Maria Luisa Pyrlik - Contemporary Art from Cracow, Poland (2007)

Mariusz Salwinski
artdesigncafé - art | 30 October 2011
This text was previously published in the exhibition catalogue Otwarta pracownia— Offenes Atelier, Zeitgenössische Kunst aus Krakau ("Open studio: Contemporary Art in Cracow" in English) (16 September - 4 November 2007) at the Kunsthalle Erfurt, Germany.

Maria Luisa Pyrlik, the Light Creator

"There’s nothing to say about photography, one must look at it." This statement often used to be made by the French photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, who died in August 2004. His credo is also relevant to Maria Luisa Pyrlik’s photographic works, one of whose series was created while she was staying in Bergisch Land situated to the east of Cologne / Bonn. The artist took quite a stern view of this provincial, domestic "Gemütlichkeit" with its geraniums cascading down the fronts of the houses. However, the quintessence of rural architecture, namely the half-timbered house and its surroundings were retained in the artistic image.

She was particularly struck by aspects of these houses merely perceived by most of us in a fleeting and uninspiring way. The masonry, the roof tiles, slate, the whitewash, basalt and brick walls all feature in her work. Maria Luisa Pyrlik’s art goes on in this "fundamental" materiality. It is in these objects that she observes the alternation of light and shadow at short intervals, which means a photographic object always consists of two slightly staggered frames. The black line between them may be interpreted as either a separation or a link. Within the picture’s duality the same motif is virtually always present. Subtle differences also mean that the artist does not undertake any shifting of the area photographed. In the Extract sequences series, Pyrlik takes her leave of any concrete objects. The black and shadow-like surface of the picture is penetrated by a white beam. Through the imagined space thus evoked, the observer has the sensation of actually being able to open the door to an unknown, black cosmos.

In two of the pictures a fragment can be made out on the boundary between black and white, resembling a packet ready for posting. The crumpling on the surface of the wrapping paper, caused by the Sellotape, makes us suspect that it is the stretcher of the picture inside.

Might this tiny fragment of a picture, shown from behind, wrapped up and ready for posting, actually signify the artist’s ultimate farewell to classical painting?! Our curiosity will never be satisfied. In the series entitled Pictures on the walls" (2004-05), coming from the previously mentioned Extract sequences series, the artist employs the same way of working: i.e. she "paints" her pictures with the ray of light on the dark background, including the porous wall surface. In the works entitled Light sources, likewise from 2004-5, Maria Luisa Pyrlik takes the external, natural light source of sunlight. While the primary projection of light is concentrated on the almost square window opening, the secondary one becomes visible in the dark room by way of staged reflections in the mirror or on glass or tiled surfaces. In her expeditions into art history, Maria Luisa Pyrlik allows herself to be equally inspired by Dutch or English painting, adopting the special light motifs she has found. The composition of the first picture in the Light sources series is strongly reminiscent of the window-mirror staffage in the famous painting Giovanni Arnolfini with his wife by Jan van Eyck from the year 1434, now in the National Gallery, London. The second level of the event is located outside the picture encoded in the mirror, hanging on the back wall of the room portrayed. Picture No.8 arouses certain associations with Siesta by John Friedrick Lewis (1876) from the Tate Gallery, London, in which a Mediterranean rattan verandah is bathed in full sunlight.

Additionally, Maria Luisa Pyrlik largely lifts the boundary between the spaces "light— outside", "dark— inside". On the window surface flooded with light the natural elements in the exterior are interwoven with the vegetable pattern on the curtain and the green potted plants from the window ledge. The pink and white voile curtains and pelmets make the transition into the darkness of the room.

In the open-air events in which the artist has been involved in France for years, she has been pursuing amongst other things the question of transience which she portrays through the changes in the "biological matter", i.e. grass, earth or leaves.

Maria Luisa Pyrlik moves freely and in masterly fashion among the various media of painting, photography, video and installation, all allowing her great artistic consistency with which she wonderfully combines her works in all the media with one another.

Click to see a catalogue introduction to Open studio: Contemporary Art in Cracow.