Christen Sveaas Art Foundation: The Travel Bureau, Selected by Paulina Olowska

Paulina Olowska
Whitechapel Gallery, London
14 January – 8 May 2022

Paulina Olowska reveals the true nature of a gallery as a travel bureau, where works of art are portals into a myriad destinations imagined by artists.

Her installation of works from the Christen Sveaas Art Foundation is inspired by Orbis, the largest and longest running travel agency in Poland. Founded in 1920, its offices, staff and famously alluring posters offered prospective travellers a dream of escape. Olowska thinks of painting as ‘a beautiful metaphor for travel itself, a longing for a place.’

Olowska’s multifaceted practice embraces all the arts from painting to graphics, stage and costume design, performance and activism. Her monumental figurative paintings celebrate modern women pictured in magazine style poses against backdrops of utopian scenarios.

Some works in this display, such as Rodney Graham’s bed-bound newspaper reader imagine only the possibility of travel, while others such as Brian Alfred’s collage of the iconic Hollywood sign picture a horizon of desire. Marina Abramović riding a white stallion, or Pierre et Gilles dressed as cosmonauts are among those artists who have already set off on their journey. Idyllic and fantastical destinations include the plein air paintings of the Norwegian countryside by Thore Heramb and Oluf Wold-TorneRosson Crow’s epic Californian desertscape, populated with electric pink cacti; and Hurvin Anderson’s sun parasols redolent of white sandy beaches. There is also the pure joy of arrival with Berta Fischer’s exuberant Plexiglas floating off the wall; or the darkness of disorientation with Caragh Thuring’s surreal nightscape. An interview with Olowska and images of every work can be found in The Travel Bureau catalogue available from the bookshop.