by Rose Rushe
COURAGEOUS voices in a totalitarian country can be extinguished. As can artists, especially those who are bold, public and proudly, making consistent artistic, political statements and critiques through innovative art over decades.
Meet Ewa Partum through her works at Limerick City Gallery of Art. ‘Installations and Provocations’ are expressed through film, photographs, visual poetry (the imprint of her lipsticked lips make a new alphabet), film, body art and slogans.
It’s at Pery Square and the show is a big noise, opened by Poland’s ambassador, HE Marcin Nawrot.
Curator/ director at LCGA, Helen Carey, first saw Ewa Partum’s work in the Pompidou Centre, Paris. “I was excited about bringing her to Limerick as there is such a strong proliferation of 1970s art work here. It seemed the right time”.
Aided by artist and translator Karolina Majewska, Partum toured the several upstairs chambers of the gallery with Arts page to chronicle her work from the 1960s on. Black and white photographs are testimony to her first show, protest placards denoting the concept of ‘presence and absence’ in one as her works, slogans of ‘Don’t Walk on Grass’ and ‘No Consuming’ were erected on the site of a demolished building.
This was a seriously prohibited stance in pre-Walesa Poland.
“Her work is about freeing art from everything, and the context of institution. This was an accumulation of restrictive language in a public place,” Karolina translates.
She underlines the gusty, clever woman Partum had to be to contrive the exhibition. “This was unique and prohibitive” and it took a 40 year journey to see this ‘Legality of Space’ show emerge again in the Poland of 2006 after decades in Vienna and elsewhere as valued art, an original political narrative recognised.
Text installations and film in the Tate Modern will have their editions in our own Carnegie Building, alphabet letter cuttings from Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ (Polish upstairs, English on Pery Square) strewn meaningfully. He too was an articulate iconoclast who found sanctuary overseas.
Feminism is another language espoused by Ewa Partum who makes clear her art was parallel with movement in the West but not derivative, often using her body as platform. Through photographs and film we see her Everywoman ageing through body art; hysterical behaviour, the suggestion of being a sexual vessel and all the time, being knowing, art-ful and confrontational with subversive power.
‘Installation and Provocations’ continues daily at LCGA, Pery Square until September 14.