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A selection of critical essays on the work of Marta Czok

MOTHER ROME BY MARTA CZOK Text by Diana Alessandrini A reflection on the Eternal City seen through the ironic and amused eye of Marta Czok, an artist without roots, a citizen of the world, whose research follows humanity, its drives, its vices, its contortions. And, as if she were looking at a modern Babel or a box full of delicious candies that everyone likes or a sly cat stretching in the sun, Marta Czok observes Rome and paints it. He observes her, yes, but in reality he knows her very well, this city that welcomed her and where she put down roots with her family, despite having chosen – or perhaps precisely because of this choosing – to live not "too close to her". His sarcastic gaze, translated into a painting of refined precision, is a snapshot. A newspaper headline. A piece of news. A frame from a movie. A story enclosed in a painting. A story that does not even spare the vices of the Roman curia or more generally of the Church, which even with Pope Francis is experiencing a strongly reforming moment that too often has to come to terms with a reality consolidated over time. The greed of a clergy who want to "share the cake" is transformed into a painting of unmissable lightness, biting irony and painful truth (Temptation, acrylic and graphite on canvas, 2013). This is how Marta Czok's art goes against the grain. It detaches itself from contemporary research on the use of innovative materials and languages and aims straight at the recovery of technique and a shared message. And so, paradoxically, she is the first to cross the finish line of research, of a long-range vision, of an aesthetic-content-based prescience that has so far been too little recognized. I had the opportunity to write for the exhibition at Palazzo Sforza Cesarini in Genzano (2015) that "Marta Czok's art sounds the alarm clock. It excites and leaves its mark. And he says what no one wants to hear. His language is layered. Not only in technique, but in techniques, which he masters. The composite message and its decryption is up to the person in front of the canvas." I wrote it and I say it again. And it is all the more true in this exhibition that runs along the thread of the "Jubilee chronicle". Here is the totem Roma (acrylic and graphite on canvas, 2015) a work 2.40 meters high, painted on overlapping canvases: designed site-specific for the Carlo Bilotti Museum, it represents the Rome of the monuments, in the background, but also that of the buildings, in the foreground. The Rome of the trade union demonstrations and that of the people of the Angelus. The Rome of tourists and that of the new calves. And down, down in the basement, that of the archaeological remains, that of a Roman majesty that today seems to be irretrievably lost. That majesty that emanates from works such as the Colosseum (Roma kaput mundi, acrylic and graphite on canvas, 2010), a bird's-eye portrait, or the faces of Caesar (Life of an average Caesar, acrylic and graphite on canvas, 2011): here the figuration occupies only a small part of the canvases for the most part dominated by gray and a dark red horizon, Sunset not of a single day but of an entire era. These are the "works of the Roman spirit" that dialogue with the Bilotti Collection and in particular with the nucleus of Giorgio De Chirico's works, exhibited in the large room on the first floor, and among these certainly the Mysterious Archaeologists (1926) and the Furniture in the Room (1927), but also the Self-Portrait with the Head of Minerva, from the fifties, in which the pictor optimus wears a Venetian dress, proclaiming the need for the recovery of the Italian pictorial tradition. And this is exactly what Marta Czok's works do, as if they were invectives of a laudator temporis acti, documents in which formal and stylistic perfection blends with a language that is both courtly and contemporary with pop inserts (as in this What for?, acrylic and graphite on canvas, 2010). It is precisely this vein of pop criticism, which is also found in the spectacular polyptych depicting the Churches of Rome (acrylic and graphite on canvas, 2015), and which nevertheless cannot fail to have a strong symbolic value, emerges with the usual irony and sagacity in the art of Marta Czok and is the protagonist of the works exhibited in the portrait gallery. Once again, these canvases dialogue with the Bilotti Collection. In fact, here are placed the portraits of Tina and Lisa Bilotti by Andy Warhol (1981), of Carlo with Dubuffet in the background by Larry Rivers (1994) and of Carlo and Tina Bilotti by Mimmo Rotella (1968). To counterbalance these works, the so-called "Family Triptychs" signed by Marta Czok are exhibited. Here the painter enjoys combining the "sacred with the profane": the pictorial tradition of the great Renaissance of Piero della Francesca and the Dukes of Urbino with the modern times of punk, precisely (Times change, acrylic and graphite on canvas, 2014), creating a small social investigation that plumbs not only the new reality of families but also of love relationships (The o-ho triptych, acrylic and graphite on canvas, 2014). These canvases highlight Marta Czok's ability to move from one register to another. And above all, his dexterity in veering from portrait to caricature. And if you look closely, the facades of Roman basilicas are also portrayed in a broad sense. It is the face of Mother Rome in the title of the exhibition, which is therefore characterized by being a journey through the centuries of art, history, customs, in search of the essence of this city, sucked by all kinds of leeches, as shown by the work The Tree of Life (acrylic and graphite on canvas, 2015). A Rome-mother, robbed and torn apart by children without morals. For her, the gaze of another suffering mother, that pure, ethereal Virgin – a symbol of mercy in this Jubilee Year – who confronts and stands up to the darkness of the world that presses and tries to undermine her from the canvas (Virgin faces, acrylic and graphite on canvas, 2010).

MARTA CZOK - RETROSPECTVE Text by Guerrino Mattei for Rinascita Curated by Laura Cavallaro in the spectacular setting of the restored castle of Calatabiano in the province of Catania, the anthological exhibition of the Polish painter Marta Czok has opened. From July 19 to September 7, 2014, paintings are on the wall that visually corroborate her words when she declares that she has never reflected on her artistic personality: "I'm not sure if I have or want one." In the exhibition, the works dialogue in a surreal way with everyday things, preserving those little secrets that life reserves for ordinary mortals, full of poetry and other times swollen with a drama that only living can offer and melancholy. In addition to the curator and the regional and local authorities, the director of MacS (Museum of Contemporary Art Sicily) Giuseppina Napoli was present at the opening, who opened the event with words free from any circumstance, offering the public an original and wise interpretation: "With acute irony and delicate poetry – announces Dr. Napoli – Marta Czok depicts the flow of life in her works. On the canvas, the mise-en-scène of humanity takes shape and the artist, as a conscious and enlightened director, lets us guess what is hidden behind the lights of the stage". Born in Lebanon in 1947 to Polish parents, she moved to London at a very young age and moved around the world as far as Italy. Marta is a traveler, in places and times. His painting is a cultural, almost anthropological, investigation of humanity. "The artist manages to combine his feeling of identity with the expressive force of figuration, thus stimulating the communication and sensory participation of the spectator who himself becomes a satirical metaphor of the social system in which he lives and dominates or, on the contrary, by which he is dominated": this is how Laura Cavallaro notes in "The aesthetics of existence in the paintings of Marta Czok". The exhibition is superbly set up, undoubtedly beautiful and precious, and most importantly stylistically united. The painter reveals a strong personality in contrast to what she says, we believe, with her words of rupture, almost always unconventional: "I am not like those painters who disguise themselves to look like 'artists'. Everything I am is in my paintings, so I don't feel the need to look or speak like an 'artist'. I guess deep down I'm a revolutionary and my battle is against the ridiculous abuse of power, whether it's at the hands of the State or the Church, and it's all in my paintings, even if sometimes I insert it in a cautious and delicate way." In his notes we can still read words of warning: "It is true, no one is burned at the stake today, but what could happen tomorrow? I would like the people who look at my paintings to have fun, to feel more powerful and never alone. There are a lot of people out there who think like me but don't have the time or opportunity to have their say. I hope to be their spokesperson, even if it's just on canvas." The artist's responsibility is to give his audience something worth owning. You have to remember that people are intelligent and perceptive and that art doesn't become art just because the artist says so. It is not enough to hang something in a gallery and illuminate it well to transform it into art: "it would be like making fun of those who come to see these works". True art grows the soul of the public, and "a lighted broom, no matter how expensive and no matter how praised by critics and museum curators, will never succeed."

THE AESTHETICS OF EXISTENCE IN MARTA CZOK'S PAINTINGS Text by Laura Cavallaro Painting existence, as well as telling it, means accepting to be constantly attracted by a multiplicity of visions, by an inexhaustible source of facts, actions and characters that meet or seek each other on the stage of life. It means making one's mind an alchemical laboratory in which to feel, silently or noisily, that imminent apparition that presents itself to us when we are ready to (re)recognize it and to (re)recognize ourselves with it. It means accepting that what we have painted has a weight, even more aggravated by its recognizability. Marta Czok depicts existence. His eye, like a relentless magnifying glass, scrutinizes scenes of ordinary everyday life; His hand, a courageous instrument, fixes them rigorously on the canvas, snatching them, perhaps to save them, from the aberrant habit of a gaze that does not see and that, inexorably, is forced into habit. Apparently simple, naïve, naïve illustrations, without superfluous frills but adorned only with a healthy irony and the charm of reminiscences sometimes medieval and Flemish, sometimes of Anglo-Saxon ancestry. Cartoons that are often elusive and elusive in their themes that are revealed only to those who have the same eagerness to understand and are not afraid to discover their meanings. Meanings told with the urgency of communication of those who live the contemporary but speak of timeless facts, current and actualized, as if they were whispering them in their ear. Marta Czok's is a world of characters and things first visited within herself, like a dream, an epiphany generated by the eclectic imagination of a child artist and then revisited by the sensitivity and experience of a woman who life has forged into an adult and mature artist. Of Polish origin, born in 1947, Marta Czok manages to combine her feeling of identity with the expressive power of figuration, thus stimulating the communication and sensory participation of the spectator who himself becomes a satirical metaphor of the social system in which he lives and dominates or, on the contrary, by which he is dominated. Thus, this anthological exhibition by Marta Czok includes works such as "An Ordinary Napoleon" (1991), "The cake makers" (2004), "Robot" (2007), "Miracle solution" (2012), about twenty years, or so, of artistic production, in which to describe a multiplicity of instants, images and meanings, of intimacy and universality. A repertoire in which the precise stroke of acrylic and oil is combined with the more nebulous sign of charcoal and graphite, in which characters with hilarious faces, bewildered expressions and turned and full bodies, coexist with leaner and more serious figures and in which space is made, for empty and full, but in it everything finds its place. Marta Czok paints existence and her feelings are in the middle. It is along that ephemeral boundary between existence and non-existence, between real and unreal, between metaphysical and metaphorical realities and powerful yearnings for denunciation and hope. It is along that border that we too, spectators, are bewildered and consciously estranged by the unfolding of a work of art before our eyes.

THE LUCID IRONY OF MARTA CZOK Text by Barbara Codogno There are, in my opinion, many ways to approach Marta Czok's pictorial world. If we look at his figurative production from an executive-formal point of view, we find ourselves in front of the distinctive trait of his pictorial intervention, characterized by an almost minimalist sobriety of color, by a calibrated harmony, I would say almost golden, between the voids – the monochromatic backgrounds – and the figurative solids, by the graphic wink that in Czok declines almost towards illustration, from the ability of know-how testified by the multiplicity of techniques used. Venturing instead into the attempt to translate the multifaceted symbolic content that inhabits Marta Czok's figurative world, the path of critical analysis becomes more complex, deeper, heavier and more perched and, paradoxically, even more... Fast and lightweight. Not once Marta Czok's paintings don't bring a smile to my face. Of those smiles through gritted teeth, a smug smile that comes from always recognizing in her a lively, sharp intelligence, capable of creating a pyrotechnic short circuit. Because irony, which has always been a distinctive feature of the author, is not the mere highlighting of nonsense, those moral and cultural idiosyncrasies that we digest by virtue of a possible advantage. No, the matter is much more serious. Marta Czok is intellectually iconoclastic, or rather, hers is a transversal and free intelligence that knows how to grasp the paradox, the grotesque, the sublime, the scandalous in the symbolic semantics of language. He is not satisfied with having caught with his watchful and prophetic eye, he shows us the mockery and he does it first of all with his great artistic talent, then with his explosive intellectual acumen. Why is Martha an iconoclast? For example, because it breaks the mold of political correctness in the philological and epistemological fields. In her retracing a theme – abused and presumptuous – such as history, Marta brings her freshness and lightness by placing history and fairy tale on the same level. It mixes historical times with mythical and fairytale times with a grace that leaves you astonished. What can we say, for example, when from the Trojan Horse, instead of Ulysses, Pinocchio bursts into Pinocchio on a Trojan horse? Czok lives in the contemporary world and loves to actualize historical time: so here is a Last Supper becoming a gray one in Last Supper. Social photography in which it is easy to recognize post-bourgeois loneliness; where the loaf of bread is no longer a Eucharistic religious element but becomes a symbolic economic conflict. The amount on which we slaughter each other: for a piece of bread, in fact. Marta Czok's action and thinking is extremely feminine, an artist who pursues intuitions as if they were lights, light trails that cross everything and without any subjection. Power is not a deterrent, on the contrary, Czok unmasks it: it is grotesque, vulgar. Tragic. It's better to look elsewhere. And if the fairy tale still peeps out with the paintings Rapunzel and The frog prince, next to the reassuring toy house we find the Stove Fairy: a blue fairy who tries to strangle Pinocchio. How can you blame her? How patient all these liars are! In these real stage irruptions, Czok moves like a director, as a screenwriter of possible other worlds. In this sense, it interacts with scenic deviations not only on historical and mythical time, but interferes by creating another world, that of the impossible. In this perspective, the blue fairy leads the way in the reading of her works as "other possibilities": in Note for Leo we have the Mona Lisa who travels through time and shows us a face and hairstyle of a woman that could belong to the modern era. The same goes for Madonna, where the iconic image multiplies to the point of radiating sacredness with all the feminine. His production is so daring that it touches the allegorical and the caricatured: An ordinary Napoleon is the allegory of modern times that Czok paints mercilessly, without conceding anything: neither to criticism nor to rhetoric, much less to petty sentimentality. Especially when it comes to "dangerous" themes such as massacres, genocides, war. In my opinion, the painter's expressive power lies in her dry and rigorous approach. Yet, as I said, there isn't a time that Marta can't make me smile. Because she is so irreverent, or perhaps I should say so honest and so brave, that she also incorporates herself into the fierce, merciless criticism. I like to close this short essay of mine with the image that best sums up the extraordinary and lucid irony of the artist: a housewife, perhaps a waitress, a rather fat woman with a grim air (when I look at her I think of a butcher)... here, the woman turns to a hypothetical off-screen interlocutor and cartoonishly exclaims: "You call that Art?" And the grin through gritted teeth bursts into crystalline laughter. Barbara Codogno

SOCIAL COMMENTARY: THE PAINTINGS OF MARTA CZOK Text by Jill Smith for NY Arts Magazine Timelessness can be translated as the quality of being eternal, ageless, immortal, or not affected by time. This sense of perpetual time is evident in the insightful work of Marta Czok. In Czok’s paintings there is a sense of profound mystery as figures are bracketed and framed by adjacent solid color canvases. These adjoining canvases create a cinematic quality that distills time and evokes a feeling of suspension. This suspended void, as it were, allows for a stage or platform in which figures act out a plethora of human expressions. Marta Czok’s work invokes a world full of wondrous insights into the many facets of humanity. The way she illustrates towers, machines, mannequins, and the human figure is evocative and compelling. Each painting reconstructs a narrative that has specificity but also universal appeal. With irony, wit, satire, and warmth she creates work that touches on personal and political sentiments with great poignancy. Czok was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1947 and has a multicultural background being British/Italian of Polish origins. Her early life involved moving around quite frequently. Her Polish parents were in the Middle East after having managed to escape the USSR where they had been prisoners of the Soviets. While Czok was an infant, her family moved to the UK where she received her formal education. Interestingly enough, it was later in life that she found her voice as a painter. She states, “I turned to painting after I finished my studies at Central St. Martins College of Art and Design in London where I did a BA Course in Fashion and Textiles. In fact, on arrival in Italy in 1974, I worked for some time as a dress designer for various fashion houses and it was only when my daughter was born and I saw the world for the first time as it really was and not as I hoped it might be, that I finally dropped designing work altogether and concentrated full time on painting.” This turning point is incredibly telling in terms of her thought process. Czok’s work has a direct relationship to her immediate world. When her formal propositions are posited against one another, they form a visual compendium of thoughts and reflections of a particular moment in time. Take for instance her work entitled Tank. In the center of this medium sized canvas lies a beautifully rendered yet enormously threatening tank. On both sides of the canvas are adjacent canvasses that have been butted up against the central canvas. On the left hand side are two flat colored canvases, both a deep crimson red and on the other side a pale blue. Underneath the tank is a long horizontal band of light gray. In the center of this gray expanse lies a small photographically rendered portrait of a young girl on a vintage bicycle. An arrow connects the image of the girl and the tank in a dialectical manner. By connecting these five panels and disparate images in this fashion, Czok implores us to read this painting synchronically and diachronically. The red panels seem to be symbolic of the residue of war, namely blood and death. The opposite panel being a pale blue inspires a bit of hope, it hints at the potential for peace. The images in the center highlight two modes of transportation, two manned machines. One machine, the tank, is made for destruction and war the other, a bicycle, for joyriding and transit. Czok’s tank in all of its gruesome detail is a baroque manifestation of power. She has also rendered the image in such intricacy, drawing the viewer inside into its mechanical engineering. A cacophony of gears, spindles, pistons, and guns, serve as a viscous reminder of its potential. In contrast, the young girl on the bike is a symbolic representation of what war destroys, specifically innocence and freedom. When paralleled, the subtlest image, that being the girl, is actually the most powerful. Czok’s painting also shows us how Western cultural priorities are out of order. Countries spend trillions of dollars updating and expanding their military advantage, yet often at the expense of their most valuable asset, humanity. When considering this painting I couldn’t help but be reminded of the aftermath of the Holocaust. Czok has addressed this tragedy in a recent body of work. For about three years she devoted a series of paintings to children in the war and the holocaust. The resulting exhibition has already been on show in Rome and Padua and is slated for Ferrara some time in 2012. In the aftermath of the Holocaust, many of the survivors sought shelter in displaced persons camps provided by the Allied powers. The girl pictured in this painting could be one such displaced person, one of the countless individuals who have been victims of atrocity. With incredible tension, Czok’s moving work embodies the displacement that occurs through unnecessary aggression, reminding us that displacement is not only physical but also psychological. Marta Czok, Historians, Acrylic, graphite and Indian Ink on canvas 50×50 cm, 18 x 24cm, Courtesy of the artist. One conclusion that we can draw from this work and others is that Czok is a realist. She states, “My chief aim was, if not to save the world, then at least to tell all and sundry what, precisely, I thought of it – and what better way if not through painting?” And it would seem that painting is a medium that suits her well. In another work, entitled Historians, Czok creates a witty commentary on history and our insatiable need to canonize, record, and document it. Based on Peter Bruegel the Elder’s painting entitled The Blind Leading the Blind, (1568); Czok uses a grayed palette in this work and incorporates two panels that form a table or shallow stage. Five men wearing dunce caps form a humorous party. In a line, they pull one another towards the edge of the platform. From the far edge of the canvas, the party seems to disappear into the softened, grey background. As the band moves closer to us their contours become more defined and linear. At the very edge of the stage stands the party leader happily assuming a position to leap into the void below. He smiles as an arrow points down into nothingness, it reads “hello again.” Here, history is literally about to repeat itself, as this grouping seems to be the blind leading the blind. Careless, lost, and almost jolly, the figures are archetypal stand-ins for all of humanity. In their capes and formal attire they also seem to have a certain pride, yet their dunce caps belie their false confidence. Again, Czok creates a stunning tableau replete with exquisitely rendered figures. Her use of a muted palette highlights the narratives she creates; it allows us to focus on her point of view in a very direct manner. So often history is written by those in power and skewed to fit ideological rhetoric. Czok displays these characters, as they really are, self-appointed individuals without any concept of where they’ve been and where they are going. With this piece, I couldn’t help but reflect on the idea that Western civilization often continues to advance technologically at the expense of our current environment. We are typically too far into the muck of a situation before we stop to consider its trajectory and the affect of our so-called advances. The philosopher and cultural critic Jean Baudrillard claims that Western society in particular has effectively dropped out of the grand narratives of history. He contends that we are no longer active participants in shaping society towards a larger end goal. Yet, he also feels that we are incredibly aware of this fact. Due to globalization, our enlarged understanding of humanity means that we will continue to play out an illusory ending in a hyper-teleological way — acting out the end of the end of the end, ad infinitum. In Czok’s painting this tragic-comic stage is a metaphor for our propensity to play out endings and beginnings without a sense of ultimate direction. Czok’s most personal and perhaps most intimate painting is entitled Sleeping Beauty. This painting is split into two sections, one a deep gray, the other a pale, whitish gray. In the lower half of this work, a male figure rests peacefully. The delicacy with which this painting is rendered is quite something. The white folds of the bed have a beautiful translucent quality rendered in a deft, painterly manner with sweeping brushstrokes. From an aerial perspective, we view this intimate setting from a higher vantage point. In this work the viewer can almost locate the time of night, it appears to be before 4 a.m., when dawn usually begins to slowly turn its head. There is an incredible sense of familiarity that Czok has with her subject evidenced by the delicate paint application and close proximity. The title is also an indicator of the sentiment she places in relation to the sleeper. In this wonderfully sensitive work, Czok relays a poignant message of closeness, warmth, and affection. One is reminded of Egon Schiele’s languid sleeping lovers or solitary nudes. Yet in contrast, Czok’s work does not have an erotic overtone. Rather, this portrait is a devotional piece that conveys a sense of profound affection. As I viewed this painting, Walt Whitman’s “Sometimes With One I Love” came to mind. Therein he states Sometimes with one I love I fill myself with rage for fear I effuse unreturned love, But now I think there is no unreturned love, the pay is certain one way or another, (I loved a certain person ardently and my love was not returned, Yet out of that I have written these songs.) Love fulfilled or unrequited, the payoff is in having loved and the beauty shared therein. In this work it is clear that Czok is a realist yet romantic. She wants her works to have certain qualities about them that provoke thought and reflection. When we pay attention, certain messages resonate on profound levels. She states, “I want my work to have an aesthetic quality, a work of art must have meaning, a work of art must ‘speak.’ Finally— and most importantly—a work of art must inspire the viewer to walk taller, be nicer, have more mercy, not to lose hope.” This painting by Czok conveys a strong message of the bond that two people create and inspires us to love more fully. Marta Czok has created a spectacular oeuvre of paintings using soft, muted colors that create interesting juxtapositions in conjunction with her detailed graphite work. Her use of several panels and negative space encourages the viewer to see her paintings as cinematic narratives. Czok’s work is comprised of thought-provoking expressions of political and personal import. Each one of her paintings conveys a compelling story that highlights singular moments of perception in a visually stunning fashion.

DENIED IDENTITY: ART ON THE EDGE OF MEMORY Text by Cesare Terracina After Pablo Picasso's Guernica, a cry of horror painted in 1937 immediately after the aerial bombardment of the Basque city and a prophetic symbol of a crucified humanity, art's response to the horrors perpetrated by man towards man and Nature appeared imbued with expressive drama, bordering on the very high and desolate wall that had, with the war, enclosed history in an inner boundary that could not offer aesthetic ways out. Certainly, Fautrier's dramatic exemplary informal response, the cruel innocence of the material flesh of his Otages, well warned artists against an art festival, forgetting the traces of past horrors in favor of a resurrected joie de vivre. Like the resurrection of a formless spirit, which penetrated the expressive disorder opposed to political Realism, or the wandering basin of the human people who saw in Chagall the Exile of the Creator, they alerted the mind to an expressiveness tense in inner reflection. Wandering of art and defeat, in the face of the need to show or express without political fury and in fresco the density of the immense tangible tragedy in the rubble still shrouded in the frost of death. It was the slow sedimentation and constant work of the survivors that built the most significant monument to the Holocaust, a living testament made up of faces, deeds and words that broke down the trail of silence left by a theological wall insufficient to offer answers. Thus it has grown generation after generation, a new humanity that has rediscovered the color of life, expiated the sin of political idolatry and that in memory has found the path, albeit dramatic, of knowing, understanding and teaching how to live in the memory of all those who in every era of history have been marked and erased by incomprehensible ideological reasons. The problem of the relationship between art and memory has its heart at the deepest core of history. And here his veiled paths are revealed, like the sound of poetic verses, rarefied to dissolve in the memory of those who miss the roll-call: as heavy as Menashe Kadishman's metal leaves/faces, insensitive to the aerial nature of the wind, forged and laid in the identity of Libeskind's minimal Berlin iron space. An eternal silence animated by ebbs and flows of anguish, that of the visitor to history. Indescribable horror that he saw, but did not experience. Marta Czok places a different condition on those who approach her inner testimonies. In his painting there is a reference to the irretrievable world of those who lost the fairy tale of life at the moment when imagination is the astonished essence of everyday life. A flutter of wings that whirls in the tragic sense of the loss of the labyrinthine and creative condition of the dawning dimension of childhood. Tragic actuality in our immediate present, when the dissipation of the imaginative patrimony appears to be faster, soon erased by an invasive and aggressive rationality that shortens fantastic distances, running towards the certainties of the social role. Marta Czok's expressive path, built on a game of linguistic identities like her biography, Lebanese-Polish-Anglo-Latin, through the expressionist irony inherited from the Flemish world, sealed by a subtle capacity for graphic sign, is revealed in a constant specular game of image subtracted from its original source. A dialogue of thought that acquires the strength of evidence, rarefying until it materializes in an elusive form: this is the initial color of childhood in the spectral spectacle of a black and white world. It is the amazement that we read in the eyes of children as they build their fairytale world, in which a sinister shadow like a magic lantern lengthens the night, as in Bergman's frames, an image of a dormant but alert fear, a trace of a memory left adrift. And it is the serial aspect of the images that, aspiring to a growth that is interrupted every time, is shipwrecked in an implosive silence that leaves no room for emotion. It is a stylistic dryness of a Kafkaesque tale, an expectation of an answer that does not come to any completion. And we become aware that we are in contact with the innermost envelope of art, the visual elaboration of a thought that reflects in the harshness of certainties the dramatic implication of a trace of collective memory. The erasure of identity is the thin thread that binds the memory of the history of infamy, as never perpetrated in the last Nazi-Fascist war. Psychological erasure of the recent past Soviet regimes, or aversion to identity itself, theological normalization of an ideal society, crusades launched against the spiritual and legal expression of oneself: from all this we are still fixed by the gaze of the motionless denunciation of the children of the concentration camps and the ghetto of Warsaw, as well as of Rome as an open, silent and suffering city in the shadow of an immense cross, darkened by the mire of fascism. Memory that screeches on the scraped glass, tracing a message of anguish transcribed in the immense invisibility of death. What appears from Marta Czok's works is the essential graphic cipher necessary for the expression of a delicate truth, put in contact with a world visited within oneself, through the elusive reflection of memory. Structures that speak of the instant in which all meaning disappears along with the denied life, from the tool of war to the cyanide shower, triumphs erected on the limit set to free growth, in which the love for the world that childhood has within itself gives way to the inexpressible dismay of loneliness. Never defeated, the dream of living and growing reappears. The story of Brundibar comes to mind, the Prague operetta in music written in 1938 by Hans Krása to a libretto by Adolf Hoffmeister, re-presented after various events to the Red Cross on June 23, 1944, by the Nazis in Terezìn to show the "beautification program" or, as in a documentary made here, the benevolence of the Führer who "gives a city to the Jews", together with the Nazi munificence towards children, which will be revealed in the extermination in Auschwitz of all musicians and performers. It will be the alliance of a cat, a sparrow and a dog and the help of all the children of the city who will intervene in favor of Annika and Pepíçek, intent on looking for milk for their sick mother, to defeat the treacherous beggar accordion player Brundibar, a character who gives a good idea of where the infernal project of enslavement to work and death is hidden. Mother puts her dear darling to sleep, The cradle rocks thinking of his love. Then the day will come When the beautiful bird he went, he will, It will leave its nest. The trees grow, clouds run, Years go by quickly. Mommy, look at us, we've grown up now. Think, reminisce about the old days if you want. We were bathing, In the tub we were: A little boy and his sister. The trees grow, clouds run, Years go by quickly. Mom on goes, empty the cradle stands, She thinks about the future when she will be a grandmother. An emptiness that leaves no regrets, so real and tangible is the memory of the immediate identity linked to the absence of a future. Not only in death, but especially in the trauma of continuing to live, as survivors and witnesses. In this identity of memory we believe is one of the senses of art: poetry, figurative art, music that does not cheer the courts of powerful and tyrants, but that veils under an infinite reference the silent secret music that animates life, even if beyond life. As the great conductor Karel Ancérl, interned and survivor of Terezín, wrote: "I have experienced that the power of music is so great that it can bring into its realm any human being who possesses an open heart and mind, to make it possible to endure the most terrible hours of his existence."

CHILD PSYCHOLOGY IN THE WORKS OF MARTA CZOK Text by Vittorio Mathieu Child psychology is the protagonist of this collection of paintings by Marta Czok; Collective pain is only the background. The infant is familiar with physical pain, but his fear is not of suffering, but of being abandoned. He attributes the cause of the physical pain, not only to himself, but also to the whole world around him and which is progressively distinguished from him. Pain and pleasure, especially tactile, are his means of communication with the world, an animated world. Very limited messages of appreciation, of simple information. In a queue at the checkout of a supermarket, I saw a child gently kicking his mother to get her to pass faster, and urging her to do the same with the customer in front of her, so that she would not hesitate too. Atrocious, unmotivated, and collective suffering, such as that which history presents to us, is beyond what an infant imagines, while a certain cruelty commensurate with his weak strength may serve to manifest a hostile intention, but not take on the traits of ferocity. It happened to a lady to defend a very young child from the beatings that some, older, were giving him; and to ask them why they did it. The answer was literally, "because he's three years old." Understood: "... And he pretends to play with us, as if he were our equal." A claim to superiority arises spontaneously (though not inevitably) in a very young person, as he gradually realizes that the external world is distinct from him, and disappoints his childish delusion of omnipotence. But in most cases this experience does not have destructive outcomes; on the contrary, it leads first to a search for companionship (even imaginary), then to a need for equality in the face of a common law, and finally to that socio-political "unsociable sociability" of which Kant spoke. Seeing this natural evolution in opposition to the extermination of the different, which distinguishes many "civilized" societies, gives Czok's art a tragedy that is all the more atrocious as it is less overt. Fortunately, this possible and terrible outcome of history is becoming rarer today, fought by special institutions, which would like to make the whole of humanity pass from a "closed" society to an "open" society. The progress, however, is slow and the successes are limited. But it is consoling that those who deal with the problem at the political level notice an artist who studies it in the physiognomies of children who are still unaware of the fact that, even after a few decades, they could turn into tormentors or victims of each other. Art is revelatory and, by awakening public opinion, it will be able to give history a direction opposite to that which so much of humanity has traveled in the twentieth century; A large part of it still travels.

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