“Lethe is the river that cleanses Dante in Purgatory, the one that wipes memories of the dead as they drink from it or bathe in it. The poet Sylvia Plath steps up from ‘the black car of Lethe, Pure as a baby’. It is an escape, a relief from our own physical limitations.”
In her collage-based portrait series, Sylwia Kowalczyk visualizes the often disjointed, piecemeal process of recalling the past. Each image is constructed using layers of cut and torn images that are re-photographed and enlarged. Just as our memories tend to change over time, Lethe illustrates how information can become compressed and distorted by the mind but still accepted as truth. Kowalczyk’s aesthetic focus on texture and materials, as well as the prominence of the human figure in each frame also suggests that this process of remembering is very much a sensory, embodied experience that cannot be divorced from the material world.
Sylwia Kowalczyk was born in Lublin, Poland and currently lives and works in Edinburgh, Scotland. She studied graphic design and photography at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow and completed an MFA in photography at the Edinburgh College of Art. Her work has been exhibited internationally and was recently featured in The Decisive Moment: Contemporary Polish Photography Since 2000 by Adam Mazur. This is Kowalczyk’s first solo exhibition in the United States.
Lethe is part of the Embodied: Asserting Self exhibition series, which is generously supported by Arlene Schnitzer and Jordan Schnitzer.