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In a multidisciplinary display of archival methodologies, Katarzyna Perlak invites conversations to form between queer and Catholic aesthetics, and folk practices. Perlak’s commission comprises a series of embellished tablecloths and Pajaki sculptures (also known as spiders), which are traditional Polish paper chandeliers that are hung to protect the home.
Continuing to develop a practice the artist refers to as “Tender Crafts”, the works engage traditional folk-craft methods from queer and migrant perspectives. My Grandma’s Doilies (2022) are a series of tablecloths originally made by, and inherited from, the artist’s late grandmother, Agnieszka Ponanta. The tablecloths have been hand-printed with family photographs and hand-embroidered by the artist with phrases and motifs that reflect on matrilineal inheritance, grief and queer identity. The tablecloths, invested with the communal labour of their makers, become a proxy for communion and conversation with a lost loved-one.
Though held in a different time and space, the objects bear the marks of intergenerational touch, knowledge and absence.The artist dedicates the work to her grandmother. Historically crafted for Christian, Pagan and folk celebrations, Pajaki are a material manifestation of Polish tradition. Weaving together an archive of kitsch ephemera, some parts of which were found in secondhand markets in Brent, other parts in London and in Poland—from fake flowers to found film photographs and discarded scratch cards—Perlak’s Pajakis entangle these traditions with a queer aesthetic of abundance in order to make visible their complicated lineages.
In the context of rising homophobia advanced by misguided nationalism and Catholicism in Poland, Perlak imagines these objects as queer talismans for stepping into spaces that might not always feel so welcoming. In the process, the artist alludes to the complex personal and collective archives from which identity is constructed, threading seemingly disparate influences that nevertheless meet in the web of inheritance.
Katarzyna Perlak is a Polish born artist, based in London whose practice employs video, performance, textiles and installation. Perlak’s work examines potentiality of affect as a tool for registering and archiving both present continuous and past historical moments. Perlak’s background is in Philosophy, which she studied in Poland, and Fine Art Media which she studied in the UK (Camberwell College of Arts and Slade School of Fine Art). She was part of the Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2017, and shows internationally, including: Diaspora Pavilion, 'Day of Learning', 57 the Venice Biennial, Art Night London 'I was, but just awake', Jerwood Arts 'SURVEY II', Leslie– Lohman Museum of Arts (NYC), The One Archive (LA) and Detroit Art Week.