(Scroll down for show-specific statements)
My work begins with forays into the night to take photographs. I then paint my chosen images in oil on canvas. I spend hour upon hour painting, a complete opposite to the brief moment it takes to make a photograph. This tension between the instantaneous photographed image and the hand made painted image influences the way in which the final work is read. Photography suggests a fleeting moment, painting makes the image a solid, fixed object. Remaking the photographed image in the slowed down time of painting invites closer observation. Something that may have been overlooked or seen at a glance suddenly becomes meaningful.
My paintings have often been described as being similar to a film still, that the environment represented in the painting exists somewhere within a fragmented narrative. There is a suggestion of a moment before and a moment after that remains unseen, the environment in the painting carries a message you can’t quite decipher. Thus, the viewer responds according to their own feelings and subconscious associations, becomes immersed in that imaginary space, the subject, the one that the story is about.
It is environments with this ambiguity of meaning that I seek when I am hunting for images to paint from. I am interested in the psychological dynamics that can occur in these environments, particularly a sensation that Freud described as the Uncanny which can literally be translated from the English word as “the unknown” or the German as “the unhomely”. It’s a sensation related to ideas about home, how our imagining of that place acts as an anchor both physically and emotionally and how an absence of this idea can destabilse our sense of belonging and location in the world.
The sensation of the uncanny exists where a familiar environment takes on an unfamiliar life, it’s usual meaning becoming obscured. It allows in other, opposite meanings revealing a sometimes disconcerting duality in environments that usually act to re-affirm our place in the world. What is homely, known and safe can become ambiguous and frightening. An unknown presence intrudes on our feeling of comfort and security. It seems that our individual identity is no longer the central hub from which the world is ordered into meaning, we are immersed in an environment that regardless of us seems to carry its own meaning and life that acts upon us. Freud points out , however, that it is the individuals subconscious that creates this meaning. According to him it is the “return of the repressed” that gives rise to a sensation of the uncanny, that it is a resistance to the other, opposite meanings that can invade the idea of home which fuel the uncanny experience. The environment only acts as a mirror to the subconscious with all its unacknowledged fears and desires.
I am interested in the way that this idea of dual meaning is played out at night when the familiar surroundings of home are made mysterious by darkness. Darkness makes the known visible world unknowable and it is human nature to fill in the void of darkness with all sorts of fearful imaginings. On the other hand the sense of mystery this can evoke can work to make the banal strangely arresting and beautiful, as though the known limits of our everyday existence become expanded to include things more magical and exotic. The night seems to have a secret life of its own.
– Halinka Orszulok
Show-specific Artists Statements:
‘Springwood’ – Boutwell Draper Gallery, 2009 (Catalogue essay by Carrie Miller)