by Dilpreet BhullarDec 13, 2022
The London-based artist Edward Lipski's fifth solo exhibition at Tim Van Laere Gallery, Antwerp, displayed a new body of sculptures that encompass the same hybridity as Lipski’s heritage rooted in Paraguay and Ukraine. The sculptures are a judicious mix of the thematic reference borrowed from tribal arts rooted in fauna and the modernistic language - a reference to Soviet sculpture. The contradiction inherited in the works of the artist is a meditation on the meaning spanning the time-space axis.
Lipski takes a deep dive into the research to gauge how the visual concepts have been altered throughout history. Lipski has fused different sculptural elements into a new visual language that crosses over the barriers of time and cultural appropriations. The presence of the elements such as imperial busts in Monkey Head, Brancusi’s kiss in Amoeba and modernistic monuments in Hand, make the artist a ‘cultural tourist’, who keenly observes the characteristics of different cultures and merges them in the new contexts. The in-between space Lipski dwells on borders on the historic output to the ‘stereotyping’ of cultures and the science-fictional tales based on certain cultural phenomena.
The Tim Van Laere Gallery has three different exhibition spaces including the white cube, the chapel and the outdoor patio. In an interview with STIR, Lipski walked us through the installations at three spaces, “In the first space I have displayed the sculptures in a way that reminiscence museums of civilisations where artefacts are extruded from their context. This way of presenting sculptures leaves room for narratives between the different sculptures, while simultaneously allowing the viewer to have an individual experience with one work. The second space could be experienced as a proto-religious room, where the three monkeys are reflecting the range of ‘human lack’ or the disconnected individual. Prayer monkey, Sky Watching Monkey and Testament are alone but could be seen as submitting to something greater than themselves.”
The widespread display was a reflection of the duality that runs within the array of works. Lipski traces the roots of in-between space visible in his works to his heritage - straddling between Paraguay and Ukraine, “My heritage has placed me in a hybrid condition, which has fuelled my interest to look for cultural connections that might seem incongruous. I try to find the most extreme cultural differences that exist. For instance: with this show at Tim Van Laere Gallery, I combined elements from animism with Soviet motifs. Animism and Soviet motifs are so different in reality that you would normally never find them together. It is like they exist in parallel universes. Or you could see them as a conflict between the modern and the archaic. My position is to entangle rather than to offer a critique of one or another. There is a very asymmetrical contradiction present in the combination of these subjects.”
He further expounds on this as he mentions, “This means that the opposite of the one thing is not the opposite that is expected. They are things that do not exist in the same framework, and therefore can only seem to appear to be contradictory.” To illustrate this with the work by Lipski, Cloth Monkey’s rough edges and angular structure reduce the monkey to an abstract shape. Harbouring on the modernistic Soviet architects and sculptural style, the Cloth Monkey is also a reference to the experiments on mother-infant relations by Harry Harlow in the 1950s.
The sculptures are made of concrete and steel materials that shaped the modernist era. His sculptures reveal the faults of the concrete - a very natural process that comes closest to the materiality of stone. Lipski states, “Concrete can be considered as a metaphor of both the earliest material of human expression - that being stone - and modernity. Concrete interests me in both its manifestation as utopian and dystopian potentials. I am attracted to the sensuality of concrete, its mass, its intransigence, its contrast to our flesh and bone.”
Just as certain sculptures could radiate fascination with the past, Lipski often makes connections with the rituals or mystical powers of an object. This is also present in his new sculptures since he adds magnetite to the cement mixture, which adds a magnetic field to the sculptures. “The challenges with this material,” Lipski argues, “were to discover how to keep it alive and organic.” The addition of magnetite changes the cement into something else. There is an element of strangeness there that is beyond cement. “I use cement as a hybrid mixture. I approach the cement-like organic material and by doing so allow an element of unpredictability in the process. I have to work with my physical limits and those of the material to discover something I could not have imagined.”
When Lipski says, “I am very much aware of the duality that is present in every image. There is a positive and a negative, and they can exist simultaneously within one piece,” he anchors not a single, but multiple understanding of the work. The liminality that Lipski visually translates in his body of work with a series of references cutting across sections of histories and geographies manoeuvres the audience to navigate the past in the present to see what the future holds.
The exhibition by Edward Lipski was on view at Tim Van Laere Gallery, Antwerp, until January 22, 2022.