New exhibition by Aneta Grzeszykowska – FAMILY SKIN – opens in Linz, Austria
In the first museum exhibition of her work outside Poland, Aneta Grzeszykowska presents the viewer with a challenge. While ‘skin’ comprises an apparently exterior layer, separating us from the world and enclosing identity within a corporeal form, Aneta reveals how skin does not cocoon the self – it produces it. Confronting this notion is an act fraught with tension; skin can be manipulated, destroyed, and re-constructed, complicating perceptions of coherent individuality. The striking detail with which Aneta depicts these processes is physically and psychologically unsettling; her depictions of bodily rupture illustrate the ease with which skin – the body’s first line of defence – is broken. This realisation carries a profound sense of alienation; as Aneta atomises the body she emphasises its potentially uncanny nature, fracturing the sense of self which lies beneath the surface.
Aneta has explored fundamental questions of identity and self-conception throughout her career, but her particular focus on women is central to FAMILY SKIN. Through photography and sculpture, Aneta brings the scrutiny under which the female body is placed into sharp focus, contrasting age and disfigurement with an almost violent pursuit of aesthetic perfection. Subjected to endless invention and interpretation, skin becomes a ‘screen’ upon which the world is projected, a delicate culmination of contextual disorder. The careful narrative composition of series such as Mama (2018) suggest the ways in which this interrelation between self and other affects even the closest relationships; while posed interactions between Aneta’s daughter and a realistic sculpture of the photographer herself erode the distinction between real and artificial self-images, the skin is presented as a fabric which oscillates between idyllic and surreal activity.
There is a kind of grotesque playfulness in the work; images such as Face Book (2020) contort the face in extreme exaggerations of emotion, a stark evocation of the simplified emotive expression which has become a social media norm. In FAMILY SKIN, the body becomes a performative space, a wholly malleable creative tool. Nevertheless, it continues to be shaped by the view of the other, and Aneta’s experimentation seems to entrench the body further within the myriad of influences to which it is tethered. However, beyond liberating it from these, Aneta demonstrates how skin asserts its own transformative power. As bodies are dissected by the gaze, they reflect this gaze back; each fragment of FAMILY SKIN wilfully mirrors the monstrous capacity of human imagination.
By Katherine Riley