Some Thoughts on »Line on a Walk«

»An active line on a walk, moving freely, without goal. A walk for a walk’s sake.« The quote, taken from Paul Klee’s famous Pedagogical Sketchbook (1925), gave rise to the name of the solo show, Line on a Walk, by visual artist Alicja Bielawska. On show in January 2015, it presented delicate, almost fragile drawings next to objects wrapped in colorful silky fabrics. – An essay by Claudia Gehre about the unique visual language of the artist: playful and soft, but with a constant underlying sharpness of lines.

Each piece in Alicja Bielawka’s body of work stands on its own, yet taken together they reveal a modular significance, unfolding among and between them a set of multiple layers and vectors like puzzle pieces, a complexity immediately apparent. This idea of a whole becomes even more obvious through titling; works often bear the same title as the exhibition, with the addition of a subtitle or number. Her solo show Line on a Walk includes drawings and sculptures from her recent residency at Solitude and is named after a phrase from Paul Klee’s famous Pedagogical Sketchbook, which was first published in 1925 in the series Bauhausbücher.

Starting with »An active line on a walk, moving freely, without goal. A walk for a walk’s sake.«, the book deals with the line as a key element in Klee’s theory of form. In his concept, the line freed from its description gains a self-referential display function. Bielawska’s drawings – all named Lines on a Walk – are characterized by a delicate, almost fragile restraint that belies a blade-like clarity in her approach to form. The pencil skillfully creates a continuous line – without breaks or correction. They are both independent works and prefigurations of spacial installations as they explore space unlike Klee’s lines.

One of the first questions some members of the community asked was: »Why us?«—and the answer was their unique relation to the site. Hardly any of the members of the Filipino community live in EUR, but still spend most of their time, both work and leisure time, in the area.

Together with the small sculptures, they are exercises in describing shapes and looking at the relationships in between. These sculptures are her first small scale objects. Up until this point Bielawska has focused on larger scale sculptures and installations. They are more playful than the larger sculptures, forming a collection of objects similar to a collection of twigs found in the wood. The tool-like objects are assembled with care, covered with colored satin fabric and coated with fragile clay. The wrapping – especially in relationship to the drawings – frees the piece from the two-dimensional graphic line, revealing a haptic quality. Suddenly, you want to touch it; to know what it is made of; how it balances; what it reminds you of, like echoes of memories or potential functions.

From the series »Lines on a walk« (2014), ink, pencil, coloured pencil on paper, 29,8x42,2 cm
From the series »Lines on a Walk« (2014), pencil, coloured pencil on paper, 40x40 cm
From the series »Lines on a Walk« (2014), pencil, coloured pencil on paper, 42x59,4 cm

In some drawings, colors are used to test potential and suggested movements in a playful way that does not happen in the finished sculpture. Color (in the form of fabric, crayons, or modeling clay) is a newer element in Bielawska’s language and adds a softness and playfulness to the constant underlying sharpness of lines or metal rods of her objects.

This sharpness is an important part in her form-finding process, described by the artist as transforming and abstracting a selected form. The procedure of carving out a geometrical figure, searching for suitable materials, techniques and colors gives the sculptures substance and creates a certain atmosphere and tension as the works trigger a series of associations, connotations and faded memories – references to places and objects in everyday life. It sets thoughts in motion and creates analogies to famous references like Constructivism, Bauhaus, etc. The artist is interested in a sensitization of perception through form. Form, however, is merely one element used in relation to the others. Another reference could be to the Open Form theory of Polish architect and artist Oskar Hansen. This concept includes ideas on the process of art, interactivity, and the revision of the artist-audience hierarchy through respecting the recipient’s individuality and creating a spatial atmosphere conducive to reflection. Bielawska’s works – especially the large scale objects – accomplish this, conjuring up associations with childhood memories of climbing frames on playgrounds. This »somehow familiar feeling« is a consequence of the fact that memory and geometry are bound with one another in our brains. So one thought, connection, memory leads to the next one; Bielawska’s works trigger a chain of associations in the viewer while resisting a narrative.

Bielawska’s visual language unfolds through Kabinett and the beginning of Hirschgang. The latter work, a circular object wrapped in colorful silky fabrics, completes the circle and leads the viewer back to Klee and his idea of a circle as the origin of the work process: once set in motion it becomes a line.

Alicja Bielawska, studio at Solitude, »Line on a Walk« (2015)