|Laura Pawela: An Interview With The Totally Thames Artist|
Exhibiting at Battersea Pump House this autumn
Laura Pawela remembers a carefree childhood with her two sisters and one brother, playing in their back garden, playing near the local coal mine: “I still remember the smell and playing in the heap near the mine…my playground.”
37-year-old Pawela also remembers parents who were creative, who didn’t focus on negative things, a life that “wasn’t so hard”. But this was a childhood in Poland under Soviet communism and there are other memories too: the recollections of a child who could only buy sweets from a special shop “it was allowed, but only if you had dollars”, more serious recollections such as her parents being denied travel abroad, darker reminiscences of food not being available in shops, tanks being present on the streets, the chaos that ensued when communism fell. Out of this shifting landscape, emerged the talented, charming, Pawela, a multi-faceted artist whose practice includes sculpture, photography, illustration, installation and videos.
Pawela’s other artworks also illustrate a history – her own, the lives of others, an object’s past. Some are truthful, some are enhanced. ‘Heart’ (2008), pictured left, is a piece of coal sculpted in the shape and size of a human heart. She recalls her childhood in Upper Silesia, often called the Black Land due to the coal mining in the area. The sculpture is a gesture to express her emotional bonding with Silesia, an area which she still feels strongly connected to, despite not having lived there for many years. ‘Untitled (Pig Skin)’ (2009), pictured below, is a found object – a fragment of pig skin that she found hanging on a tree branch, for birds to feed on. When she found it, it was dirty and as hard as stone, and she felt it must have been hanging on the tree for many months. To others it might appear strange or inexplicable but, to her, it looked like a piece of jewellery (hence her decision to ornament it further). She finds inspiration in the unnameable, the uncanny, the unusual.
Pawela’s work is thought-provoking and interesting. She plans to produce a full length film documenting the tale of the Utopian settlers. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing how that will be interpreted.