”When I get to know your soul, I will paint your eyes”, Amedeo Modigliani was to say while creating the first portrait of his beloved Jeanne Hébuterne. He proved the words to be true in his work, portraying characters with a hazy, blurred stare. The lack of eyes is a covered mirror of a soul, yet the lack of face?
The characters created by Hanna Ilczyszyn are not solely defined by the lack of pupils. The lack of the whole face poses a question: how to make a person expressive, how to induce a personality without the most striking face features? In her works, the artist plays with different means of expression, directing us from a visual world to the realm of imagination and dreams.
Through her paintings, presented currently in Galerie Sandhofer, she emphasises in like manner with sophist anthropocentricism that “man is a measure of all things”. It is always a persona with own emotions, fears and pain that remains in the focus of her attention. For the works are neither easy nor pleasant in perception. They make us think, deduct, reach inside ourselves.
The characters in the paintings are usually children- non children, often turned their backs to the spectator, their heads down, in a resigned manner. They take on postures of sorrow, grimness, self-restraint uncommon for children. Hidden behind their hair, plants or patches of paint, children’s faces arouse an awkward feeling in a spectator, as though out of a surreal horror. Or out of a dream?
The inspiration for Ilczyszyn are photographs centred around man. Whether these are old, family photos, a film shot frozen on a particular scene or internet pictures- they are meant to capture attention sometimes by means of a tiny detail or facial expression of a character. We perceive our own photographs, which bring back memories, to be a representation of our personality of the period. The moments of the past, like dreams and fantasies, tend to get blurred with time and their details sink into oblivion. Similarly, the characters of the 'little adults’ are unclear, unfinished, without marked facial features. Thus the great power of expression lies in their pose, undefined space with nothing but a singled out characteristic element and the context of a situation. Every so often they emerge from darkness, sometimes gaze at the rainy sky, often sitting on a chair or a tree branch. They always, however, evoke a peculiar sense of disturbance, forcing to consider: what conjured a particular emotion, what must have happened earlier and what will happen next?
The title of the exhibition itself: ‘No one is looking at you’, may be a manifestation of courage as well as acceptance of own weaknesses. The strength is the awareness that one can do everything since nobody keeps things under control. As for tolerance- you can get rid of the mask, stop hiding as no one is looking.
The added suspense is facilitated by the technique and purely visual means of expression. The artist bases on opposites, combining contrasting colours, e.g. her favourite black and white, while using oil and acrylic paints. The most meaningful elements are marked by the paint of a contrasting, suggestive colour, put thickly with short brush strokes. The background tends to be glaze, resulting in a texturally rich, irregular effect with visible reflections of a brush on canvas. The characteristic element of the presentation is moreover distinguishable by warm colour tones different from the other plans of the composition, like a hair ribbon in red, the colour symbolic and evoking power for the artist, against grey and blue background. The experiments with putting different layers of the same pigment to achieve unconventional effects are also plain to observe, e.g. white on white, grey on grey. The textural and colour diversity draws the spectator into the painting, becoming something more than a flat sheet of colour. The artist is reputable for leaving dribbles of paint to the effect of blurring and obscurity, as if in a dream.
The oneiric painting of Hanna Ilczyszyn takes us on a journey to the depths of our own subconscious. The characters mutely calling to us from the canvas become the representation of the very us, our dreamlike imaginations. We might suddenly become a little sad girl staring in space or a lonely boy oblivious of an imminent danger.
A peculiar, fairy-tale like world created by Ilczyszyn is our world - the world of confrontation of a child’s innocence with fear and sorrow. You had better watch out for: “the sleep of reason produces monsters”.