REJEKT Gallery presents Hybrid Prophecy, a solo show of one of Poland's exceptional young artists, Kle Mens. Her work will be exhibited at 82a Commercial Street, a former public toilet in London’s East End and is curated by Elaine Tam. The show runs 14-23 June 2019, with an opening reception on Thursday 13th June 2019, at 6pm.
Kle Mens is a Warsaw-based visual artist working across painting, sculpture, performance and film. Following the death of her father, Kle Mens grew up in an extreme Catholic sect in Poland, under the care of her mother, a schizophrenic, devotee nun. As such, a major tenet of her work is the exploration and exploitation of religious iconography, which calls forth a brave new world of the feminine in post-secular art practice.
The paintings at the heart of her practice involve a traditional technique, one which requires the painstaking application of a hundred translucent layers. Through this steady dedication we witness the transfiguration of Kle Mens as a Saint, martyr and hybrid creature, which emphasizes the transmutable nature of timeless mythical bodies.
Having exhibited in her native country multiple times, the controversial nature of Kle Men’s work means that the artist has received notable backlash from a more conservative Polish audience, including the staging of protests outside her exhibitions.
In her first UK solo show, Kle Mens makes a brave incantation, summoning both religious martyrs and mythological hybrids to evoke the formidable force of female transformation, which underlies all her work. This exhibition sees Kle Mens revisiting the idolatry of female purity of her youth through the martyr’s series, with focus on those whose punishment was sex-related or sexuality-specific.
In a relational gesture of self-sacrifice, paint becomes embodied flesh in St. Agata, the venerated saint a prime example of the extraordinary sufferance endured by female devotees. A tense and disarming dedication, Kle Mens’ severing of her own breast is a profound moment of ekstasis propelling her into the temporality of long-standing religious order, a remark upon the continued urgency of feminist concerns. With similar spirit, she investigates the unusual, always-timeliness of the apocalypse — the recurring crisis of individual, collective and planetary future that haunts existence.
In Hybrid Prophecy, Kle Mens presents us with this provocation: a stunningly detailed film work, which animates and subverts Hans Memling's The Last Judgement. The centerpiece around which the themes of the exhibition revolve, The Last Judgement sees her assuming new bodies and fictions, while persisting with the religious iconography that she is passionately indebted to. As such, two mythological hybrids that feature in the Apocalypse of St. John become proto-Renaissance self-portraits.
Kle Mens adopts the mystical poise of the famously ambiguous, riddling Sphinx. Her traditional painting technique begets a certain magic — one of majestic strength, and silent yet photorealistic liveness — which also courses through Harpy. While the eagle is emblematic of the Polish state, in the Apocalypse it behaves as a premonition, heralding a collapse between sky and earth. With this, Kle Mens continues her elegant foray into mythic territories, their power and their promise.
Kle Mens (Klementyna Stepniewska, b. 1985) graduated from the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts in 2014 under the direction of Jarosław Modzelewski and Igor Przybylski. In 2016, she was winner of the The Geppert Competition XII, the most prestigious prize for young painters in Poland. To date, she has had three solo exhibitions, the most recent of which is Hail Mary (2019). Her works St. Rita and Kummernis are held by a key public collection, National Museum of Gdansk.
REJEKT Gallery are representatives of future pioneers of contemporary art from Eastern Europe. They curate unprecedented, unconventional events for new East artists in London. REJEKT seeks to represent and garner respect of Eastern European artists. Founder and Director, Sarah Sosnierz started promoting electronic music through hosting parties, aiming to collaborate various artists between London and Warsaw in the hope that this exchange would open new channels of cultural communication between East and Western Europe.
REJEKT do not conform to a traditional gallery setup. Their selection of unadulterated art is exhibited in unusual spaces, from industrial units to disused public toilets. Based in London, REJEKT has transitioned from illustrious clubs in Praga, flirting with underground dance club culture, to an arts platform occupying unique Heterotopian spaces; providing unconventional conduits; simultaneously mental and physical, geographical and digital representation.
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