Visual artist working in photography and experimental videos and installations. Born in 1937 in Żywiec. In years 1957-1963 Natalia LL – born Natalia Lach-Lachowicz – studied at the PWSSP (currently the Academy of Fine Arts) in Wrocław. She has been a member of the Association of Polish Art Photographers (ZPAF) since 1964.
Visual artist working in photography, experimental videos and installations.
Natalia LL's entire, unusually abundant and multifaceted oeuvre might take its motto from a reflection contained in one of her texts from 1987: 'Art is the search for freedom. Freedom is a goal in and of itself, and art realizes that goal'.
As a student, she was involved in photography, graphics and painting. In the 1970s she broadened her scope to include performance art, experimental films, videos, installations and sculptures. In 1970 together with Andrzej Lachowicz and Zbigniew Dłubak she created the Perfamo Gallery, which was active till 1981. Since 1975 Natalia LL has contributed to the global feminist movement through works that explore the reaches of femininity and feminism.
In the early 1970s, Natalia LL's work built conceptual meanings upon seemingly straightforward messages. Intimate Photography - an installation derived from pop-art - had strikingly erotic overtones that bordered on the edge of pornography. These first projects were created in 1971 and 1972, titled Consumer Art and Post-Consumer Art. Here the model performs activities associated with consumption - mainly the literal consumption of suggestive foods, such as bananas, whipped cream, milk. These images were presented as a kind of photographic performances - much like a film. At this point, the artist used photography as a kind of imaginary language to reach a dreamlike realm where these acts were reduced to the level of pure aesthetics and sensual experience. Themes of "non-reality" become all the more palpable in her other works - Śnienie / Dreaming and Piramidy / Pyramids, which were related to traumatic personal (life-threatening) experiences. Natalia LL herself appears in many of her projects (eg. Przestrzeń Wizyjna / Sphere of Vision, 1973).
During the martial law period, Natalia LL's work was inspired by Christian mysticism, the divide between good and evil - even Satanism, though she did not participate in so-called 'Church Art' (Sztuka Przy Kościele) exhibitions (an area of politically-engaged art). Conceptualism was primarily a manifestation of the idea of materialism, but the general belief was that it could lead to specific formal asceticism and thus did not confine the spiritual sphere of art. Natalia LL became an artist who created her art based on a constant internal dialogue between the psyche and the body, which can be regarded as an extremely successful continuation of body art. But her attitude, while it undoubtedly stems from very personal experience, carries a dimension of universality. In her work, we deal with forms of existentialism and transcendence, while taking cues from biblical inspirations.
The artist created very suggestive, imaginative, somewhat disturbing pieces under the title Puszysta Tragedia / Downy Tragedy. They present the demonic, bloodthirsty artist swallowing dolls. At the turn of the 80s and 90s, Natalia LL brought out a series of expressionist paint-photography and photography works, such as Trwoga Paniczna / Panicked Fear. These works can be considered among the highest achievements of Polish "staged photography". Pain, suffering, physical transformation of the body inextricably links to questions of the nature of Evil (Satan) and Good (God); the emergence of life and the inevitability of death.
In the first half of the 1990s, Natalia LL created installations in which she used her earlier photographic works (such as the aforementioned Consumer Art). They were presented in forms of slides projected on a white canvas. Her work is a constant competition between classical (conceptual, geometric) and expressive forms. The artist has a rare ability to combine chaos and order in one piece, such as in Platonic Forms which is the best exemplification of her art. However, Natalia LL's '90s creativity is not eclectic. Despite the use of her earlier work, she discovers new qualities (values), replacing their current character (eg. Consumer Art or Sphere of Panic). She can easily operate with any material (eg. fabric), which not only shows her professionalism but also demonstrates a wide repertoire of skills gathered thanks to a proper academic education.
The most important in her work seems to be the impact of conceptualism and body art. Her work combines intellectualism with biological changes, which also forced a questioning of the basis of existence and human nature. The artist had the courage to abandon photo-medialism and eventually feminism to embark on further exploration of true art. The artistic idea, together with her artistic development increasingly takes upon existential and metaphysical issues. In her 1997 Dusza Drzewa / Spirit of the Tree, she makes use of the Far East concept of reincarnation to explore natural and supernatural themes.
From the beginning of the Twentieth Century, her art has provided independent commentary comments on vital social and political issues, but at the same time, she remains focused on her own personal problems, mainly referring to the traditions of body art. This direction, in addition to conceptualism and endless questions about the nature of art, turned out to be decisive for her artistic creativity and achievement. Today Natalia LL continues to explore these themes, even drawing up her older pieces and reworking them – looking at the process of change in the human form – and other living beings.
In 2007 Natalia Lach-Lachowicz began to produce a series of works called Futrzasta Włochatość / Furry Hairiness and Softness of a Touch / Miękkość Dotyku, compositions made using replicated fragments of her works of 30 years previous entitled Animal Art. These were self-portraits made of the artist photographed covering her naked body with a fur. However, this time she only exposes fur-covered fragments. Yet it seems that this is the way to reach the core of Animal Art. In both versions, we see the animal element dominated by the human's control of the environment and the pose. The animal – reduced to a furry attire – appears like a luxurious toy, a source of pleasure, a safe extraction of nature in an artificial man-made environment. On the other hand, the woman's body covered fur can be viewed as a 'bestial' mechanism of nature, equally reduced to the function of a gadget subject to the criteria of luxury and pleasure. The fragments of fur-covered parts are composed in such a way as to produce some geometrical patterns, yet it is only an imitation of true geometry. The end result is a sort of mandala, in which the shape of the hair and its colourful contrasts create rhythmic and dynamic constructions in which the axis of the composition is clearly visible.
Natalia LL's works are part of the collections of: The National Museum in Wrocław, The National Museum in Gdańsk, The National Museum in Warsaw, The Museum of art in Łódź, The Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, The Silesian Museum in Katowice, The Frauen Museum in Bonn, The Museum of Modern Art in Lubljana, The Ludwig Museum in Cologne, The International Center of Photography in New York, the Musée National d'Art Moderne, The Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.
Selected solo and group exhibitions:
- Polnische Kunst 1973. Malerei und Plastik aus Polen, Kunsthalle, Mannheim
- Polish Photography, Kassel and Nuernberg
- Polish Contemporary Photography; Tokyo, New York, Kassel, Chalon-Sur-Saonne
- V Biennial of Polish Poster, BWA Katowice (prize)
- Polish Contemporary Art; Copenhagen, Aalborg, Mannheim
- Foto '73 - District exhibition of photography ZPAF, BWA Wrocław
- IX Biennale de Paris, Musee d'Art Moderne, Paris
- Internationale Kunstmark, Cologne
- Photography as Art; Zagreb, Beograd, Maribor
- Atuele Kunst aus Polen, Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede
- Arte Fierra, Bologna
- Offer, Labirynt Gallery, Lublin
- XI Biennale Internationale d'Art, Palais del'Europe, Menton
- Frauen machen Kunst (feministic art), Galerie Magers, Bonn
- Magma, Museo Castelvecchio di Verona, Verona and Palazzo dei Diamonti, Ferrara
- Boundary stages of photography (exhibition and symposium), ZPAF Gallery, Katowice
- La Carte Postale, Malacorda Gallery, Geneva
- Frauen machen Kunst, Wolfsburg Castle
- 03-23-03 Project/Performances, Museum of Contemporary Art, Montreal
- CEAC-Video, Center of Art, Toronto
- Dreaming, Mała Gallery, Warsaw
- Seance Reading St. John of the Cross, BWA Poznań
- Seance Dreaming, PERMAFO Gallery, Wrocław
- Several seances of Dreaming entitled Pyramid, performed in the big model of pyramid, Wrocław-Stabłowice
- Exhibition Pyramid, PERMAFO Gallery, Wrocław
- Troisième Symposium International d'Art Performance, Oeuvres Plastiques des Artistes de la Performance, Lyon
- Typisch Frau, Bonner Kunstverein und Magers Gallery, Bonn
- Feministische Kunst Internationale, Nijmeegs Museum
- 70-80: New phenomenon in polish art of 70ties, BWA Sopot
- Polish Photography in Seventies, BWA Lublin
- Unidentified Energies, PERMAFO Gallery, Wrocław
- Labyrinths of Self-consciousness (the exhibition accompanying International Drawing Triennale), Historical Museum, Wrocław
- Vision Space (installation: projection of the picture showing a head on the field of chairs covered with white cloth), Stara Gallery BWA, Lublin
- Natalia LL: Raum der Panik (installation), IFA Gallery Friedrichstrasse, Berlin
- performance Europa at the exhibition "Kunst/Europa", Bonner Kunstyerein, Bonn
Participation in exhibitions:
- 1st Meeting of Active Art (installation: Vision Space), Wieża Ciśnień Gallery, BWA, Konin (text: Łazy Avant-garde)
- Passagen der Photographie: Aktuelle Photo-kunst aus Polen, Schloss Werkersdorff
- KUNST/EUROPA (installation: Panicky Sphere), Schloss Agustusburg, Bruehl
- New Spaces of Photography (installation: Gnothi Seauton), Museum of Architecture, Wrocław
- 20th Century Art Collection of Art Museum in Lodz, CBWA Warsaw
- 70 Jahre polnischer Photoavangarde, Kultur-form, Rheine
- Individual Art or Republic of Independent Artists, Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw
- Polish Women-artists, National Museum, Warsaw
- 19th International Biennial of Graphic Art, Modernę Galerija, Ljubljana
- Photography and Space (installation of the works from the series Soul of a Tree), Galeria FF, Łódź
- Berührungen - Tradition und Gegenwent Breslauer Fotografie, Galerie Lichtforum, Vienna
- FOTO – Aspekte Fotomedialekunst aus Polen, Museum Kunst Palas, Düsseldorf
- 2 ou 3 choses que j'ignore d'elles, 49 Nord Gest Frac Lorraine, Metz, Francja (works from the series Consumer Art)
- Berliner Liste 07 - International Art Fair, presentation made by Foto-Medium-Art Gallery of Kraków, artists: Codemanipulator, Kinga Dunikowski, Wincenty Dunikowski-Duniko, Natalia LL (Consumer Art)
- 30th Anniversary Show Galeria Foto Medium Art, Kraków
Author: Krzysztof Jurecki, Muzeum Sztuki w Łodzi, March 2004. Translated by Sylwia Wojda, March 2011. Edited by Agnieszka Le Nart in March 2011.