Monday, 16 April 2012

"I do not expect to be a mother but I do expect to die alone"

Nestled in the chaotic area of Brick Lane, Olek’s exhibition at Tony’s gallery does not disappoint in reflecting the suburbs vibrancy and quirkiness. Her exhibition – “I do not expect to be a mother but I do expect to die alone” is the first UK solo exhibition for this Polish-born artist although I learn that she has a rather wide global following and has earned extensive recognition for her work in her current city, New York. On entering the gallery you are enveloped by Olek’s world, an exquisitely surreal environment. The entire gallery walls and floor have been covered in crochet. The space is filled with all kinds of domestic objects, each enrobed in brightly coloured multiple design crochet and featuring reoccurring motifs, such as her trademark camouflage print. Several explicit messages scatter the interior, often with a feminist slant which immediately remind me of the work of Tracey Emin. It is interesting to learn that the messages are indeed personal text messages that the artist herself has received, thus exposing intimate past relationship details. Through revealing her personal history, Olek hopes to explore modern concerns, which trouble her such as privacy, technology and communication.

In addition to these worries, Olek has been keen to reflect her experience of living in the UK and her assimilation into the British culture over the past few months. Iconic London objects such as the black cab have received the Olek ‘crochet treatment’ and as I suspected, the artist’s association with Tracey Emin is reflected by the exhibition’s title, which is a direct quote from an Emin appliqued blanket.

I suppose despite being initially visually pleasing with a cartoon-like, magical quality on closer inspection, things are not quite as they seem. This play between fiction and reality gives the work an ambivalent quality, which can actually be a little unsettling.

The time that would have gone into the creation of the room is astounding and I am particularly pleased that the artist has chosen to re-invigorate the craft of crochet, which is often disregarded as old fashioned and frumpy.

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