Lydia Patafta

Curated by / Kuratiert von Vasja Nagy


Levitation is a state o mind…and body


Lydia Patafta is a Slovak artist who studied in Vienna and is now based in Croatia. In her paintings she creates mixed emotions made of sweetness and bitterness. At the first thought it might seem like the eternal Eros and Thanatos are dancing here again. And the first assumption is not entirely wrong. These two basic instincts have always been great topics in art. Roughly interpreted they represent life and death respectively, but this dialectical explanation seems to be missing the magical ingredient. The system of duality is perfectly imagined through yin & yang principle, white and black, light and darkness catching each other and being contained one in the other but never really mix into the grey world of shadows. The black is passive, designating negative flow of energy, the destructive kind and has been attributed to death. But death does not mean the end of existence but rather transformation into something else, which makes the whole picture a bit more complex. Every destructive energy has its creative antipode and there must be something created as well. Iconography of colour which corresponds to this division usually uses black, red and white that respectively stand for transformative force, fertile creativity, and pure creation. In classical art this triad is often depicted by three female figures showing different stages of human life. In Lydia Patafta’s painting not just the two from the first impression meet but all three principles are simultaneously present.

In Patafta’s paintings the depicted men and women almost always seem to go through some kind of suffering. Suffering is an integral part of life and, if we believe Slavoj Žižek, it is love that brought disturbance to the static equilibrium of the universe. But this is what fertility is about, this is how new creations occur. In opposition to happiness state of suffering is a long lasting condition; “torture never stops” sang Frank Zappa and in Vulgata, the first Latin translation of Bible, life was described as Valley of Tears and the suffering ends only when Heaven is reached. It is not enough to understand suffering (lat. sub+ferre) only by its direct etymological meaning of being under or carrying (weight). The other Latin word is “pati” from which derive passion, patient and patience. Suffering is therefore carrying the weight that love or passion created by disturbing the universe, as well as enduring the task patiently until sublimating into static equilibrium again. Achieving the ultimate state of equilibrium, Heaven, Nirvana or however one wants to call it is usually described as ceasing of all kinds of fights and it is the way for achieving any kind of peace as well. It is about letting go the weight, not carrying it any more, to become passive (another word with the same roots) as much as possible. At least according to Nietzsche’s aphorism on how gazing into Abyss makes the Abyss gaze back, one cannot sublimate by using the same means of the disturbance that ruined equilibrium. The atmosphere in Patafta’s paintings is filled with discomfort, uneasiness although one of the strongest attributes of people inhabiting them is passiveness. They are immerged into the atmosphere as they were caught in a bad dream. Things and shapes are put together in uncanny way which reminds on a subconscious flow of thoughts of an anxious mind. Protagonists have little control over their own environment but  they seem to let it operate like a catalyst for transformation. It is not known what kind but in previous works the artist often dealt with the motive of therapy so it is possible to assume that the new condition should be better, more peaceful. This is the shadow side, the grey side of the process, the side where the patients are still suffering. The last fragments of fighting are dissolving as thought processes in patients end. Perhaps they start to believe, they are possessed or hypnotized, or they simply let go. That is the moment when gravity of Earth loses its significance. That is the moment when they start to levitate.

Vasja Nagy, 2016

Pictures of an Exhibition