In the 1970’s, when Poland was still a Soviet satellite in the throes of USSR rule, Natalia Lach-Lachowitz, or Natalia LL, as she is known, found the freedom to express a profound feminist awareness through her art. Shown in galleries throughout the world, her work has now settled back in Poland, as a permanent collection in the National Museum.
As one of the few artists in the Communist Polish People’s Republic, Natalia LL addressed the female subject as an element of patriarchal society. During this decisive decade in her career, she was at the vanguard of the Polish avant-garde. Her feminist art became a useful instrument in the fight for equal rights in Poland, expressing identity through female self-awareness.
For example, in her work TAK (Polish for ‘yes’), she assembles photographs of female lips pronouncing ‘tak’ alongside visual representation of the written word. In this work, the female mouth is a symbol of expression, while simultaneously being objectified and fetishized as part of a female body – the models lips, in suggestive red lipstick become the photograph, rather then the word ‘tak’ itself, or its meaning. But the depicted woman can also be viewed as empowered. She’s in control of her language.
The tension she presents between the commodification of women in visual culture and the sexual agency of women is as relevant today as ever. In the past decade, Natalia LL’s oeuvre has been honoured if not rediscovered, with appearances at The EY Exhibition at the Tate Modern in London in 2015, Frieze New York, Vienna Art Fair, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and at the much-visited new fair Photo London, where she is represented by the East-London gallery Roman Road.
It’s testament to Natalia’s daring and visionary work that she is part of the permanent collection of Poland’s National Museum at Gdańsk, a 2.5 hour drive away from arty lakeside design hub, Hotel Gallery69. Located in a Franciscan monastery that dates from the 15th century, the historical collection is housed in a late Gothic building, while the modern art portion of the collection can be found in Abbots’ Palace in Oliwa, a Roccocco palace constructed in the 15th century. Very much worth a day trip for the opulent beauty of the architecture, and the thought-provoking works of Natalia LL, amongst many other modern exponents of individual expression.
To add to your Polish travel adventure be sure to indulge in some sartorial therapy with a peek at our Travel Journal's piece on Polish fashion brand, thisnon, or float along the cool, clear waters of Poland's answer to the Lake District, Warmia Mazury - The Land of a Thousand Lakes.