Exhibition: Painkillers – Joanna Rajkowska at l’étrangère, London, 17th September – 24th October 2015
By Guy Sangster Adams
Black and white. Even before one discovers the paradox at the heart of Joanna Rajkowska’s powerful and confronting sculptural series, Painkillers, one is arrested and unsettled by the guns fashioned in pure white. Consciously or unconsciously, the fact that black is the hue one would normally associate with guns taps into the traditional Western cultural duality that black and white symbolise distinct opposites: the dichotomies of night and day, evil and good, war and peace, killing and healing.
Rajkowska’s research into this last pairing informed her series when she discovered a long history of pharmaceutical companies at the forefront of the development of analgesics, antibacterials, and antibiotics, also being at the forefront of the development of chemical and biological weapons. Similarly, engineering companies innovating and producing medical equipment also innovating and producing military hardware.
Rather than killing and healing being distinct black and white opposites, as the Polish born, London based artist explains, “similar technology is often used in both fields, the same knowledge, quite possibly the same or similar substances, germs, and the same people are often involved. To produce an effective weapon, to define the damage it can cause to a human body, an extensive knowledge about the mechanical/chemical/psychological consequences of its use is needed”. She continues, “It seems that means of killing and means of saving peoples’ lives are related to each other in terms of the forces generating them. This closeness can probably also be found between the means of inflicting pain and relieving it”.
For her visual representation of her theme, she has created life size sculptures of pain inflictors from powdered pain relievers – powdered analgesic tablets; hence the white colouration – and polyurethane resin. Having created her first works in the Painkillers series last year, for her inaugural exhibition at London’s l’étrangère gallery she has specially created new works, Painkillers II.
In a separate space within the gallery the exhibition will also feature Rajkowska’s large multi-chambered crystal formation which she brought back from Brazil and which was first exhibited last year outside Erdington Library, Birmingham, as part of her public project, Soon Everything Will Change. Inspired by Brazil’s “fusion of different kinds of beliefs, spiritual orders and rituals”, her intention was not “a site-specific installation but rather a travelling, global device – a mobile chakra”. A chakra that rather than being a ‘centre of spiritual power in the human body’, became “a point of high energy in the organism of the city”.
In Painkillers the large crystal will rest precariously on a wooden palette, symbolising the fragility of the human body, not least set against the works of Painkillers II, and within this interrelation her intention is that the object is returned to “its native meaning, simultaneously unifying and futile in its non-human temporality”.
Painkillers – Joanna Rajkowski
runs from 17th September – 24th October 2015
at l’étrangère, 44a Charlotte Road, London EC2A 3PD
Gallery open Tuesday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm or by appointment
For more information:
Joanna Rajkowski www.rajkowska.com
Tweet this article:
Follow Guy Sangster Adams on Twitter and Instagram and Plectrum-The Cultural Pick on Twitter and Facebook: