CATHARSIS. Johann Georg Pinsel, Franciszek Ołędzki, Alexander Zhyvotkov

11.08.2021 – 05.02.2022

National Reserve St. Sophia of Kyiv,

exhibition hall ‘‘Hlibnya’’

24, Volodymyrska street

 

Catharsis is a term first used by Aristotle to describe the effect of art which is capable of purifying the emotions and restoring a person to emotional health. Сatharsis usually refers to intellectual purification and spiritual purgation through art.

This exhibition features the late Baroque sculptures by Johann Georg Pinsel, an artist active in the late 18 th century, and his apprentice Franciszek Ołędzki along with the works by Alexander Zhyvotkov, a modern day Ukrainian artist.

Their artwork is divided by time but united by the art medium, itself, namely the vivid wood sculptures. The artists’ deeply expressive sculpture is cathartic in nature.

There are the two types of catharsis, namely pathetic catharsis and reflective catharsis. The first type of catharsis is defined as the emotional culmination in which the spectator achieves the state of emotional affect. Pathetic catharsis causes an immediate and sometimes painful release of emotions, a desire to break free. The sculptures by Pinsel and Ołędzki reflect this state of extreme emotional unrest.

These sculptures were first designed to be viewed inside Catholic cathedrals to inspire the faithful to lead good lives, but these sculptures are still capable of deeply affecting the modern exhibition goer. Baroque art is the first stage of catharsis, it is characterised by its ecstatic state, and serves to bring the consciousness to tranquillity and transcend into the world of metaphysical meaning.

The ecstatic state is followed by reflective catharsis where the consciousness is purged of the emotions and suffering caused by these emotions. The experience brings the emotions into their proper balance. The ecstatic state which is characterised by “being outside of oneself” culminates in returning to oneself and accepting oneself as a spiritual being. Zhyvotkov’s intricate sculptures reflects all of the complex aspects of the human life, not just the moments of extreme emotional unrest. His art seems to imitate the interplay between the light and shadows in Rembrandt’s paintings. Zhyvotkov is as far removed from the art of painting as possible but he plays with the light and the shadows, to him they symbolise the essence of life which brings together the human happiness, suffering, and love. Zhyvotkov’s art is free of emotion, as some of the strongest emotions in his art fly under the radar and leave no trace.

A true work of art leaves some things unsaid and allows the spectator just enough freedom and space to make up his own mind. Catharsis is possible on the verge between the artist’s creative concept and the spectator’s emotional response. Catharsis cannot always be reached through works of art and eternal life questions do not always have answers. But Zhyvotkov leaves us hints. One of his monumental bas-relief sculptures featured at the exhibition is covered with quotes from the Book of Ecclesiastes. The modern artist is quoting the ancient texts: “One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth for ever.” The Ecclesiastes has described the eternal and universal circle of human life. The wisdom is to enjoy life but remember that all is vanity.

View pictures from event

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