Lidia Syroka was born in Poland in 1956 and moved to France in her mid-twenties. She studied at the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris and has been living and working in this city ever since. Syroka’s former husband, the artist Jacques Yankel, introduced her to African art and together they started a collection of Naïve and Brut art, both of which—along with Folk art and Oriental archaeology—are influences in her work. Syroka has travelled extensively throughout Asia (including Mongolia, Siberia, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Tibet, and China), where she discovered and explored new materials and types of paper.
Syroka’s output in the last decade is a wide-ranging exploration of the concept of metamorphosis; the “alchemy” that takes place when spiritual activity causes physical transformation. The artist’s own body thus becomes a symbolic conduit for growth and decay, construction and deconstruction. In each series leading up to “Series 7” (from 2006 through 2016), Syroka conceived a different technique to match a particular stage in her profoundly personal investigations of corporeality. Renderings of the body are presented in graphite (the body as a kind of metal structure), surfaced with bark, pulsating in deep red muscular patterns, reversed in drawings that emerge from scissor-cut shapes and from pathways ruptured on the paper’s surface with water tracings, or imprinted with totemic stamps and symbolic mark making.
“Series 7,” notable for its austerity and nuance, is the latest and most intimately scaled in this singular progression. Here, texture interacts with form in subtle and intricate rhythms and Syroka’s consistent exploration of anthropomorphic themes merges cogently with abstract executions. As the artist sees it: “conflict in the body and points of tension require attention and are schematically expressed by an inner black construction … the meandering of the paper building the outer form.” The choice and juxtaposition of paper and textures is in itself expressive and charged with meaning. Balance is achieved through visual dichotomy: transparency and opacity; the busy entanglement of paper strips and the clean space surrounding it. The semi-translucent background is a kind of ether that imbues the centralized form with solemnity and suspense. The different stages of “Body Alchemy” portray the body as THE intersection of the material and intangible aspects of experience and its creator as a visual chronicler of this constant transmutation. “To start a new series,” says the artist, “I have to seek deeper than the previous one and forget its forms … it is a process that, on one end, inhabits the flux of space and time, and on the other end is rooted deeply outside of them.”