The Worlds of Alienation by Christoph Woloszyn
“Beyond reality” – that was the objective of many artists in the 1920s who dedicated themselves to surrealism, a movement that reacted to (among other things) the new dream interpretations and psychoanalytical insights of Sigmund Freud. They realized that, alongside and outside of the real, subjectively experienced world, there had to at least be another plane in the field of human experience and knowledge – the subconscious. The window was thus opened to a seemingly unendingly vast landscape of emotions and experiences. Today’s artists continue to benefit from this – like the Hagen-based photographer Christoph Woloszyn.
As Max Ernst, one of the prominent representatives of surrealism, once did, he combines things, observations, traumatic events and dreams into unconventional metaphors for life where, in one of the first photo series of this position he’s developed over nearly ten years, he concentrates on two themes: the human body and nature. Tree, vein, mist, rock formation, fin, palm branch, bark, seasonal impressions, forest provide us with the associations for a new, grotesque, bizarre, adventurous, or even mind-expanding relationship with the phenomenon in our evolved, familiar, but also endangered surroundings. In these digital photo fantasies, human and nature coalesce into a masterfully composed, creative alienation technique.
In these metamorphoses and transformations, Woloszyn is very close to the religious pantheism philosophy of one Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. God shows Himself through and in nature as the Maker and Ruler of our visible cosmos. Man, in his haughtiness and drive to subjugate all, endangers this intrinsically harmonious connection between nature and the homo sapiens, who unfortunately conducts himself again and again as if he were unaware. Japan’s unbelievable disaster in the nuclear power plant of Fukushima, but also the wars and oppressions flaring in many unpacified regions of the world, could potentially cause Mother Earth to lose her patience for good. Man should and must actually relentlessly and consistently advocate protecting the earth, preserving it, appreciating the divine in everything about it, and finally gratefully accepting creation as a gift. It would be wonderful, and save the world and humanity, if this realization were at least to gain long-term acceptance. Approaches were and are discernible time and again – and then comes the self-induced catastrophe, the man-made chaos, the knowingly initiated process of exploitation and depletion. We all have to bear the consequences. It is an intergenerational contract when we care for our earth, our natural surroundings, and live with it and in it. There is no better argument for man’s future prospects.
The surreal image motifs of Christoph Woloszyn move about in this meshing of responsibility and insight, of present and future. A native of Poland born in 1959, he came to Germany in 1987. He has already worked in photography for several years – although in the classical sense, he previously stood in the tradition of landscape painting. However, the combinatorial possibilities of digital technology drew him like a magnet to photography. His work has many facets – one of which we will get to know here in this exhibition titled “Body Structures”. Woloszyn restricts this pool of motifs, which he collects and constantly expands like an archaeological archivist, to these differently sized formats. As has been said:
The naked, that is the uncovered, radically stripped body, mostly that of women as an homage to the feminine and the aesthetically grounded projection of man, mutates into a natural landscape.
It becomes stony and jagged, augmented by the cloudiness of a dream, enlarged into a visual adventure, reinterpreted into emotional inspiration. Nature clothes the body that was previously totally exposed. Plants, branches, leaves, and stones structure the human mass and the human dimensions. A union, a marriage takes place: between the fundamental, protective, even foreign habitat and the individual abilities of the human mind, the senses and the act. In this interplay, the soul reveals its true nature. Woloszyn’s photographs carry us away into the paradisal primal state, when man and nature still mutually and equally tolerated and accepted one another. His variations on surrealism turn to utopia and vision: in dreams, man and nature are one sumptuous, but mutually supportive unit. He himself would have to explain the extent to which his photo collages, with their luxurious color palette, convey religious themes and ideological content.
All the same, we can enjoy these freely conceived, yet strictly conceptualized fantasy impressions, indeed staged by light and color choice as well as object components – as messages of a newly created, intimate dialogue between all of us, between the photographer and the inner and outer world, between heaven and earth, between existence and supernaturalism. In a sense, Woloszyn gives us a corridor that we can walk with our eyes, from which we can step out in the various directions of an image and thought architecture, if we so choose. The photographer emphatically and fantastically opens for us these structures he has sketched out which, nevertheless, lead back to ourselves. For this loop that first starts with us, in order to lead back into our own areas of imagination after a spiritual co-view with the artistic ego, has an innovative and magical effect on the dreamer of the image. Woloszyn suggestively drags us into his phantasmagoria. A fascinating process, by which we are occasionally also surprised and provoked.
That is the nature of art, however; that it leverages laws and rules, that it realigns our view to the magic of the unknown or even the innocent, that we have to reorient ourselves in order to set out with this visual experience in an unknown land, where – as an ironic commentary – the people grow on trees.
With this first presentation of Christoph Woloszyn (his imaginative artist’s name: Xelix), Jenny Canales is exhibiting renewed proof of how richly the cultural region on the Ruhr, the Emscher, and the Lippe continues to reveal and renew itself. And: the joy of discovery with which the gallery owner appreciates her voluntary office and gives a myriad of artists a platform as a chance.
The exhibiting artist may therefore forgive me if I quickly incorporate the city of Hagen, his main place of residence with lots of green and the most beautiful, real experience of nature, in this context of the Ruhr area.
I would like to wish this exhibition and the “Kunst in der City” (Art in the City) forum many more such discoveries. Old Goethe, as I am quite sure, would likewise enjoy this, at times skeptically roughened and critically reflective, joy of nature with which Christoph Woloszyn confronts us. In light of these unknown and unforeseen impressions, he would presumably write a Faustian, demonic, mythical ballad. But all other natural poets will also search out new fuel for their own literary work in these motif disassociations.
(Art historian, author, and editor)