In Malgorzata Bany’s practice, the reproducibility of the moulding technique and the uniqueness of the hand-carved form sit side by side. For the past half-decade she has experimented with cast, carved, and worked forms that consistently blur the boundaries between sculpture and design, combining utilitarian functionality with the principle that objects must stand on their own terms.
A common material in Bany’s practice is Jesmonite, a gypsum- and resin-based casting medium invented in the mid 1980s to unite the immediacy and lightweight flexibility of what were then comparatively new mediums such as fibreglass, with the durability and strength of concrete. Her approach to the material has been one of insatiable experimentalism, pushing at its aesthetic and functional capabilities as well as its formal potential. Developed recently in collaboration with Faye Toogood is a series of desktop objects cast solely in this material, including bookends, paper weights and trays. Their pristine surfaces and planed, planted forms have an anchored permanence akin to scholar’s rocks, ancient omphaloi and standing stones, or the Millau Viaduct. In their simplest states they read as abstract, statuesque forms, but when loaded with the accoutrements of the home elegantly take their places as fully functioning creative aids. Occasionally, subtle inflections of colour or tone fused into their surfaces serve to remind us that these are active agents, three-dimensional punctuations with – at times – incredibly painterly tendencies. And all of this in the form of small-scale, table-top monuments.
Though Bany has in recent years focused increasingly on the principles of design, her fine art practice continues to exert itself on her navigation of the field. This is particularly exemplified here by her wall-bound compositions, as well as objects that feature series of components or adjacent, juxtaposed, and interlocked parts. Yet even in these instances, typically incorporating materials such as shaped pine and plywood alongside the cast elements, the aesthetic characteristics of casting media still have their influence. Every element is meticulously finished with a perfecting layer of white gesso. The result is a purified theatre of objects whose surfaces have an obdurate and insistent purity. Lips and cusps of material, sharp returns, and crisp, shadow-catching edges seem to have something instantaneous about them; they curve weightlessly upwards, to support an ovoid prop, a shallow bowl with the potential to ring out if struck, or just their own volumes, like the delicately taught surfaces of oil drops on water. These are poetic tendencies, but they are simultaneously grounded by forms that appear almost weighted, anchored in their footprints.
Considering Malgorzata’s Polish heritage, it is striking that her work draws on a strongly and academically English aesthetic idiom. Like Ravilious, Moore, Hepworth or Nicholson, artists whose influence runs in dense seams throughout her work, the subtle texturised surfaces that she riffles into cast forms evoke the chalk, flint, and limestone beachscapes of the English coastline; to the time-based effects of erosion, decay, and the action of the sea on its sedimentary deposits. Alongside these themes are more subtly driven probings into the restrained optimism that defines our island’s post-war climate of architecture and design, with its mandate for aestheticised utilitarianism and social experimentation. Unsurprisingly, the artist also takes influence from Japanese aesthetics, including the meditative and ritualising forms of rock-carved Tsukubai, a type of hand-washing basin defined by its intense celebration of the contact between water and stone.
Uniting all the objects brought together for this exhibition, and indeed all of Bany’s practice, is an intensive and meticulous approach to the handmade. Even where moulds are used, the artist painstakingly carves them out by hand with volumes and forms gouged from their negative interiors, before finishing them with a variously smoothed or texturised surface. It is an intuitive process, exploring serendipity through a sculptural process that only allows the final object to be revealed once the casting material has set and the mould removed.
Bany lives and works in London. From 2007 to 2010 she studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw before moving to England, where she completed her BA studies at University College Falmouth followed by an MFA at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, graduating there in 2014. In the same year she was awarded the Desiree Prize for Painting, and was nominated for the Adrian Carruthers Studio Award, a scheme run collaboratively by the Slade and Acme Studios. She was recently nominated for the Officine Panerai Next Generation Designer Award as part of the Wallpaper* Design Awards 2018.
Exhibitions include mixed shows and collaborative projects at TESTBED 1, London (2012 and 2013), Milan Design Week (2014), Etage Projects, Copenhagen (2015), the London Design Festival (2015 and 2016) and The Trade Show presented by Faye Toogood, London (part of London Design Festival 2017), among others.
Matthew Reeves, London, June 2018