This exhibition, similar to the Alex Margo Arden show I covered last week, smells great. This time though, the odour wafting through the gallery isn’t synthetic, but all natural, emanating from the dried pine needles that carpets one of the works. There’s a little glass pot of pine next to the visitor’s book, too. Raw nature is an important governing concept for the Warsaw-born, London-based artist, who mixes her own paints from natural products.
Central to this new show at Maximillian William, and the source of the pine smell, is Tubers, an installation of wooden frames and foundations, linked by potatoes: like the foundations for one of Sigmar Polke’s potato houses. It’s surrounded by paintings in those same wood frames, which waver on the borderland between colour fields and representation. Perhaps it’s my imagination, seeing leaves and tree trunks in Skupinska’s pale, cool, colour blocks.
It’s an impression that’s reinforced when I find out the materials the artist used in her paints, lovingly listed in the show notes. Ranging from: turmeric, chilli, spirullina and arrowroot - to beetroots, chestnuts and carrots.
Mark Rothko’s another mid century master, along with Polke, who obviously informs Skupinska’s work. Though the artist is circumspect when discussing this particular influence, in an interview accompanying the exhibition.
"My visual language points to the tradition of colour field painting,” she says. “For me, however, the reason for simplicity is a means to a different end. My primary dedication is to natural material, and the calmness of these simple forms and fields of colour are places where I can study and observe these different plant matters."
In other words, stop trying to pull out leaves and trees from these paintings; let the leaves and trees show themselves to you.
Magdalena Skupinska: Blending Elements is at Maximillian William (London). 09 June - 23 July 2022