Lidia Syroka: My Body: Gallery One • In-Person and Online

8 June - 11 August 2023

Lidia Syroka was born in Poland in 1956 and moved to France in her mid-twenties. She studied at the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris and lived in this city until very recently, when she moved back to Kraków. Having quickly re-settled in her hometown, she is back at work in a new studio space, a renovated old stable where she can make art in complete silence.

 Syroka’s late husband, the artist Jacques Yankel, introduced her to African art and together they started a collection of naïve art and art brut, both of which—along with folk art and oriental archaeology—are influences in her work. Syroka has travelled extensively throughout Asia (including Mongolia, Siberia, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Tibet, and China), where she discovered and explored new materials and types of paper. 

Syroka’s output in the last decade is an extensive exploration of the concept of metamorphosis; the “alchemy” that takes place when spiritual activity causes physical transformation. The artist’s own body thus becomes a symbolic conduit for growth and decay, construction and deconstruction. In each iteration of her Body Alchemy series, Syroka conceived a different technique to match a particular stage in her profoundly personal investigations of corporeality. In series 1 through 6, renderings of the body are presented in graphite (the body as a kind of metal structure), surfaced with bark, pulsating in deep red muscular patterns, reversed in drawings that emerge from scissor-cut shapes and from pathways ruptured on the paper’s surface with water tracings, or imprinted with totemic stamps and symbolic mark making. 

Series 7, is notable for its austerity and nuance. Here, texture interacts with form in subtle and intricate rhythms and Syroka’s consistent exploration of anthropomorphic themes merges cogently with abstract executions. As the artist sees it: “conflict in the body and points of tension require attention and are schematically expressed by an inner black construction … the meandering of the paper building the outer form.” The choice and juxtaposition of paper and textures is expressive and charged with meaning. Balance is achieved through visual dichotomy: transparency and opacity; the busy entanglement of paper strips and the clean space surrounding it. The semi-translucent background is a kind of ether that imbues the central form with solemnity and suspense.

The different stages of Body Alchemy portray the body as THE intersection of the material and intangible aspects of experience and the artist as a visual chronicler of this constant transmutation. “To start a new series,” says Syroka, “I must seek deeper than the previous one and forget its forms … it is a process that, on one end, inhabits the flux of space and time, and on the other end is rooted deeply outside of them.”


Photographs of the artist

*Black and white: Syroka in her Paris studio (Mario del Curto, 2005)

*Color: Syroka in her Kraków studio (Andrzej Biłuński, 2021)