“If you go away as I know you must. There′ll be nothing left in the world to
trust. Just an empty room full of empty space“: These lyrics are from the classic
melancholic song “If you go away” by Jacques Brel, which Shirley Bassey covered
with haunting intensity and subtle strength.
If you go away is also the title of one of the five works Natasza Niedziółka
has selected for her presentation in the Kabinett section of Art Basel. Textual, musical,
and geographical references form the starting point for works that oscillate between
painting, drawing, and textile art and transform the canvas into a picture support for her
abstract stitching. Niedziółka has carefully planned all of the pieces, which belong
to different series, according to their format, color, thread, and stitching technique,
ensuring that they suit each other.
You always said is the central work in the presentation. Together with If you go
away, it belongs to Niedziółka’s Love Notes series. According
to Vanessa Joan Müller, these works are about “writing, calligraphy, and perhaps
also the deep emotion of love, which can be found somewhere on the margins or between the
lines […] potentially reminding us of how illegible the handwriting of some people
can be, or of abstract pictographic signs that no longer follow a lexical code, but rather
present the essence of writing in a pure form. […] More of an abstract syllabic form
of writing than a fictional alphabet, they transcribe what is not palpable and not nameable
into a sensuous texture of thread and canvas.”
Whereas the small work If you go away picks up bits and pieces of language – a
couple of sentences heard in passing from the song of the same name – and renders
these in coral and green colored thread, in You always said, Niedziółka has
translated an entire written work onto the canvas for the first time. In this historic
document from Korea from 1586, which has inspired the name of the presentation Letter to
You, a young widow expresses her deep emotions to her recently deceased husband in
a farewell letter that was buried with him. Against the yellow hues of the thread and the
grey of the canvas, she weaves calligraphic passages of the letter with hand-written
characters in warm red tones. We are tempted to try to decipher these, to follow them.
Years, letters of the alphabet, and fragments of words may be visible, yet they defy
legibility, revealing pieces of a story that cannot be grasped in its entirety.
Around these two works, Niedziółka groups two other works that are from her
Zero series along with the large individual work Dorsoduro, which is named
after a neighborhood in Venice. The image of this city, which has been written about
countless times and is characterized by many different associations and clichés, is
juxtaposed with Niedziółka’s own impressions and memories of moments
If the Kabinett at Art Basel is an “empty room full of empty space,” then
Niedziółka fills this space by creating a small cosmos through works that are
powerful and strong and tell of vulnerability, honesty, insecurity, and – most of all
– universal beauty.