Egypt, 2014, woodcut, 18" x 24"
May 12th, 2017 to June 24th, 2017
Opening: May 13th, 2-5pm
Gabriela Jolowicz’s work captures contemporary life in Berlin in one of the oldest artistic mediums: woodcut. These bold black and white prints feature still lifes with laptops, cellphones and interiors of music clubs and pool halls.
Jolowicz is a woodcut artist from Germany. She completed her diploma and post-graduate studies at the Academy of Visual Arts, Leipzig. Her works have been exhibited in Mexico, USA, Germany, Canada, France, England, Italy, Thailand and the Netherlands. She won the 1st Prize of the international art award Holzschnitt Heute 2012.
Text Response by Luther Konadu
Church Playground; The work of Gabriela Jolowicz
It is hard to tell what you are looking at when you first glance over Disorganizer—the vertically oriented print from Gabriela Jolowicz’s show Church Playground. A second and third scan of the piece still fail to fully reveal just what you are seeing. And this is perhaps, among other reasons, why the piece continues to intrigue upon each revisit. The title and the image suggest starting points and descriptors for Jolowicz’s entire collection of work. Disorganizer, as with many of her prints, is an image that demands multiple viewings and rewards with each second you spend with it.
Among the fascinating and puzzling make up of this piece are the patterns Jolowicz creates with her carving tools to further reinforce and highlight the material she’s working on—wood. She mimics the known tessellation of the wood grain as a design element within the composition of the image. Like most of her other individual pieces, there is what seems like a never-ending use of repetition—a design principle she employs that gives her prints a frenzied and dizzying yet poised picture plane. Looking at Disorganizer, it drives the mind to fixate and maneuver in between Jolowicz’s conjured and mystifying world. Making one wonder how she’s able to be so particular and legible with what she wants us to see but end with an ostensibly abstract and distorted image.
Dutch artist and fellow printmaker M.C. Escher comes to mind when viewing Jolowicz’s at times winding and playful perspectives, taking us in multiple directions all at once. Albrecht Dürer is another early woodcutter and fellow German whose work parallels Jolowicz’s overcrowded and skewed pictorial spaces that are easy to get lost in. Jolowicz, like Dürer, has a way of playing with false perspective and with the size of forms and objects in relation to one another. Jolowicz uses text in several images to truly enhance the specificity of the space and objects she creates. The various typefaces we see in prints like System of a Clown and 800 Miles from Home don’t ever repeat. They each have their own distinct shape, size, and characteristics. They give the viewer moments of tangible reality as we identify and make connections with where we may have seen such lettering in our everyday lives. When we see them juxtaposed against Jolowicz’s multi-dimensional abstracted passages, they result in a bewildering and conflicting spatial effect that is equally dazzling to the eye.
Jolowicz’s technical prowess must be lauded here. It is mind boggling to think about the sheer labour that each of her pieces entails. At its early stages as a printmaking subgenre, the process of woodcutting was divided between a carver and a designer. The designer composed the image and a specialized carver would realize the designer’s illustrations on the wood. As convenient as that might be, Jolowicz takes on both tasks and directs every ornate mark of the image we see. And with the economy of mere black on white the artist accomplishes plenty. Her interplay of
positive and negative space presents a sense of depth emerging from the surface of the wood, making it less a flat surface and more a site for constructing limitless inventions.
Take for example, Going Nowhere*. A large piece expanding over 12 square feet, it illustrates a measured fretwork of a passing casual interior scene. Jolowicz makes certain that every seemingly trivial object in the scene is just as worthy of intricate line work. She shows us the exact time on that iPod dock, she makes sure to include the bar code on the empty cans on the floor, she makes sure that we see the names of the authors of books stacked under the table. To say detail is of the essence to Jolowicz will be stating the obvious. But this is what activates and elevates the visualscapes she builds for us to participate and sink deeper into.
*Going Nowhere is not part of this exhibition's iteration at Martha Street Studio.
Luther Konadu is an artist, writer and curator of Ghanaian descent. He is a content creator for the online publication Public Parking. His studio practice is project-based and sees him working through print media and painting processes. He currently lives and works in Winnipeg