Nostalgia on sale
Inspired by graphics in the Polish passport, the cycle of paintings by Krzysztof Mętla invites us to reflect on travel, expedition, duration and survival. The stability of the characters painted (Ostatni zew natury [The Last Call of Nature], Postmodernistyczna nostalgia… [Postmodernist nostalgia ...]), immobilization, smooth waves or the famous Polish ship Dar Pomorza [Gift of Pomerania] with bars in the background only seemingly serve as a mild anchorage in the subtle landscape. We can see an idyllic panorama and we look at this asylum for melancholy through the artists’ eyes. This brings to mind Baudelaire’s words:
Of all those who have lost something they may not find
Ever, ever again! Who steep themselves in tears
And suck a bitter milk from that good she- wolf, grief!
Of orphans, skin and bones, dry and wasted blooms!
However, we cannot fail to ask what is on the other side, what is beyond the deluding, open and nostalgic space that gently invites us to remain in it forever. There must be some alternative places, even those empty and rejected because deprived of value. We get the impression that the space outside the asylum cannot be filled because modernity will not replace what we have become accustomed to, and perhaps the process itself is too painful for us.
Mętel’s Transatlantyk [Transatlantic], like the one by Gombrowicz, moves between rape and impotence, between that which is old and impossible to reteritorialise and that which is new and provokes a schizophrenic withdrawal. Mętel seems to say that today’s peregrination is devoid of epistemological qualities. Travel is less and less often aimed at discovering oneself and the Other. This is an act of empty colonization that does not translate into widening the horizons of individual space. Is there still any otherness that we would like to absorb and from which we would like to learn? Does external observation have to translate into a turn inward in search for a clue and foundation that has long crumbled away in the postmodern chaos?
Intoxication with nostalgia is alluring (and already appropriated by the market). The ultra-aestheticisation of Nature in Mętel’s pastel, Oriental-style faded door to freedom (but what is freedom today?), which can be ideally slammed on the pages of the passport, is nothing more than just an act of subjugating Nature to our desire for shallow sentimentality. In the bosom of nature, modern individuals can easily wrap up their perverse identities in leaky mantles of unproductive affects and plunge into Pure Distance, freed from the burden of the Present, to paraphrase the great Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa. Wounded and fragmented into various social roles, longing for the only and lasting value, with no structure and support, identity has been continuously plunging into what is eternally new. It is the identity that we would like to protect. However, is the search for a shelter really a right and a decent solution? Let us be carried away (not to be intoxicated!) by the intriguing vision of the young artist whose works are displayed at Assembly Gallery.
Anna Maria Bielak