For her solo show at IMT Gallery in East London, Newcastle-based artist Paola Ciarska’s minute paintings showcase the personal, domestic spaces of people she knows; this paradox of their display in a public gallery space is engaging, aesthetically beautiful and frequently amusing.
The press images released by the gallery show the paintings in full detail, but it is still a huge surprise to enter the space and see exactly how small they are, especially in relation to the wide white walls. Ciarska’s micro-environments are reminiscent of the early days of online gaming and each scenario is formulaic in terms of the artist’s distinctive style, yet it is clear that each painting is unique to its character.
Incorporating pattern into her practice is very much the aesthetically pleasing element of the work, as each room is bordered with a different pattern, again showing how the works are organised as a series. The female protagonists of each piece are naked in their spaces, again highlighting the intriguing private/public divide of showing the works which is integral to feminist doctrines but is not forcefully unpacked here. In one sense, each respective figure is clearly conveying that they are comfortable and free in their own space, yet equally there is a real sense of voyeurism on our part.
These domestic spaces are comforting in their familiarity, and are so tantalising and appealing that they are likely to gain Ciarska a significant following so early on in her career, given their ‘Instagrammable’ aesthetic and genuine devotion to the subject of each individual piece. Details including wooden floorboards and popular culture references such as Emoji cushions and The Simpsons on the television bridge the gap between high and low culture, between fine art and real life. Interestingly, the characters at play here are based on both friends and family and professional contacts; the latter is an entertaining addition given the intimate nature of the paintings, yet we notice that every inhabitant of Ciarska’s spaces is identical to the next: a Caucasian female with black hair. Anonymity in this visual form brings greater privacy to the work and disrupts the aforementioned balance; leaving us wondering which domestic space belongs to whom.
At a time where contemporary artists are pressured to make explicitly politically engaged artworks, it is nice to visit shows with substance and fun in equal measure, and that is certainly found here at IMT Gallery. Paola Ciarska is surely a bright talent for the future of contemporary art due in part to the various levels and layers to her work, from subtle investigations of private dwellings and behaviours to the reasoning behind their tiny scale; the potential in these bright and airy visions is clear to see, and they complement each other so pleasingly that viewers will be eagerly awaiting new work from this young artist.
Words by Issey Scott
Paola Ciarska, Cze??, Pani Ciarska at IMT Gallery, until 11 March 2018, 210 Cambridge Heath Rd, London E2 9NQ