REDMILK MEETS WERONIKA GĘSICKA, PHOTOGRAPHER AND VISUAL ARTIST FROM POLAND. HER WORKS ARE SURREAL MANIPULATIONS OF ANONYMOUS’ MEMORIES, GLOSSED DIGITAL COLLAGES WITH A VINTAGE TOUCH. HERE SHE SHARES HER STORY, INTERESTS AND UPCOMING PROJECTS.
Tell us something about your background and how did you get into photography.
I became interested in photography during my studies at the Academy of Fine Arts. I studied at the graphics department, which offered many various classes. At that time, I was more engaged in painting – however, photography started interesting me more and more, and it soon became the basic medium in my projects. What seemed the most interesting for me was its seeming objectivity. We usually believe photographs as we believe our own eyes, and we think they reflect reality. I am interested in any attempts at trying to show that this can be a very deceptive impression.
What does it mean memory to you?
In my opinion, memory is equivalent to identity. We are who we are because we have a memory continuity. We build the feeling of self-identity on the basis of the memory that we are still the same people as we were from childhood up until the present time. We can look at memory from so many perspectives that, actually, most of the aspects of our everyday lives are related to it in one way or another.
What drew you to explore the world of anonymous archive images? And what lead you to modify vintage pictures through digital technologies?
I am interested in any materials related to memory, so various archives have been in my area of interest for a long time. I frequently browse various collections on the Internet, image banks, libraries. What attracted my attention were anonymous stock photos, since they give you a wide field for your own interpretation. There are no particular surnames or stories attached to them, there are only key words and images to which we can assign many various meanings. Digital alterations takes them out of the “archive” tab and shows that history is mixing with the present and it can be re-interpreted in many ways.
How do you think your art and your images will be perceived fifty years from now?
This is a very interesting question to which I would also like to know the answer. Most of the photos I work on is from the 1950s and 1960s, so from approximately half a century ago. It would be a very interesting situation if, after another 50 years, somebody else used my collages as the basis for their projects and modified them in such a way, and by using such techniques, which would tell you something about those times. However, I believe that artists do not have too much control over what will happen with their works in the future. It sometimes happens that some things that went unnoticed may be rediscovered, and others may be popular for just a moment, but do not earn their place in the history of art. These are very fascinating processes and, most probably, every artist would like to know how it will be in the case of their art.
Why did you chose “Traces” as the title of your photographic serie?
According to the definition, “Traces” are “signs proving that something existed or took place”. On the one hand, such traces are archive photographs which became the basis for my works, and on the other hand – all of my tampering with these photographs is also a kind of trace which I leave behind.
How would you describe your own aesthetic?
I think that I am moving close to the borders of surrealism, whereas, what is important to me apart from the form, is the idea of the project itself. To be honest, I always try to match the form to a particular work and try not to get attached to a certain aesthetics, although we may always subconsciously work within a certain area.
What’s beauty for you?
For me, “beauty” is a subjective impression which causes certain emotions. It is usually very hard to define, it seems that it cannot be dissected. What is beautiful to me is that which, in the world of many visual stimuli, will make me switch off for a longer while and make me want to return to it in my thoughts. It does not have to be an only aesthetic impression, sometimes the mere fact of making a strong impression is what is beautiful.
What’s the image (a painting, a photo, a movie frame, etc…) that had the biggest impact on yourself and your work?
I think that in each of my projects you can find various inspirations from the world of art, culture, or pop culture, which had an influence on me in any part of my life. In the “Traces” series, this may be my old fascination with American movies from the 1950s, musicals in particular. They have their own specific coloring, light and scenography, which gives these movies a very specific atmosphere. They seem to be suspended between truth and fiction. Most of the times, we see from the very beginning that this a world which was entirely made up – however, we quickly get attracted to its charm. The photographs which I have used to create the “Traces” series are accompanied by a similar atmosphere. The project I am currently working on formally refers in a way to the theme of still life in art, in particular to the hushed Flemish and Dutch paintings. As I have mentioned previously, painting used to be very important for me, so these various old inspirations tend to appear in my works in an apparent, or a less apparent, way.
If you could have an imaginary conversation with three artists, icons or celebrities, dead or alive, who would you wish to talk to and about what?
Being able to talk to people who were pioneers in their field would surely be fascinating. It is always interesting to know the road somebody went through to create something ground-breaking. This would most probably be the case when talking to the pioneers of photography, Nicéphore Niépce or Louis Daguerre. During my time at the Academy, I have experimented a lot in a darkroom, I have tried many old photography techniques, modified them, and created my own. Surely, I would like to find out, step by step, how they made their discoveries. I would also probably stand in a long line to talk to Pablo Picasso, who was both an outstanding artist, an icon of his times, and a celebrity – and everyone was interested in his private life. His constant need for artistic search is what probably fascinates not only me. Despite his success and recognition, which he has achieved very early, he kept surprising with new things up until the end of his life. I am also fascinated with the icons of pop culture, the image of which we all know today, and we see it not only in old photographs, but also on mugs, t-shirts, notebooks etc. The factors which decide that some people become icons are very interesting. A conversation with e.g. Marilyn Monroe would be exciting – at one point, she became a prisoner of her own image.
Tell us something more about your interests:
– favorite books: I consider many books as my favorite, but from the most recent ones, which in some way influence my perception of reality, very interesting are “The Language of Things: Understanding the World of Desirable Objects” and “B is for Bauhaus” by Deyan Sudjic. In the contemporary world with a surplus of objects, this is a really interesting attempt at ordering reality.
– movies: I am a huge fan of the graphic, deceiving the eye, album cover of “Nite Versions” by Soulwax, the bold conceptual cover of “Unknown pleasures” by Joy Division, but also the absolutely cult “Abbey Road” by the Beatles, which is one of the most often imitated covers in the history of rock.
– record covers: I do not have a single favorite movie, I find elements that fascinate me in various movies from various genres and periods. I am fascinated with e.g. the anxiety of the movies made by Michael Haneke, I was particularly impressed with “The White Ribbon”. I also find the atmosphere of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies interesting, and the noticeable inspirations by painting, e.g. by Edward Hopper, whose works appear as film frames in “Psycho” or “Vertigo”. “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” by Robert Wiene is also an outstanding movie, and it had a very big influence on the development of cinematography.
Which upcoming projects are you excited about?
I am currently working on the completion of the “Traces” series, which I would like to close with a book and exhibition. There is still a lot of work to be done, but I hope that it will be possible to accomplish everything. There is also a new series in the making, which is a quite difficult, but at the same time exciting, challenge.
Official Website weronikagesicka.com / @wgesicka