Pieta, 3 dimensional painting, 2008

Materials: vanilla custard, electric heater, oil paint, canvas, wood, metal, epoxy, MDF

Dimensions: 130 x 240 x 240cm

Note from me:

In the middle of the desk there was boiling hot vanilla custard which was evaporating with a very sweet and pleasant smell. For me, this symbolized the wound .

Daniel Malecki’s work doesn’t have the usual things that one finds in a Pietà. There are no maternal figures, no languid wasted young men or even one’s that look as though they have recently drawn their last breath. Instead, the work consists of a kind of three-dimensional “painting” of a fragile and lopsided desk. On and around the desk are various work-related items such as a lamp, a portable stereo radio, computer speakers and other bits and pieces, all of which are represented with thick, highly textured, bright, spiked paint. The initial effect is of a highly textured panting that has grown out of a picture and “come to life.”

Then, a closer look reveals something rather disturbingly sticky. In the middle of the desk is a bubbling mass of sickly sweet, yellow custard, not as a representation but actual custard. It looks as though the custard is distorting the desk and the other items on and around it, bending the assembly and absorbing them all. The artwork is being absorbed by the sickly yellow desert. Its life has begun to fail and is being reabsorbed into its maternal source. This is a scene drawn from effects rather than forms. The effects rather than the form of the parental relationship in a Pietà are important here, which is why there are no images of people. One can easily feel the presence of humanity in the effects of the bubbling custard and the desk without needing to see it.

And yet that re-absorption is pathological because the bubbling yellow custard is framed by the surface of the desk rather than a bowl. This suggests a dangerous perhaps even acidic sweetness dissolving the desktop, melting and bending the desk items. The sweet desert has become a poison, its aesthetic effect becomes conflicted, confused and ambiguous, filled with both desire and repulsion.

Malecki’s Pietà is thus a site of tension and struggle, frustration and confusion and, of course, pity. But what kind of pity is this? Surely, this is not the religious institutional kind summoned in the Renaissance versions of Pietà. The value of Malecki’s work is that reminds of the familial weakness in us all at a time when such values are confused and ambiguous, but presents this weakness, even indirectly through the effects of work and home, as reassuringly and aesthetically as human.

Tom Loveday