'The Sleep of
photorealistic art seems like perfect reflection of our
culture - mechanical, celebrating surface, a bit bloodless,
a bit pointless. Co-opting photography is not necessarily a
means of gaining power over it. But there are artists whose
work transcends artifice - who use technology to draw our
reluctant attention to something real.
We are jaded from images, punch drunk
from pictures. We are a society saturated in images of
violence, to the point where the savagery no longer seems
quite real. Gulf War or Grand Theft Auto? At some point the
lines become blurred. But occasionally something in the
endless parade of pixels
and pantone catches our eye, tells us something new makes us
re-see and re-think.
Bartosz Kolata's paintings throw a welcome spanner in the
works. They wonder about the consequences of our inurement.
They gently nudge us back to the point where human suffering
and injustice mattered. The surfaces are perfect - and not
so perfect. Some derive their effect from the juxtaposition
of semi-familiar images of innocence and destruction. A hint
of deja vu draws us in. Have we seen those running, laughing
children somewhere? Then we look further. Did we really see
them run from flaming oil silos? Perhaps not, but we could
have. At first it might seem like a cheap trick - "war
is a bad thing - I know - let's use kids!" but these
paintings are subtler than that. They don't tell us what to
think - they make us wonder. Where is the child who owned
the Lost Blue Ball? We don't know why but we are suddenly
uneasy. What will become of the boy who is intently
observing the dead body in Stolen Children I (Curiosity)?
The bare delineation of the corpse may be an aesthetic
choice but it also has echoes of the outlines bodies at
crime scenes - and the substance of the person is absent,
metaphorically as well as literally. Is the red spot on the
small Jewish boy's forehead a laser sight or is that blood
dripping down? And why a Jewish child when his tribe are
often seen as the aggressors?
We snag on these slightly awkward details and our attention
is held and we have to think again.
In William Blake's poem Jerusalem, The Sleep of Ulro is when
a soul falls into the realm of torment, suffering, and
death. It's a fallen, material world, which has lost contact
with Eternity, a place of error and misperception where
everything is reversed. "We look down into Ulro. We
behold the wonders of the Grave." Blake wanted to wake
his contemporaries up. We too need to wake up and art such
as this can help us do it.