Exhibition "Other Sisters" by Iwona Zając and Delaine Le Bas

The project Other Sisters draws from a collaboration between Iwona Zając and Delaine Le Bas. The artists had never met before, although they had seen each other’s works. The dialogue began with exchanging mail correspondence between two countries - Poland and the UK. In their letters, both Iwona Zając and Delaine Le Bas travelled back in time to their teenage days. On multi coloured paper they wrote from memory of that time. They described the world and the reality of the bygone years. Iwona and Delaine belong not only to different age groups, but also come from different socio-political contexts in which they grew up. Iwona in Gdańsk after the Solidarity, nearby the Shipyard, while Delaine in a Romani co-mmunity in rural Great Britain.

The letters mark a return to the deposits of their memory, which they stimulated by shared reading in the course of project development. The departure point for the initiative was a meeting between the two artists and the dialogue between them. Zając and Le Bas were on the lookout for shared elements of their stories and experiences. Theirs is a subjective story set against a political backdrop - of the Solidarity in Poland and Thatcherism in England.

Delaine Le Bas took interest in the motif of the Black Madonna, whose image was worn by Lech Wałęsa in his lapel. The Black Madonna - Sara Kali revered by the Roma community. In her exploration, the artist returned to the private history of her family - the history which for cultural and social reasons remains a taboo.

In turn, Iwona Zając found the memories of Margaret Thatcher’s visit to the Gdańsk Shipyard in her father’s documents; she came across archival issues of underground press, where the topic of religion recurred on a plethora of occasions.

Both artists use their works to penetrate the private sphere of life and the memory thereof. Through the process of acting out and recalling the motifs and events, they hint at the way the memory has compiled this information, while recollections have faded.

The project Other Sisters is a subjective map of shared interests, a dialogue of motifs, emotions and stories. Diverse cultural contexts render it difficult to determine a single and lucid dialogue line. The exhibition is structured by narrative maps drawn up according to the principle of mapping. Contradictory to academic cartography, mapping does not presuppose clear navigation - it rather generates a map that permits and justifies a moment of confusion, just like personal narrations are lost and blurred within the grand history.

The exhibition itself is a map. The viewer revolves around a number of themes shared by the two artists: growing up in an era of social and political transition, intimate family relations, discovering traumatic events from the history of Europe. These motifs operate as navigation tools for the viewer. The paths they choose lead them to their own understanding of the show.

The dialogue between Iwona Zając and Delaine Le Bas is an attempt at visualising their relation. A relation that transformed from a formal exchange of mail correspondence into an emotional and friendly involvement, personally and artistically.

Iwona Zając

Born in Gdańsk in Poland. She graduated from the Painting Department of the Gdansk Academy of Fine Arts. In her practice, she deals with the problems of the society and feminism. Her works focus on the family, women, and the search for identity.

For many years, she worked with wall painting. One of her best-known projects is The Shipyard, a series of templates on the exterior walls of Gdańsk Shipyard, presenting stories of shipyard workers about their life and their work. Iwona Zajac is a co-author of a book The Ideal Woman. From a guide to a dialog (together with Monika Popow) and movie The Shipyard Nike is leaving.

Selected exhibitions: The Foreign Woman, Kursaal Gallery, Southend, Great Britain, 2012; The Foreign Woman. Lost Identity, NCK, Gdańsk, 2012; Telling The Baltic, CCA Łaźnia, Gdańsk, 2012; Telling the Baltic, Bleckinge County Museum, Karlskrona, Sweden, 2012; Gasworks My Love, Artbus, NCK, Sopot, 2011; Ideal.Lab, Gdańsk City Gallery, Gdańsk, 2011; The Ideal Woman, State Art Gallery, Sopot, 2010; Mama, CCA Łaźnia, Gdańsk, 2009; 1118 Miles, The Town Hall Galleries, Ipswich, Great Britain, 2008; Repairs Department, Wyspa Institute of Art, Gdańsk, 2008; Mum, SPACES, Cleveland, United States, 2007.

Delaine Le Bas

British artist of Romani origins. Graduate of artistic studies at London’s Central St Martins College of Art and Design. Her elaborate installations incorporate embroidery, painting, drawing, sculpture, found objects and video. She takes interest in the topics of nationality, race, sex, but also childhood and family. In her works, she often deals with her own experience, tackling problems of the entire Roma community, such as homelessness, stereotypes and intolerance.

Selected exhibitions: Safe European Home?, Wiener Festwochen, Vienna, 2011; Reconsidering Roma ― Aspects of Roma and Sinti Life in Contemporary Art, Kunstquartier Bethanien, Berlin, 2011; Witch Hunt, Roundtable Gwangu Biennale, South Korea, 2012; Meet Your Neighbours, Akademie Graz, Graz, 2008; Paradise Lost, First Roma Pavilion, 52nd Venice Biennale of Art, 2007; Refusing Exclusion, Third Biennial in Prague, 2007; Room, Transition Gallery, London, 2005.

Special thanks for help and content-related consultations to the European Solidarity Centre and Ms Iwona Kwiatkowska.

Dialogue 13

Exhibition “Other Sisters” by Iwona Zając and Delaine Le Bas

Meeting with the artists: 18th Oct 2013, 18:00

Exhibition opening: 18th Oct 2013, 19:00

Exhibition: 19th Oct 2013 - 12th Jan 2014

Residency: 30th Sept 2013 - 24th Oct 2013

Curators: Katarzyna Szydłowska and Konrad Schiller

Venue: Gdańsk City Gallery 1, ul. Piwna 27-29

Gallery opening hours: Tue-Wed 11-17, Thu-Sun 11-19


Read more about the exhibition Houses as Silver as Tents at Zachęta - Narodowa Galeria Sztuki in Warsaw incliding the works of Delain Le Bas.