Proposing Affirmative Versions of Womanhood Through Painting

July 28, 2019

The current global trend of presenting feminist and gender-related exhibitions suggests the urgency of exploration and deliberation of these themes. The initiatives focused on women's production are frequent, which is not surprising due to the misogyny inscribed in the neoconservative discourse according to which women should focus more on their traditional role of a mother and a housewife.

In particular, exhibiting artworks made by women in environments saturated with religious morals is highly considerate, even if they are just taking into account a specific medium. Such is the case with the current show called Paint, also known as Blood, Women, Affect, and Desire in Contemporary Painting at The Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw which is the first large-scale exhibition exploring the stereotypes of submission and domination in an international context.

Left Jenna Gribbon - Self-Portrait as a Voyeur Right Issy Wood - Study for a protector
Left: Jenna Gribbon - Self-Portrait as a Voyeur, 2018. Oil, linen, 15,24 x 10,16 cm. Courtesy of the Artist. Collection of Amy Eva Raehse & David Tomasko, Baltimore / Right: Issy Wood - Study for a protector, 2019. Oil, velvet, 165 x 125 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Carlos/Ishikawa Gallery, London

Tales About Passion, Womanhood, and Righteousness

The exhibition title is borrowed from a book written by Zenon Kruczyński, a former hunter, and it refers to a common hunting term that stands for the blood of a hunted animal. According to that, the artists were invited to propose an affirmative interpretation of womanhood in sync with the mechanisms of empowerment and self-determination. Regardless of rapid digitization of experiences and bodies, the curator Natalia Sielewicz believes that "painting remains an exceptionally evocative medium for representing human experience."

Penny Goring - Amelia has no faith in poetry
Penny Goring - Amelia has no faith in poetry, 2018. Acrylic, canvas, 59 x 84 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Arcadia Missa, London

The Importance of Women Painterly Practice

The unifying element for all of the artists in the exhibition is the fact they are dealing with the sexuality, inner yearning, and perversion grotesquely and humorously. Interestingly so, the artworks suggest that the majority of them are dealing with the experience of violence with ambiguity.

Here it is important to underline that the work of Polish artists is present in the broader context of international women’s painting, since it is contrasted with works of artists from abroad. The installment as a whole is attempting to present the painterly practice in regards to the current social context of equal access to reproductive and sexual rights, as well as the class and the race issues.

Left Gosia Bartosik - Etna Right Kamilla Bischof - Medusa Montage
Left: Gosia Bartosik - Etna, 2017. Fabric, styrofoam, acrylic, spray, soft pastel, varnish, 89,5 x 69,5 cm. Courtesy of the artist / Right: Kamilla Bischof - Medusa Montage, 2018. Oil, canvas, 180 x 150 cm. Courtesy of the artist and SANDY BROWN, Berlin

Paint, also known as Blood at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw

Except for the apparent urge to map the practices of women on a more global scale, the exhibition concept does not seem to do much. If it deals with womanhood in the context of desire (the reference to hunter’s book is slightly bizarre), it shouldn’t focus only on painting, simply because an array of gestures and expressions are far better expressed in other media such as performance, video or installation, as they are more open to the audience then painting.

The impression is that this exhibition operates with commonplaces and serves as an example of neutralization of any concrete politically or socially-charged message (the lack of articulation of the local scene), which makes it fitting for the mainstream international art market.

Paint, also known as Blood, Women, Affect, and Desire in Contemporary Painting is on display at The Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw until 11 August 2019.

Featured images: Paint also known as Blood Installation views. Photo: Daniel Chroba. All images courtesy The Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw.