Lux et Umbra
The installation awarded the Lorenzo Medici medal at the Florence Biennale of the Contemporary Art in 2021.
Womanhood is multi-layered, complex and ambiguous. In the Medici Tomb, Michelangelo showed the man and the woman as Day and Night. Day is light. Night is darkness. It is impossible to separate light and darkness, similarly as it is impossible to separate manhood and womanhood. One is united with the other and follows from it. In “The Science of Logic” Hegel wrote that people ˗ imagining the Existence in the form of pure light and Nothingness in the form of pure night ˗ experience the same, i.e.
Nothingness, because in absolute light we see as little as in absolute darkness. “Pure light and pure darkness are two voids that amount to the same thing. Only in determinate light (and light is determined through darkness: in clouded light therefore), just as only in determinate darkness (and darkness is determined through light: in illuminated darkness therefore), can something be distinguished, since only clouded light and illuminated darkness have distinction in them and hence are determinate being, existence.”
Light has always been in the centre of human interests and fascination and usually, related to the sun, has been referred to male gods. A number of old civilisations saw the supernatural powers in the Sun and even personification of God as such or a force directly subject to Him. The ancient gods of light were Greek Helios and Apollo or Roman Sol. The Medieval Christian theology applied the symbol of light to describe God, who was also portrayed as a man. This way or the other, perceiving light and its symbolic dimension, even though it has underwent various transformations through the ages, has also referred to the broadly understood excellence. The light, historically attributed to man, defined and solidified his position, which was bright, omnipresent, stable and unchallenged: the man exists and shines, taking over all the attributes of divinity. The case is different with the woman, who is most often torn apart, ambiguous, stretched between the light and the darkness. However, this does not put womanhood in a worse (occluding) position, but simply a different one ˗ autonomous, nuanced and complex.
The item created by Piotr Ostrowski especially for the Florence Biennale makes use of the image of the Woman from Michelangelo’s The Medici Tomb. The light, building the structure of the entire artwork and piercing it, enters into a relationship with multiple layers of glass/ paintings which, gradually concentrating, dim the light, inevitably progressing towards the darkness. The item was constructed in a way that the viewers can move around it, peeking in between the individual layers/ paintings, but without seeing them separately, always as an entirety that is summed up or its part. This offers a possibility of looking crosswise, “into the edge of darkness” which is, in reality, the effect of stratification of the multiplicity. Eventually, everything that we experience happens at the edge, in half-dusk, which is an intermediate state where the light and its absence meet. Everything that we see can happen in the “clouded light” or in the “illuminated darkness” somewhere in-between. This is where womanhood is.
Technique: Piotr Ostrowski experiments with glass as the primary material of his works. He combines the modern, structural properties of the material with the oldest, Medieval techniques of glass colouring and patination. By burning the manually applied painting layers in a temperature close to glass melting, they become eternally durable.
Lux et Umbra
Antique glass Patinated and coloured float glass
Tempered float glass
270 x 62 x 45 cm