Polish artist IZABELA OŁDAK talked to us about her passion for nature and magic, her influences and life in the village.
MAZIPOS – Your work feels in the tradition that balances between Performance and Land Art in the 70s. How do you fit those pieces in contemporary art? Do you have any direct influence?
IZABELA OŁDAK – Actually I still have a problem with melting and crystallizing the style. There is a big part of a performance or action in the works I made, but also they are highly connected to the landscape becoming more of a site-specific or land art installation. To me it is not the attempt to follow some strict form of art or a style, but to search for the best expression. For few years now I am mostly searching for the best way to connect to nature. The contemporary world we live in has been highly desacralized. The present-day economic and ecological crises, as well as spiritual deprivation are all the result of authoritarian attitude towards nature: lack of respect for it and no meaningful relationship with its living creatures.We feel so disconnected, so far apart. This creates a lot of suffering and misery, anger and wars.
Currently I started to look for my own link to this reality captured in series of photographs made during 1,5 month residency at CACIS in Calders in Spain. After coming back to Poland I begin to work with the land, the earth, planting seeds, vegetables, herbs, and flowers.
For me the biggest inspiration comes from my own adventures, from my research, spiritual development, places I go to as well as from other artist and their works. Not so long ago I discovered art made by Ana Mendieta. I think her works would be closest to my current artistic expression as well as the photographs made by Tomas Rucker. There are also many artists which influenced me in different periods of time, like: Francisco Goya, Hieronim Bosch, Gustav Klimt, William Turner, Sascha Schneider, Fidus, Alex Grey, Pablo Amaringo, Andy Goldsworthy, Agnes A. Arellano, Andrew Gonzalez, Andrzej Urbanowicz, Charles Gilchrist, Frank Stella, Ina Kozel, Jerry Ulesmann, Anish Kapoor, Jon Macnair, Marina Abramović, Frida Kahlo, Shirin Neshat, Yayoi Kusama, Mia Pearlman, Stephanie Inagaki, Tanya Tagaq, Yusuke Asai, and all kind of spiritual art, folk art, native art, cave art.
M – I know you’re very interested in magic, anthropology and witchcraft. Tell us how do you manage to incorporate that into your work.
IO – The interest came from my research regarding the source of arts. In order to discover the essence of creation and the primal role of an artist, I found it necessary to go back to its roots. This brought me to transcendental experiences and magic. In prehistoric times, human life was connected to the natural environment. At that time the arts were considered spiritual, magical, a secret language used in many rituals and rites. It has been associated with the exploration of the soul and the secrets of nature, it was the beginning of taming the world, and has been used to personalize and spiritualize the human as an individual.
That’s why I did not have to incorporate the topics into my art; I just started to use arts the same way as it was done from the beginning. This led me to spiritual development through art, not only by creating it, but becoming art itself in performances that took the form of rituals and symbolic actions. Further, such experiences gave me unbelievable power to transcend my mind, to go beyond my limits and ordinary perception. It served as a source of mental therapy and inner integration and it helped me to face my traumas and transform them through art and magic.
M – A thing that strikes me is the simplicity of the stories in your pieces. How much of the process is improvisation and how much is research?
IO – The research is always on the bottom of the kind of art I do. First is the exploration of the topic, search for information, symbolical meanings, reflections and interpretations in other cultures and art pieces. The improvisation is mainly in the making process. The impulse can be caused by the landscape, the beauty of an object or something I’ve seen. The improvisation is well within the performance. There is always a place for surprise and unexpected solutions.
M – I ask that because I know you travel a lot surfing artist residencies, and in those circumstances the artist is forced to use whatever elements he/she can find. How do you deal with that?
IO – I love that! This is what makes the outcome so interesting and unpredictable… and of course, there is a degree of changing in the proposal, but I never had any problems regarding that. Working in a new place, being surrounded with other artists, different nature and culture only increases the value of the work.
M – Tell us more about the CACIS residence in Calders (Spain) and In the arms of Gaia project that is featured in MAZIPOS this month.
I came to CACIS in the beginning of March and I stayed there till mid-April, it was really great to experience the spring twice in Spain and in Poland. The place is located in the woods, so the project was actually a natural consequence of this surrounding, mixed with my personal need for such connection. This series documents my way of finding a place among nature where my body could fit, belong, hide, hug or integrate into. In this project, I am looking for my own place in this physical realm and my connection to Earth, to feel I am part of Nature and the landscape. In Most of these photographs were taken in magical places like Monserrat Mountain, archaeological site of Moia or La Font de les Tàpies.
To make this project possible I collaborated with my life partner Maciej Kozak, who helped me to found these places, to make the pictures. He was my external eye and my model in one of the pictures.
M – Do you often work in collaboration?
IO – Yes I do. But the collaboration process, and its influence into the final piece, is always individual. Sometimes I do work in collaboration with assistants, like with the project mentioned above, and sometimes the work from the concept to the realisation is done with other people, like some video pieces or group performances.
M – Finally, tell us more about life in your village and how are you perceived as an artist there.
IO – For bigger part of my life I was a nomad, so I had the luck to experience all forms of living. In the cities, metropolises, small towns, in the villages, forests etc. For half a year now, I am living in a small village near Kraków. The winter was little bit melancholic, as I felt very isolated, but now I have started my flower, vegetable and herb garden, and I feel much better. Until the end of May I will build a little sanctuary -a yurt which will be a place for artistic and spiritual development.
Living in the nature or in calm surroundings, working in the field with plants or animals is like a balm to my body and mind. It is bringing back the pure sense of existence, which can be seen even in the simplest tasks. It brought back the sense of observation and contemplation, calmness and also appreciation of the beauty of the nature. The paradox is that the hard work in the farm can give you more energy and satisfaction than sitting in a front of the laptop, or even the canvas.
The earth, the nature, is really calming and we are inseparable part of it. It is like being with a loved one, you want to be as close as you can and as long as possible. So far I am not considered an artist here, but when my yurt will be put up this will for sure attract the neighbors, so I wonder what their reaction will be 🙂