Tayler Patrick Nicholas
“I was completely new, but I was also completely empty. […] With my own hands, I had to fill in that blank, little by little. With my own hands, I had to construct this thing called ‘I’ – or rather, make the things that constituted me.”
If there is a trail to the self, there must be a distance from it. But how can one quantify this distance? What kind of measurement units are to be used? Is it possible to calculate the space between me and my mirror image? The questioning of self-representation gives the conceptual core of the exhibition titled Ritual Trail to Self currently on view at FKSE Studio Gallery, Budapest. The exhibition presents a body of artworks resulting from a collaboration between two painters, Patrícia Jagicza and Patrícia Kaliczka.
The self-portrait reveals traces of an impossible distance – an out-of-body experience, that proposes selfhood through a kind of informed schizophrenia. If “presence is impossible except as co-presence”, who is this other I share myself with? Is the dichotomy of artist and model relevant in this case? Is the mirror or camera – the technical facade – the real eyewitness to this emergence of the self?
Jagicza and Kaliczka delve into further uncharted territory: the common plural. The exhibition proposes and provokes the sharing and exchange of internal realities, “the exposure of singularities to each other”. Even if the latent connections that bind these artworks together are left in part unseen, it is apparent that the self as linguistic term is not reserved in this exhibition for the individual, but becomes a collective game, a dialogue between the two artists.
In Jagicza’s painting titled Doppelgänger (2019), a soft light escapes from the blue monochrome background of the image depicting the two exhibiting artists alongside each other. A portrait and a self-portrait, or as the title suggests: a double self-portrait, an impossible identification that causes a glitch in the narrative of the self. Objectified by their artificial, constructed environment, the faces appear trapped in a two-dimensional plane. Decapitated, the two Patrícias seem to look straight at us, but the invisible thread of the gaze runs through the eye of a camera, mediating and authenticating the happening. The pendant of this painting is the large-format composition titled Melancholy (2019). Here the two artists are lying head to head seemingly unaware of each other. “There is proximity, but only to the extent that extreme closeness emphasises the distancing it opens up.” The viewer’s voyeuristic perspective does not give a chance to exchange glances with the depicted. The cold tones and the sculptural attention to form – evoking a kind of displaced classicism – further dismantle any idea of immediacy.
A plaster cast mask – taken from the face of Jagicza – is positioned in the corner. Uncharted, unnumbered, it exists outside of the exhibition, informing other pieces as a central symbol. Another version of this mask is less concealed in the exhibition: burdened by the weight of Jagicza’s private mythology, a tiny plastic stegosaurus steps on another plaster-cast copy of Patrícia’s head in St. Ego (2019), creating a valley of its own on the thus disfigured face. This playful diversion from the heavy topic of identity is echoed in the painting titled Random Tuesday (2019), a small-scale, witty piece by Jagicza where a hoodie is reversed to confront the face with complete, fuzzy darkness.
The appearance and disappearance of the face are central to other artworks as well by Jagicza. Suspended from the ceiling of the exhibition hall are four coral-like pieces titled SelfReef (2019). These spatial drawings creep around Jagicza’s absent face, resulting in an organic self-portraiture, that is more connected to touching than seeing. Precise but anonym, the face appears only from certain points of the space. As the absence of a face turns into the presence of it, the seemingly free-flowing coral reveals its concealed mimetic logic. In Julia Kristeva’s reading, coral appears as the prototype of drawing, and a precursor of the idea of incarnation. As Medusa’s severed head is placed on the ground in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, its’ leaking blood changes the seaweed into coral, crystallising it. This gradually solidifying, transformative aspect is an inherent part of the technique – PLA 3D pen – chosen by Jagicza. During the process of creating these pieces, the topography of the gypsum-cast head was the transitory support. Once the drawing was finished, the support became abandoned, leaving the lonely medium floating above.
Patrícia Kaliczka utilises depictions of her body and face as a starting point to locate the self. The strongest sense of identity is in the attentive gaze that interprets itself through the mirror. This mirror is in some cases explicitly shown, while in other cases it is disintegrated into the tectonically fragmented compositions. The banal fact that “one cannot look directly at one’s own face with one’s own eyes” – that the image of the self is always mediated and never immediate – is further complicated by the evocation of different styles, art historical temporalities that act as a framework through which one can emerge, appear. This is because the narrative of the self is always informed by previous manifestations and attitudes. In Kaliczka’s paintings, strikingly different systems of representation clash against each other, causing the viewer to step in and out of conflicting aesthetic modes. Lonely gestures – remnants of drawings and observations – dart across the ultrathin washes of colour, breaking occasionally into a fine-tuned naturalism. In certain dislocated details of Kalicka’s images, the underpainting becomes visible, revealing the layering of these complex images.
In Self-Portrait with Lambda and Mistletoe (2019) Kaliczka appears twice in three-quarter view. The softly painted upper portrait oscillates within its firmly defined outline, her gaze only gradually finding its way through the rich but reduced tonality of the surface. The other self-portrait is upside down, revealing Kaliczka’s process of painting, how she herself chooses different angles of interpretation while working on these compositions. The spatiality implied by the depictions is subverted by non-descriptive painterly gestures that trace the surface of the picture, positioning the agency of the self on the other side of the canvas.
This transformation between constrained portrayal and the explicit materiality of the act of painting becomes radically apparent in the image that partially lends its title to the exhibition: Ritual Trail to Sex (2019). There is a fistful of paint that protrudes from the canvas, a jarring, disruptive detail next to the ephemeral, over-exposed aura of the image. In another painting by the artist titled Measuring the immeasurable (2019), Kaliczka’s gesture reflects the glowing blue of Jagicza’s paintings: there is constant communication between the images, that is reinforced by the openness of Kaliczka’s paintings. The complete self is never shown in these paintings by Kaliczka. The body and the face remain separated by sheer personal ontology.
One small painting by Kaliczka is titled Self-Portrait as a doctor from various ages (2019). Painted on a Dr Hauschka-branded, shiny plastic construction, the image is a multilayer system of distinct symbols. Clean-cut design is paired with the symbol of the plague doctor and a beautifully rendered self-portrait. Under the visually conflicting imagery, there is a subtitle to the image, guiding our gaze and interpretation. The letters cast a shadow on the other side of the see-through plastic, revealing the transparency of the support and the opacity of the medium. The gothic font of the text reads “doctors don’t cure those who know them”. In the case of self-portraiture, the analogy of doctor and patient is fitting, but it also poses an ethical dilemma. Can one be one’s own analyst? Do we know ourselves at all? Or should we avoid naming ourselves as me and dissolve into the category of us?
at FKSE Studio Gallery, Budapest
Curator: Viktória Popovics
27th March, 2019 – 26th April, 2019
 Haruki Murakami: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. Random House. Vintage. London. 2003. p. 305.
 Jean-Luc Nancy: Being Singular Plural. Meridian. Crossing Aesthetics. Stanford University Press. 2000. p. 61.
 Jean-Luc Nancy: Of Being-in-Common. In Miami Collective (ed.). Community at Loose Ends. University of Minnesota Press. 1991. p. 7.
 Jean-Luc Nancy: Being Singular Plural. Meridian. Crossing Aesthetics. Stanford University Press. 2000. p. 5.
 Julia Kristeva: The Severed Head. Capital Visions. Columbia University Press. New York. 2012. p. 36.
 Haruki Murakami: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. Random House. Vintage. London. 2003. p. 282.
 Veronika Darida: A fenséges és a rejtőzködő jelenlét – Louis Marin reprezentációelmélete. L’Harmattan. Budapest. 2009. p. 122.