Submission
Maciej Nowacki

Sweet Dance of Doom

The exhibition Sweet Dance of Doom by Maciej Nowacki is curated by Šárka Koudelová. Maciej Nowacki has been preparing the exhibition while taking a part of the artist-in-residence programme by Studio PRÁM.


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In the last two years, the painterly approach of Maciej Nowacki (1991) has established as the contrast between formal elements. Almost illusively, the figures which our visual memory immediately ranks either among the specific, notoriously known sculptural works of art or among the conventional classical canon of figurative sculpture, ascend from the surfaces of the abstract space where Maciej examines the physical nature of the paintwork and lets the colour soak from the raw canvas underside. A free territory of only slightly controlled coincidence, filled up with the flourishing colour, as though creating mycelium for conceptually selected appropriations of embossed or 3D figurative motives, whose sculptured rigidity contrasts with its environment, similar to the chemical reaction.
Paintings which Maciej created during his stay in the Studio Prám deliver a consistent message, a subtle social commentary, which we can read in the tension between dramatic character of figures of adult men and playfulness of chubby little boys. Putti danzanti – dancing boys – is a popular motif in the Italian Renaissance and unsurprisingly represents beauty, innocence, and carefree flamboyance of boyhood, its naivety as well as fresh energy. Their charming frivolity contrasts with muscular exaggeration of Laocoon fighting for life and men’s faces shouting in cramps. The initial model of the small format painting of the shouting man is nothing darker than the sculptural group “Comrades” by Arno Breker – an architect and sculptor working for Nazi Germany. Not only Maciej investigates a slightly horrific duality of the Aryan idealism, i.e., its Nazi and inevitably erotic aspects, but primarily also current struggles within masculine identity. Toxic masculinity of an aging man with the so-called conservative values who, at the last minute, hysterically tries to seize power, divest a woman, weaker and different of decision-making, and to stop the transformation of the society as well as his own aging, is maybe too slowly replaced with a new generation of “boys”, peacefully refusing old orders based on strength, aggression, egoism, and fear of endangering their own position. The current situation in Maciej’s home country – Poland – shows how slow and difficult the replacement of shouting old men can be.
Displayed paintings show another recurring motif – a snake. In addition to the primary phallic denotation with the main thematic axis of the exhibition, traditionally, the snake is a symbol of sin as well as medicine. The snake is the bearer of the poison, which also has a healing potential. Are we able to utilize these dual properties of the serum in the current pandemic? If every crisis is a chance for change, can we live to see the transformation of masculinity and healing of the entire society?
Despite the feeling of entropy and inevitableness of the fall, Sweet Dance of Doom is not only a bitter hedonism or cynical dance on the graves of “straight white males”, who have driven the world into doom by their desire for infinite growth. It is a playful and little spiteful capering in the circle of the joy from the coming change. /Šárka Koudelová, 2021/