Agata Słowak, Aleksandra Waliszewska

A Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Curated by Alison M. Gingeras
March 23 – May 2, 2024

Agata Słowak and Alison M. Gingeras
In Conversation: Saturday, March 23, 3pm

More information here

Opening reception: Saturday, March 23, 5–7pm

Without contraries is no progression. Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate, are necessary to human existence.
—William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790)

BLUM is pleased to present its debut exhibition with Agata Słowak and Aleksandra Waliszewska, A Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Organized by curator Alison M. Gingeras, this presentation marks the first in Asia for both artists.

Riffing on the title of William Blake’s visionary poem, this exhibition presents a metaphorical “marriage” between the work of two artists whose paintings are steeped in apocalyptic imagery and conjure radical evocations of the human condition. Echoing Blake’s questioning of received ideas about the opposition of good and evil and the extolling of the vital interconnectedness of both forces, Słowak and Waliszewska create transgressive visual narrations that foreground strong female protagonists who navigate highly symbolic scenarios. Their heroines are almost always toggled between conflicting pulsions—sex and death, love and anxiety, repulsion and desire—as if trapped in some amoral fairytale. Animals and monsters often populate their tableaux, taking on anthropomorphic qualities rooted in Old Master iconographies, including the vivid engravings that Blake himself made to illustrate his verse.

Supernatural interactions between animals and humans operate in both artists’ work—echoing William Blake’s mysticism and preoccupations with inverting moral hierarchies and liberating the imagination. Horses are recurrent characters in Waliszewska’s paintings—one canvas portrays a magnificent grey mare and a blonde woman standing together—capturing an erotic moment of interspecies communion. Another depicts a white horse drowning in an alien pink sea, a set of disembodied, bloodshot human eyes looking on from above. This tableau particularly resonates with a verse from Blake’s poem “Auguries of Innocence”:

A Horse misused upon the Road
Calls to Heaven for Human blood

A third painting depicts a genderless, yellow figure crouching in the foreground in a fetal position—are they human? A spirit? An alien? In the backdrop, a barren, otherworldly landscape is populated with a herd of white horses. Each of these scenes upends the so-called “natural order” of the human and animal kingdoms, and art historically aligns Waliszewska with a lineage of fantastical, doomsday artists from Hieronymus Bosch to William Blake to Franz von Stuck.

Agata Słowak similarly draws upon a reservoir of symbolic animal iconography, though her evocations are often rooted in her traditional Catholic upbringing. There’s a Fckn Goats Outside (2023) depicts the artist squatting in a landscape, swaddling a baby lamb—a classic stand-in for Christ, the lamb of God. In the verdant fields in the background, Słowak is surrounded by a horde of black goats standing on their hind legs—the timeworn symbol of Satan. This allegorical scene presents a struggle between good and evil, Christian versus pagan belief systems. In Blake’s iconic poem “Proverbs of Hell,” he offers images that illustrate his desire to interrogate conventional moralities, writing:

Prisons are built with stones of Law,
Brothels with bricks of Religion.
The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.
The lust of the goat is the bounty of God.

Słowak’s painting similarly questions symbolic evocations of good and evil. She explains, “I wanted to create an atmosphere of the death of innocence…there are dark goats who look like they are at a rave, a metaphor for people who are yearning for symbolic capital, money, and uniqueness that they want to take from the artist.” Identity and sacrifice animate Autoportret z jakimś ścierwem / Autoportrait with Some Carcass (2023) in which Słowak poses next to a splayed dead cat. Her naked body splashed with blood, the artist’s gaze confronts the onlooker. The cat has been killed in an unexplained ritual, suggesting either heathen practices or an animal mockery of crucifixion à la Viennese Aktionismus. Słowak furthers her provocative deployment of traditional Christian symbolism in Your Own Personal (2023)—a disquieting portrait of a long-haired blonde woman wearing a crown of thorns and covered in rivulets of blood. Would it be in heaven or hell when Christ switches genders?

Despite hailing from different generations, both Warsaw-based artists Słowak and Waliszewska base their practice on their art-historical erudition as well as a deep commitment to figurative painting and an investment in traditional techniques. A Marriage of Heaven and Hell presents a selection of new oil paintings by both artists as well as a suite of gouache-on-paper works by Waliszewska.

Selected Works


Agata Słowak and Alison M. Gingeras in Conversation


Related Publications

The Vampire's Wife x Aleksandra Waliszewska T-shirt

The Vampire's Wife x Aleksandra Waliszewska Tote

The Vampire's Wife x Aleksandra Waliszewska Badge

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