2009 (O)pakowanie, Fabryka Koronek Gallery, Warsaw, Poland

“The works by Katarzyna Ozga works shown in the exhibition “(O)pakowanie” (Packaging), embody the artist’s interest in recording human existence in the context of the natural environment. Ozga reconstructs particular parts of the body in specific ways using unconventional materials; packages and wrapping papers from mass-produced consumer goods. The juxtaposition of bodily forms with ephemeral materials (e.g. nets for fruit, plastic bags, egg cartons, plastic cups, newspapers) is a starting point for a meditation on the fragility of human existence on the themes of lasting and passing, blooming, decay, beginning and end.

Ozga gives her works humorous titles (a pair of breasts made from disposable cups is entitled “Soft Drink”, a self-serving milk carton is called “Egology,” and a torso of a pregnant woman made from plastic bags, “Full”). These suggest additional interpretations beyond those present in the visual/formal layers of the works.

The contemporary cult of packaging, especially in the context of popular recycling and ecology, is of particular significance. Ozga perceives packaging itself as a natural material that allows her to build new forms and imaginary content, while establishing new aesthetic and artistic values. Direct quotations from the reality of the street, shop, snack bar, as well as the poetry of commercial slogans convey complex and personal meanings for the artist.

The use of non-artistic materials is not in itself an original creative discovery. Historically, conceptual artists such as Marcel Duchamp and later pop artists have blurred the boundaries between a piece of art and an everyday object. Many artists have stressed the significance of art created from waste (e.g. Alina Szapocznikow and her sculptures made from chewing gum, César’s use of wrecked automobiles). Degraded and abandoned, these materials take on a new life as aesthetic, special and precious objects in these times of increased environmental consciousness.

The subject of the package in art has been raised many times over the course of the 20th century. The object’s philosophical meaning touches on the rules governing human perception. This observation informed the activities of Man Ray and Chisto, for whom the package, seen as the surface of an object, was at the same time the sign of an unattainable thing.

These artists also restored the social dimension of packaging by exploring banal objects or sites from a fresh perspective. With her fascination for the aesthetics of the package, the artists fits in with a new generation of artists from the turn of the 21st century, such as Jadwiga Sawicka. Similarly to Sawicka, Ozga complicates our perception of the materials objects used in her works.

Ozga’s artistic sensibility is evident not solely in relation to activities carried out in the ‘60s by representatives of New Realism or pop art, but first and foremost when compared with Polish artist Alina Szapocznikow. The two share both biographic details and conceptual interests in the field of art. Both women studied sculpture in foreign schools. Kasia Ozga studied in the United States, in Paris and in Cracow. Alina Szapocznikow was connected with schools in Prague and in Paris. Both of them descend from a uniquely Polish artistic tradition and despite the cosmopolitan character of the artists’ private and artistic lives, they have returned to this tradition many times.

Like Szapocznikow, Ozga attaches importance to that which is fleeting, non-durable, present, and doomed to disappearance and dissolution. She often combines themes that descend from visually and ideologically different worlds. There are known casts of fragments of Szapocznikow’s body (stomachs, leg, breasts, lips, fragments of her face) made with the usage of different materials combined with each other on the basis of experiment. Ozga also depicts particular parts of the body while retaining the conventions of production and colouring characteristic of the world of packages and commercials. Her equally provocative and entertaining sculptures function as “everyday products on sale” where human organs become consumer goods, and as coquettish messengers of deeper truths about life.

Kasia Ozga’s „(O)pakowanie“ (“Packaging”) seems to confirm Alina Szpocznikow’s statement, “I’m convinced that among all embodiments of the ephemeral, the human body is the most sensitive and the only source of any kind of joy, any kind of pain and any kind of truth”. Additionally, just as the art forms are shaped through the use of packaging materials and consumer products, the works imply that artist herself becomes a sort of a product of modern civilization.

It’s a paradox that McDonald’s and supermarket materials are foundations for the artist’s reflections, which are marked by their timelessness and longevity. Full of humour, feminine lightness and charm, and despite their newfound material fragility, the works will surely sustain themselves and persist in our minds.”

– Magdalena Durda, 2009

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