Joanna Piotrowska, Untitled, 2024
Joanna Piotrowska: Implicit Lives
May 22 – Jul 6, 2024
Galeria Madragoa
Lisbon, Portugal

Smultronstället is the original Swedish title of Ingmar Bergman’s famous film Wild Strawberries (1957). Smultronstället, which literally translates to “the wild strawberries patch,” idiomatically signifies “a hidden gem of a place” (according to Wikipedia). The word defines a special place that is close to one’s heart, where one feels at ease and comfortable, like a childhood home, and not widely known. It is a secret place, akin to the idea that everyone has their own place to pick strawberries, which they selfishly share with no one.

In Bergman’s film, the strawberry glade is the pivot around which the narrative unfolds; it represents the viewpoint from which the elderly protagonist casts a glance at his past to take stock of his existence. In the same way as a Proustian madeleine, that place triggers a sequence of images and episodes of lived life to surface in the old man’s mind, which by their vividness make the present reality dissolve. From a physical place, the strawberry patch becomes a device for time travel, piercing the space-time continuum and allowing memories to emerge in fragments, frames, and brief epiphanies. The narrative shows that past and present are not strung together in a sequence but are inextricably intertwined within the character’s consciousness.

For her series of photographs that began with the exhibition Frantic (2016-2022), Joanna Piotrowska invited people to construct small shelters to inhabit within their own domestic walls, built from objects at hand, such as chairs, tables, blankets, and curtains. The outcome of the project is a gallery of portraits of these shelter dwellers, posing within their precarious inhabitable assemblages – cozy places to isolate themselves from the world, to hide – that are reminiscent of huts built for play by children.

In the exhibition Implicit Lives, a similar intimate dimension, achieved with elements of domestic furniture, triggers a journey through time. Black-and-white photographs depicting men and (more often) women, caught in mutual, enigmatic, and suspended gestures, analogous to the Frowst series (2013-2014), are here embedded in a domestic landscape.

Printed on fabric and installed as if it were a curtain, mounted within a soft fabric frame or framed in veneer panels that extend along the wall, or in freestanding screens that subdivide the space, the works create a continuum between the atmosphere emanating from the pictures and the actual physical space. The selected visual elements, fabric patterns, and veneer surfaces, with their vintage flavor veiled with a sense of nostalgia, can evoke to today’s adults the domestic interiors of a home they inhabited during childhood or adolescence. In particular, the mottled pattern of the veneer grain brings one back to the dimension of childhood for another reason as well.

[ . . . ]

In the exhibition, epidermis, dresses, textiles, film, veneer, and the grain of photographic paper are all layers that hold the imprint of a past. They are a number of leaflike skins that envelop the bright gem of memories and at the same time draw the perimeter of a warm physical place. Your patch for picking wild strawberries may also be there, in the hiding place behind the curtain, or among the pansies printed on a dress.

Joanna Piotrowska: Implicit Lives
May 22 – Jul 6, 2024
Galeria Madragoa
Lisbon, Portugal

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