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Bartek Jarmoliński »

Men’s Day II/ 10.06.-31.07.2017/ open Tue-Sat 12-14

Bartek Jarmoliński has decided to take a closer look at what is termed masculinity, wondering to what extent it is culturally imposed and how much it is a real, internal need. His multi-layer collages are a visual guide to recesses of male psyche, burdened with the emotional costs of adapting to the requirements of reality. But not only that – it is also an attempt to make contact with his own "soft" ego. Men in embryonic position, looking like they were sleeping resemble defenceless, delicate creatures, wishing to protect themselves at all costs from the overwhelming world. For the artist the desire to fulfil social and cultural expectations is almost always associated with trauma, personal tragedy, complete misunderstanding, hence Jarmoliński’s works contain gestures of powerlessness, fear and loneliness, and most interesting, they also evoke the desire to care for men, fragile, unstable, constantly struggling with their own, chaotic life.

 

The concept of masculinity is undergoing a significant transformation. Psychologists warn that men are losing their identity, suffering from personality and emotional paresis which stops them from growing up - they don’t know how to form relationships, they find it increasingly harder to decide on their careers, and the ideal of a real man who builds a house, begets a son and plants a tree is becoming only a mythical fantasy. In other words, men just don’t know who they are.

New expressions which have been coined effectively castrate them of culturally defined masculinity, for instance the seemingly charming "mommy’s son", the frequently used "guy with no balls" or simply "fairy". These more or less aggressive expressions reveal social attitude to otherness, and to those breaking away from the established patterns and definitions. Bartek Jarmoliński has decided to take a closer look at what is termed masculinity, wondering to what extent it is culturally imposed and how much it is a real, internal need. His multi-layer collages are a visual guide to recesses of male psyche, burdened with the emotional costs of adapting to the requirements of reality. But not only that – it is also an attempt to make contact with his own "soft" ego. Men in embryonic position, looking like they were sleeping resemble defenceless, delicate creatures, wishing to protect themselves at all costs from the overwhelming world. For the artist the desire to fulfil social and cultural expectations is almost always associated with trauma, personal tragedy, complete misunderstanding, hence Jarmoliński’s works contain gestures of powerlessness, fear and loneliness, and most interesting, they also evoke the desire to care for men, fragile, unstable, constantly struggling with their own, chaotic life.

The artist is thus developing empathy, but avoiding labels and unhealthy fascination or ridicule. They are juxtaposed with collages containing ancient images, Renaissance ideals of masculinity, bursting with testosterone and big muscles. Today we are dealing with a similar image - men go to the gym to take care of their bodies, and that has become a determinant of contemporary fitness also incorporating current definitions which try to redraw the boundary again between manhood and ordinary effeminateness. These projects fit in with Jarmoliński's artistic strategy, which boldly states that men are not the stronger sex, and the myth of masculinity has accumulated too many stereotypes which are difficult to cope with.

By introducing the aspect of identity the artist also touches upon the problem of controlling male sexuality, referring to the dark events of the Second World War World, and reminding of the fact that homosexuality was then perceived as a dangerous disease to be tackled at all costs, because it threatened biological survival. What is private and intimate was suddenly brutally drawn into the daylight and subjected to cruel evaluation.

In his works Jarmoliński deconstructs masculinity, makes it the object of private observation, without providing a unequivocal diagnosis, except one that today masculinity does not need any definitions, that human identity and sexuality cannot be confined to a final homogeneous framework.


Zuzanna Sokołowska