The exhibition has come a long and winding way: initially it was scheduled as one highlight – a dark gem – for spring 2022 at The Naked Room gallery in Ukraine’s capital city. The russian invasion in February 2022 shifted but did not cancel our plan. In collaboration with Gandy gallery, a pioneering venue in presenting and promoting Eastern European art, Krystyna’s works found a new space in an ideal context.
Krystyna has started to work on the series long before the russian invasion hit her home country. And she kept producing new works in the recent months, without major changes neither in her style, nor the subject. Her works have a deliberate distance to the present day – the artist sourced images in old medical books. This distance is emphasised by the chosen technique of levkas, popular among Christian icon masters back in mediaeval times and, only recently, among a number of Ukrainian young artists. Yet, zoomed-in details of torn flesh are painfully relevant. The glossy surface in an uneasy combination with her use of yellow and grey in various shades provoke a complex perception. The works are unpleasant to look at, but are also in a way too ambiguously attractive to refrain from it.
But it is not only the very subject of Melnyk’s project that points our attention back to the realness of the present-day human catastrophe of war. Sophisticated and frightful, these small objects and bigger canvases do a trick with human optics. Sooner than later one’s eyes get tired of digitised images of violence and deformed bodies that leak through various media channels on a daily basis. Once we get used to it we stop seeing and trusting the veracity of graphic imagery – there’s no way for it to get under our skin. Perhaps it’s only art that can still disturb and make us see, think, feel – and hurt. For what is opened up to us in Krystyna’s works, brings suffering. But this kind of suffering has a purifying quality, almost in a religious sense. In other words, her skalpel-cold yet sensual practice enables us to see again – and, most importantly, believe in what we see.
Gandy gallery, Sienkiewiczova 2542/4, 811 09 Bratislava, Slovakia
Opening hours: Wed - Fri: 2 p.m - 6.30 p.m, Sat only by appointement