Malgosia Stepnik, City of Angels (2013)


Halfway between painting and photography, Stepnik’s photos show people halfway between their usual everyday life and then what might be called the disease of the future.

The Polish artist has colonised their skin. Dayglo pixels creep around the countours of their faces. Hair is electrified with luminous colour. But these touches draw you in, rather than repel.

Low lighting and a UV glow gives the gallery a clubby atmosphere. Stepnik’s photos also crop up as wallpaper which puts pressure on the frames around the prints on the wall.

The artist has said she wants to make work about “the electricity of the world surrounding me”. By mounting her photos in lightboxes she is already half way there.

This is a slippery show which blurs the lines between contemporary art and fashion photography, between photography and painting, between art and decoration.

So ultimately these images disturb a serious art lover, if such a po-faced thing exists. As the press release points out, they would not be out of place in a fashion mag.

How does one draw a line around high art to ensure not getting lost in contemplation of a Gucci ad? In truth, insulation is impossible. It’s a fact this show illuminates.

Stepnik puts herself in the mix with a brave performance in which she cut off her own hair. Not so much courageous as an artistic statement, but for the results she would have to live with.

The takeout of all this is that hair, painting and the gloom can all be used to conceal. And yet as our diurnal senses adjust to a setting like this, Stepnik’s blurred lines all invite scrutiny.

City of Angels can be seen at 20 Eastcastle Street, London, until 23 May 2013.

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