”Pająk” (directly translated to “spider”) is a Slavic folk decoration of residential interiors hung in the center of a chamber. Traditionally, this form of unusual chandelier was made twice a year as a symbol of fertility and good luck – usually by women. Alicja Biała has been developing the pająki series since 2021 – their first presentation took place in the Witches Tower, a gallery located in a former jail for women suspected of witchcraft who were held there awaiting sentencing. Eighteen ceramic pająki were made in direct reference to the eighteen documented women there that were unjustly sentenced to death.
Each iteration of the pająki has taken different forms and meaning in response to current concerns. The initial series aimed to act as appeasement to moments of crises through colour, light and form. By contrast, Biała’s latest sculpture, much larger and more incandescent, radiates a louder, more lavish statement – a call to action and attentiveness instead of apathetic waiting for better times.
The “spider” presented at Her Clique is a hybrid of four endangered flowers meticulously crafted from ceramic and glazed in lustrous reds. The materiality and floral references, contrasted against its voluminous form, decries both fragility and strength. At the center of the florals lie a glowing pistils, the female core of a flower.
Alicja Biała is an artist working across media and scales. Biała initially gained attention with her large-scale public paintings, followed by her politically charged Polish Cut-Out series (Wycinanki Polskie). Her more recent work includes large public sculptures like the totemy series (www.totemy.org), etchings, paintings, and her hanging light sculptures derived from Slavic pagan mythology (pająki), the newest of which is shown in this show.
Her work incorporates a mixture of slavic folk and current environmental themes that bring the political and personal spheres of contemporary life into proximity. Through pieces like her acid series, in which metal curtains are painted and etched in large contaminated mine tailing ponds, she challenges our place as individuals within a shared world. She has received widespread press, and multiple awards, and is in numerous private and national collections.
Biała graduated from The Royal Drawing School in 2023 and holds a Master's degree from The Royal College of Art in London. Biała, like her work, moves fluidly, being based between Poznan (PL), London and Amsterdam.