ANKA DABROWSKA - 4 X 4
(AUGUST 07 - 30, 2008)
Anka Dabrowska makes very personal drawings on rather impersonal things. Found packaging items such as paper bags and champagne boxes and, more recently, wallpaper samples appear lovingly customised with geographical details of her native Poland . Fine pencil drawings of Warsaw tower blocks, shop fronts and street signage are subtly constructed from and around familiar Western commercial motifs and print designs with sometimes humorous, often unsettling consequences.
This testy marriage between autobiographical image and object with a previous history encourages a wider reading of the London-based artist's particular position between two very different cultures. Dabrowska's intuitive hybridisation of imagery, recalled from memory and data garnered from fact-finding missions home, describes the disparity between one's personal relationship to, and the collective identity of, a given place. Though playful, her transformation of everyday stuff prompts questions about the disciplinary boundaries of drawing; the materiality of the page or ground as between image and object. In circumventing the anxiety of the blank page Dabrowska is forced to negotiate a whole other set of formal and associative anomalies.
Dabrowska's assured linear style is both the stuff of graphic design dreams and photographic memory recall. The authority with which the marks have made implies technical accuracy, yet as multiple fragments, these pencil-executed details of places, objects and motifs also reveal the selective nature of memory. And though we are rarely party to the specifics of Dabrowska's memories of her ‘hometown' (the collective moniker for this particular series of works) the sense of transition (from Communist country to democracy) is ever present – there are many examples of crumbling Eastern Bloc architecture and militaria. The fusion of eastern and western European motifs a reminder of the many migration paths of Poles following the opening of the EU borders.
These works are disarmingly beautiful, for within the details lie many potential narratives concerning the state of things, on both a local and international scale. Dollhouse-cute tenement and retro-desirable shop buildings, crafted from champagne boxes, leave a bitter taste in the mouth: yesterday's Socialist ideals interpreted through the refuse of today's capitalist society. A selection of mini military helmets appear, on a brown paper bag, as cartoon candies or mushrooms that shouldn't be eaten, the item itself a memory of consumption and untimely regurgitation. The placement of Polish street signs on a McDonald's bag (indicating a two-tonne lorry load limit and the nearby proximity of a hospital) gently underscores the absurdity of this corporate player as sponsor for the Olympics. Singularly, they convey a sense of preciousness at odds with the critical focus of their maker; en masse a record of an urban landscape in flux – the territorial vagaries that separate place and site.
by Rebecca Geldard.