Maja Godlewska (Polish, 1965 – )


I explore beauty, permanence and decay in my creative work. I look to phenomena that occur between the form and formlessness, order and chaos, things that seem permanent, yet are subject to change and evolution (such as clouds, stains, patterns of growth and decay). A human body may be perceived as a form very familiar and permanent, it has been praised as an expression of divine beauty, yet it may be a symbol of and it is a subject to decay. Rococo and Baroque architecture and frescoes are fascinating for their unprecedented formal solutions: ascending motion and swirling compositions that are similar to constellations, nebulae or cumulonimbus clouds and for their fleshy, ostentatious content. To me, they symbolize eternal beauty that transcends time.

Physically, they are subject to decay and eventually, to deterioration. They are literally beauty threatened by time, as in Tiepolo’s, a painter of my interest and admiration, depictions of Venus and Chronos. Frescoes, stuccoes, and ceramic tiles covered with water stains from leaking roofs and fungus growths provide me with endless source material. Their sublime form is slowly descending into chaos, into the formless.

I am also interested in large-scale natural phenomena that exist between the defined and the shapeless, in a perpetual state of birth and decay. I study weather, light conditions, cloud formations, images of hurricanes, and various forms of precipitation. During art residencies, in Iceland in 2007 and Greenland in 2009, I gathered raw material in the form of drawings, photographs, and video to be used in my paintings and installations. I focus on formal similarities between organic, asymmetrical forms of eighteenth-century ornamentation and patterns of weather and other natural phenomena.

Leonardo da Vinci advised artists to look into the formless (such as clouds and stains) in search for form and composition. How often we all half-consciously search for recognizable shapes in unfamiliar ones. In my work, I am attempting to reverse this process, searching for chaos, for the formless, in what we assume as defined and familiar. Bodies in my paintings become simply cloud like shapes, dissolved into organic textures, stains and drips, and become fragments of an organic universe.