It is difficult to fully perceive the large-scale mixed media drawing of Kinga Bartis Without, 2023. The exact material and the subject seem intentionally elusive. This is perhaps paradoxically what absorbs the viewer. Spending time in front of this piece gives the impression that we too are melting into this universe of mixed bodies, vegetation, water and earth.

With multiple eyes, faces and gestures overlapping like little waves on the water, Without captures an imperceptible moment and place that the artist does not strive to represent in minute detail but rather gives the freedom to evolve independently. It borrows the name of a planet inhabited only by women in Johanna Russ’s 1975 science fiction novel, The feminine man. Despite the potentially anti-trans nature of its source text, Bartis’ work exudes the same fluidity in the materials used as in the figures they fashion. The canvas seems to breathe its own materiality, as if its internal figuration was still not fixed and that tomorrow the image could still move. Examining the surface, I’m sent back to memories of the manipulation of charcoal, which is able to securely coat a surface while responding to the touch of a finger, the brush of a gentle breeze. It feels like any physical presence has the potential to affect this composition, a vulnerability that also gives it power.

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