who provide homes and display places for artworks, and cash for artists to survive on and space to create work. The public lives in symbiosis with artists: one cannot actually survive without the other. Imagine, for an instant, a world without artists – here I include all creative workers, including musicians, writers, dancers, storytellers.
Marta is notoriously silent on the meaning of her work. But, she does give us hints. Here is what she says in her artist’s statement for this show: “The art that emerges from this practice leads the viewer through emotional landscapes and hints at the nature of consciousness.”
Her work itself talks directly to COVID – as a component of the immense mystery of life. Dark matter mingles with light, organic mess sinks beneath brave new life. Strange spherical shapes eat into reality…. A premonition of COVID itself?
Follow this think to visit the show: https://mptask.wordpress.com/2020/04/30/wanderlust-online-exhibition/#jp-carousel-1319
Tip – use the up/down buttons to read comments under the photos, on my mac, my mouse didn’t work to do this.
By Russell Honeyman, Brighton, Mayday 2020
Illustration: Geo. This is one of my favourites; it’s the furnace, the crucible of creation, brilliant alchemical fire.