exhibition

Magdalena Karpińska
I was born cold and my sister was born hot

Polana Institute
Stanisława Noakowskiego 16/35
June 7–29, 2024

Magdalena Karpińska's latest series not only invites watching but also beckons reading. It seems to tell a story of a multigenerational family seen exclusively through the lens of women, exploring the bonds of sisterhood. Against the perpetual backdrop of night, illuminated by an enigmatic, almost otherworldly light source, the series concludes with the emergence of dawn, ushering in themes seemingly more consequential to the broader world.

In David Diop's novel At Night All Blood Is Black (French: Frère d'âme, lit. 'Soul brother'), the protagonist Alpha Ndiaye, a soldier in the French army, grapples with the anguish of denying his dying friend's final plea for release from suffering. Driven by remorse and a thirst for vengeance, Ndiaye embarks on nocturnal forays behind enemy lines, killing German soldiers and returning with grisly trophies – their cut-off hands. On a superficial level, Karpińska's series is the opposite of the novel, which centers on death and the cold brutality of war. Against the historical backdrop of male-centric narratives, Karpińska's portrayal of sisterly relationships eschews grand gestures and dialogue for subtle nuances: the tender tilt of heads, the gentle embrace of intertwined arms. Yet, amidst these intimate gestures, the series hints at underlying tensions, as evidenced by motifs like the lace bow entwined with naked figures engaged in a primal struggle, pulling their hair. The world, it seems, affords sisters no special leniency.

The paintings within the series introduce yet another protagonist: a central space dominated by fragments of landscape, flanked symmetrically by the bodies of the sisters. In one scene, a disquieting aura pervades, illuminated by the interplay of flashlight beams; in others, a distant sunset casts hues of pink or radiates with the intensity of an exploding bomb. Whether departing or entering this space – akin to the "belly of the earth" – the sisters evoke themes of birth and death, as the earth absorbs the fallen like a battlefield, only to yield forth new life like water, a recurring motif in the artist's oeuvre. We don't know which moment the sisters are recalling or waiting for. It's possible that they are using their own internal code to devise strategies for the upcoming male wars.