Everywhere – That is: Here

Aspekty Gallery
Aleje Ujazdowskie 16

18.01 – 04.02 2024
curator: Marta Kapełuś

Anna Szprynger’s slender and delicate lines, composed on a blackened canvas, create a lucid visual reality that the artist has been conceiving for years. With the use of light and precision brushstrokes, the artist builds evocative and dynamic abstract compositions. The exhibition “Everywhere – That is: Here” presents an overview of Anna Szprynger’s latest works, which, despite her devotion to her signature style, demonstrate her progressive artistic evolution. Two series of works are presented, in which the artist proposes different approaches to the subject of representation, as well as the issues of memory and perception.

The motivation for creating the first series of paintings was the experience of contact with nature. Her inspiration was drawn from observing the surroundings of several remote places in the world. Through her canvases, Szprynger introduces us to a beaver bog in the Kozienicka Forest, Dutch pastures, sparsely populated areas of the Hudson Valley in the state of New York and the Curonian Spit in Lithuania, among others. Inspired by the arid landscape of the vast peninsula separating the Curonian Lagoon from the open Baltic Sea and inaccessible wetlands inhabited by beavers, the artist recreates the reality she encounters, in fragments. Her exploration of matter begins with the observation of textures and patterns found in nature. The softened lines refer to the structure of the landscape: the bends of the horizon, the texture of the soil, particles of sand or thickets of vegetation. Szprynger transforms the materiality of dunes, forests and pastures, pouring them onto the canvas in an abstracted weave of dynamic lines and points. She records the ephemeral play of light, the flickering of reflections, and the vibrations of air and water, which vividly shine through the prism of the blackness of the canvas.

Using her signature delicate and precise lines, she captures fleeting moments that rapidly fade into oblivion. Through her paintings, Szprynger shows a fragmentary record of her memories. In her paintings, she symbolically places short-lived moments and frames that are fixed in her memory. Individual canvases are juxtaposed here with her photographic works, which serve to supplement the observer’s insights into the visual perception of the artist. The black-and-white photographs, serving as a mere substitute for the processed reality, give us the opportunity to understand what elements of the remembered scenery Szprynger recreates on the canvas. The juxtaposition of paintings and photographs, in particular, illustrates how the painter isolates light and its reflections on the heterogeneous structure of the landscape.

The exhibition presents, among other things, a photograph depicting a view from Thomas Mann’s summer residence, taken during the artist’s stay in Nida, and an abstract painting depicting a stylized perception of the photograph. In the paining, Szprynger captures not only her own observation, but also the image of the Nobel Prize winner’s gaze from the same place ninety years earlier. In this way, she draws attention to the individuality of perception, as well as the desire to record and reproduce it from memory. The paintings can be interpreted as drawing attention to the very process of memory capture, to its fragmentary and selective nature, as well as to the process of recollection and distortion of memories over time. By recording on canvas the most rapidly fleeting moments – the play of light on an object – she resists the process of forgetting.

The significance of the theme – memory and matter – in Szprynger’s art is also revealed by the unique works produced on black stones from the Curonian Spit – collected by the artist as souvenirs from her expedition to Lithuania. While the black stones replace the painter’s typical black canvas, her characteristic lines remain, which serve to cover not only the physical surface of the rock but also serve as a symbolic surface of the “holiday souvenir”. These stone themselves are a tangible essence tied to the memory of the landscape from which they were gathered.

In the second series of works, Szprynger departs from references to reality and leans towards pure geometric abstraction. The emphasis is placed on precise, geometric forms, far removed from the often unpredictable shapes found in nature. Unlike the previous series, there is an absence of colour in these paintings – only subtle tones and a fading palette of grays is implemented. The lines are regularly laid out with strict control, distinguishing themselves from the free and “natural” collections. The cycle does not refer to the existing world – on the contrary – it was envisioned as a result of theoretical reflection on lines and shapes. The series is a proposal for a different solution, a deliberate departure from imitative references to reality in favor of an analysis of pure form. The artist removes the flickering play of natural light and decorative structures from her works, creating her own visual world. “Everywhere – That is: Here” introduces the viewer to the artist’s continuing research on the methods of perceiving existing matter, forms, patterns, and shapes. Seemingly vibrating and restless compositions are juxtaposed with a rigid and non-representational order. The exhibition illustrates two distinct ways of thinking about art by Anna Szprynger. The organic and geometrical abstractions shown examine and oppose each other.

The exhibition “Everywhere – That is: Here” brings us a sample of perception taken from distant or inaccessible places, showing how the artist records and processes the reality that surrounds her. By contrasting images with photographs, the observer has the opportunity to look into Anna Szprynger’s “everywhere” and the opportunity to penetrate her personal and subjective way of perceiving. The photographs are a symbolic window to understand how the reality stored in the artist’s memory has been transformed. However, when contrasting the two series of works, we can observe that the artist’s world of inspiration goes beyond reality. The eponymous “everywhere” should be understood more broadly: as the entirety of Szprynger’s experiences, observations, reflections and research – which, as if through a lens – are consummated “here”, in the form of canvases. Simultaneously, the title also refers to the universality of the paintings, which, despite their personal nature, are in dialogue with the observer and remain open to further interpretations leading us in new directions.

Marta Kapełuś

Barbara Rześna: I’m wondering where to start our conversation – with the title or the journey?

Anna Szprynger: “I think both are very important and go together. I can’t remember who came up with a title, but I remember the circumstances: a conversation at a party, an exchange of thoughts, and suddenly someone used the expression: “Everywhere – That is: Here.” I found this expression to perfectly reflect what I’m doing now. For me, the exhibition at Aspekty is a collection of paintings that brings together everything that has recently intrigued me most. My approach to creative work, to the process itself, has changed. Beforehand I worked with matter itself and did formal experiments, reflecting and looking for solutions which intrigue me the most. Here, I present a slightly different view, because the starting point in many of the works is the outside world, which was not the case for me in previous years. It started with two images from Goshen, where I experienced strong emotions and they emanated in the portrayal of very concrete landscapes. I guess that’s why these two images are the most realistic, if I may say that.

B: The most literal?

A: “Exactly. When I was painting them, it turned out that the form and method I use can also reflect something more realistic. I gave it up for a long time because it surprised me and I asked myself: ‘Szprynger and figurative paintings?’ I felt uncomfortable with that discovery.”

– Maybe this figurativeness scared you?

A: “For me, it’s a powerful leap out of my comfort zone, something very new and difficult. Usually, the opposite is true – as a creator, you observe, think, feel and then slowly begin to channel your works towards abstraction – which is a very common path of artistic exploration. For me, it’s the other way around – I’m looking for a way out from abstraction, because I’m a bit tired of it and I’m trying to broaden the artistic landscape.”

B: It’s unusual to move from abstraction to figuration. However, the figuration is still present in your case is still abstract.

A: “I’m now in a place that seems to be quite a classic position for a painter, which is: I interpret reality in my own way. I think most painters do, but the moment that its occurs is often at a different stage of creativity than in my case – we usually go through it and look further and further, until at the very other frontier, in the end, there is nothing left. I, on the other hand, started with nothing, because when I finished my education, I immediately entered into a very radical abstraction and there was no space in my mind at all for experiencing reality. Also, over the years, I’ve had a strong belief that dealing with things that relate to reality is too easy. Now, however, I’ve been working so long and hard, that I’ve found, in fact, I can afford it if I feel like it. I’ve painted so many abstract things and I’ve explored anti-spaces in different ways and I know now that there is definitely a lot more there to discover. Although now, I decided to reach for something that is seemingly simpler, but rather, not really. I decided to turn to the reality that surrounds me, but with more focus on what I experience, how I experience and what happens at the interface between the real world and myself. For 20 years I’ve been avoiding emotion in painting, and now I’m opening up to it.”

B: So, this is a very important moment for you as an artist.

A: “Yes, these are very important paintings for me, because I don’t know yet how my aesthetics will evolve further. For the first time I have allowed the things and feelings I have experienced to be exposed through my paintings in an absolutely open way. Is it representational painting or rather referential? These, after all, are not classical figurative compositions.”

B: Saying “representational images” in the context of your works is actually a semantic shortcut. At Aspekty we call these new paintings a ‘photographic series’. They are highly synthesized paintings, a processed fragment of reality, but if someone knows what these works are really about, they will actually find a lot of illustrative elements. However, these are still abstractions leveraging your characteristic visual language.

A:Photographic series is a good term. In it there is a great deal of external everything, which I previously avoided like the plague. I’m quite radical in my creative attitudes and I think that if I decide to commit to something, then I have to do it fully. When I decided to go abstract, I started to create abstraction in its entirety. This series is something in-between – each of these paintings is a manifestation of some emotions and experiences that are important to me.”

B: So in the case of geometric works, your most “classic” edition, this emotional or affective layer, was not so important.

A:It’s wasn’t, that’s true. The geometric paintings that are shown at Aspekty are pure form, but also different than usual. Until now, I have approached formal depictions in a fairly automatic way. One painting provided me with subject matter that was of interest to me and I just continued it in subsequent projects.

Now, especially in the case of the square paintings presented at the exhibition, I focused on matter in a more researched and methodical manner. I wondered what I was feeling when I was painting, whether the matter that was created carried with it something more. Although I have a different intellectual formation, this time I tried to reach out using tools from the world of humanists.”

B: So, why gray?

A: “Gray is the most neutral. It doesn’t invoke a baroque spectacle, it doesn’t shine, it doesn’t glitter. It is something on the verge of discernibility, and therefore something that needs to be paid attention to. The attention it demands, however, is not glamorous and flowery. Grey is such a neutral colour for me, which allowed me to finally stop focusing on adornment. I wanted to move away completely from categorizing things into pretty and not pretty.”

B: Grey has allowed you to enter a sort of ‘laboratory mode’, then?

A: “Aesthetically grey suits me very well and I absolutely don’t mind the fact that it is not very dynamic. What seduces me the most is its extraordinary subtlety. The most interesting thing for me is what happens on the surface. In other works, where there appear more expressive colours, we start to have a problem with catching the pure subtlety, as there are other elements which play a major role. Colour nuances are a completely different subject matter for me.

B: In other words, the colour breaks up your form a bit.

A: “I’ve been struggling with this ever since I started using colour. At the previous exhibition I tried to use it in my geometrical compositions, with a more or less satisfactory effect. These were my struggles. It was very difficult for me. In the case of this series, some people may be disappointed that it not as colourful as the prior one, nor does it portray the geometry that people are very fond of and accustomed to in my works.”

B: Well, yes, but you don’t create to please anyone. You depict with what you currently have in you and what you are searching for.

A: “I think we should always do what we do best. I could grit my teeth and paint a couple of geometric paintings like before, but it doesn’t make any creative sense. As my dad keeps saying: “It’s not a factory!” It seems to me that in art, valuable things do not result from the need to satisfy other people, only from a very solid exploration of one’s own experiences, needs and opportunities – from constantly developing and being on a journey.”

B: The motif of travel in the context of this exhibition is so extremely important. It is, in fact, conceived around it.

A: “I’m glad it worked out this way, because this exhibition is not only a journey through form. It demonstrates varied approaches to painting in my works. Here, there are fewer such strictly geometrical forms and works. We are not showing the characteristic works composed of long strokes. So, on the one hand, a more ‘physical’ journey through different places, but on the other hand, a journey through emotions that I aimed to encapsulate somewhere in these paintings. On top of that, there is a photograph that is important to me, because it’s what opened me up and it’s a sketch foreshadowing what could later become a painting. It is also a record of ephemeral things that could quickly and visibly disappear: reflections, lights, shadows, flickers. These are the things that intrigue me the most at the moment, and I wonder if, this translation onto canvas won’t take away from their transitory and fleeting qualities – or maybe it will enhance them? It used to be said that real painting is painting using the light. Maybe this is my very classic return to this medium? I’m sure it’s a very conservative approach to painting.

B: You treat photographs in this exhibition as separate works of art but are they intended to function separately from the works they inspired?

A: I would rather say that they were not an inspiration, but perhaps a kind of symbiosis, because these paintings would not exist without photography and I don’t know that the photographs would have been created if it hadn’t been for the way I perceived the underlying subjects. This is why my perception and point of view is very important to me – the way I see reality is very close to these images. These are the things I notice and remember.

B: How has your approach to the creative process changed?

A: If I’m somewhere, I’m experiencing something, I’m taking pictures, then after a while I’m wondering what to do with these events that have stayed with me and this apparently resonates with me. On display is a painting depicting cows in a pasture, but you can’t obviously see that they’re just cows. It was a very pleasant trip with a good friend with a lot of great emotions, and those cows didn’t really matter. This stems from my abstract inclination. The natural scene I observed seemed very interesting to me and was punctuated by very positive experiences and emotions which accompany it when I captured the view in that photograph. These three elements were significant contributors to my choice of motif for the painting, which took place several weeks or even months later.

I’m not the type to go outdoors with an easel and start painting – certainly not such paintings. My images are filtered not only by these transitional stages, but also with time, which is an important element and allows me to settle down and form a certain visual impression in my mind.

B: So, photographic images and the way of working on them are very similar to the theme of the gray compositions. It’s a very intellectual and laboratory approach, even though its starting point is emotions, experiences, events, places or objects.

A: “My work methodology hasn’t changed much. It’s certainly easier for me with photographic images because the starting point is already tangible and recorded somewhere. On the other hand, the difficulty is that I want to convey those impressions precisely. I’m glad because this way of expressing the subject matter which I use allows me to capture what I am most interested in right now – flickers, flashes, ephemerality, fogginess, but not in the sense of decorative ornaments. My work is a result of my current perspective and the way things are interconnected together. Actually, you’re right, it has something in common with my laboratory approach.”