Known for his indistinct hybrid, photographic lithographs Stanislaw Lewkowicz (b. 1956, The Netherlands), now, further experiments with the photographic medium by blending traditional West Bengal painting and embroidered text with modern digital printing, hence creating a fusion of west and oriental, traditional and modern, handcrafted and machine work. In conjunction with GROETEN UIT CALCUTTA, a new series on Indian silk, Flatland Gallery presents the result of this fertile experiment, entitled TEERTH, for the first time at the gallery.
TEERTH, pronounced as the English ‘tears’, means literally place for pilgrimage. It is the name of a guesthouse, a home where Hindus find their last resting place awaiting salvation. TEERTH is now also the title of a 40 piece series about a journey undertaken by Lewkowicz in West Bengal, India, in the first months of this year. It takes the form of lithography, combined with digital printing, embroidered text, and 'patachitra', traditional West Bengal painting. Slightly different from Lewkowicz’s previous work where the photograph dominated the lithographs, these new, embroidered and drawn, elements enrich the surface giving room for an alternate imagery. Their incorporation is innovative and refreshing while strongly maintaining customs and traditions of the Indian land. Unknown in our western culture, 'Patachitra' is the centuries-old tradition of a vivid painting style accompanied by singing. It is recognizable by its use of vibrant, natural colors, powerful lines and vast brushstrokes. One of its most famous protagonists, Manu Chitrakar, created paintings in this West Bengal style for twelve works of the series. As foundation he used sketches and photos of Lewkowicz and interpreted them as he wished. The paintings were elaborated with lithographic and digital printing creating a unique fusion of Oriental with Western art.
Lewkowicz is not afraid to borrow and use stories, traditions and rituals of a, for him, unfamiliar culture. It is a journey along the borders of our various cultural identities, an objective observation of different worlds. TEERTH is the residue of such a journey, a pilgrimage from guesthouse to guesthouse, coloured and marked by the Hindu tradition. By combining and mixing 'patachitra' with lithographic and digital printing, the series derails from a photographic realistic testimony into fairy-tale storytelling, transcending any religious and finite link with the original ritual. Stillness and emptiness characterise the imagery, where one can only use its own imagination and thoughts for interpreting the works. Lewkowicz offers predominantly different perspectives of views of rooms. The usual cacophony of noises and fuss attributed to Kolkata and India in general are in distinct contrast with the images deployed by Lewkowicz. They breathe a certain meditative, calming and poetic atmosphere. The gaze of the foreigner upon a local tradition brings about the possibility of a meeting between west and east in all its forms and capacities.
Over the years Lewkowicz worked steadily on an oeuvre where lithography and photography embraced one another. In addition to these photographic lithographs, Lewkowicz has produced works for the public space. Overwhelming and sublime projects include amongst others the Arrival Hall 3 for Schiphol airport (1995), the mist sculpture for the Dutch Embassy in Berlin in conjunction with architect Rem Koolhaas (2004) and the 1 mile long Bells Ribbon in Berkel Rodenrijs (2006-2011). In 2013, Lewkowicz realized a 104-meters long light sculpture at the A50 highway near Eindhoven. With the help of cameras Lewkowicz beamed the traffic movements.
Stanislaw Lewkowicz was artist in residence at the Calcutta Art Research Foundation (CARF) and was supported by the Mondrian Fund.