This autumn The Ravestijn Gallery presents two series by Polish photographer Bownik, ‘Disassembly’ and ‘Reverse’. In his work Bownik uses large format prints that perfectly fit his intellectual approach to photography, which mixes conceptual complexity with an astute sense of details and composition.
Disassembly (2014) consists of images of plants and flowers, reminiscent of 19th century taxonomy and botanical drawings, as well as classical still life paintings. The plants on these photographs, however, are not just scientific illustrations, nor are they to be simply admired for their beauty. Instead Bownik ‘disassembled’ his subjects, only to put them back together, according to scientific methods and making use of ‘unnatural’ materials such as plastic cords and pushpins to restore the plant. A highly aestheticized albeit ambiguous effect is achieved by the emphasis on the beauty of the plants: at once demonstrating preoccupations with ‘beauty ideals’, as if the plants were subject to plastic surgery, and the moribund quest to unravel the secrets of nature, inviting further considerations on the relationship between photography and death.
In Reverse (2016), Bownik continues his fascination for details, technicality and historical representation. The photographs show traditional clothing, worn by historical leaders as well as peasants, from his native Poland and other Eastern European countries such as Ukraine. Instead of presenting the intricate embroidery these costumes are known for, Bownik turned the pieces inside out, exposing their reverse. Another story is laid bare, that of the work and socio-historical circumstances in which these clothes were made while at the same time denying the viewer a historical context of a specific region, or glorification of the famous person who wore them.
Both series testify to Bownik’s continuous awareness of photography’s mediality, of the intricate layers of ethical and aesthetic considerations brought forth by his subjects, and an ability to combine philosophical questions with highly evocative and intriguing images.
Bownik (1977) lives and works in Warsaw, Poland. He studied philosophy and sociology in Lublin and received his degree in photography and multimedia from the Pozna Academy of Fine Arts. His work has been exhibited mostly in Poland such as ‘As you can see Polish Art Today’, Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw (Poland 2014), ‘Houses As Silver Tents’, Wroclaw Contemporary Museum, Wroclaw (Poland 2014), ‘A Few Practical Ways To Prolong One’s Life’, Zach?ta National Art Gallery, Warsaw (Poland 2013). The series ‘Disassembly’ was presented at the UNSEEN Photofair Amterdam in 2015, this is the first time ‘Reverse’ is shown in the Netherlands.