A Language All Her Own: Franciszka Themerson at l’etrangere

It seemed to me that the interrelation between these two sides: order in nature on the one side, and the human condition on the other, was the undefinable drama to be grasped, dealt with and communicated by me. – Franciszka Themerson, Bi-abstract Pictures, 1957

One of our favourite London gallery’s, l’étrangère, is coming to us November 4 with a brand new solo exhibition of paintings drawings and calligrammes by Franciszka Themerson, a seminal figure in the Polish pre-war avant-garde.

Calligramme XXIII (fossil); Black, gold and red paint on paper, 1961

Developing her unique pictorial language during the shifting years of pre- and post-war Europe, Franciszka settled in Britain in 1943 and was involved in film and publishing, as well as painting, drawing and theatrical design.

Literary sources are a particular inspiration for Franciszka, especially concrete poetry and Dada. This can been be seen in many of the titles of her works, which feature quotations from poets and philosophers ranging from Gertrude Stein to Lewis Carroll.

As an invited member of the College of Pataphysics, Franciszka could count Joan Miró and Jean Dubuffet among others as her friends as colleagues, and the absurdist elements of Pataphysics definitely permeate her work.

Bass plaits II, c.1955 © Themerson Estate, courtesy of l¹étrangère.png
Bass plaits II, c.1955 c. Themerson Estate, courtesy of l’etrangere

There is no doubt that Franciszka developed a pictorial language all her own. In her paintings for example, lines are incised with knives, sticks or her fingers. There is a sense of immediacy in her work  that seems to blur the line between internal thinking and external execution. As she explains of this, her artistic language, ‘I did not think it out. I painted it out. And now I let it develop within its own laws.’

This exciting exhibition will showcase Franciszka’s three paintings completed in 1972 and a selection of drawings, dated from 1955 to 1986, and is sure to give viewers an impressive peak into the artist’s impressive and varied oeuvre.

Coil Totem, c. 1972 © Themerson Estate, courtesy of l¹étrangère.png
Coil Totem, c. 1972 c. Themerson Estate, courtesy of l’etrangere
Man with Triangle and Blue Spots, c. 1977© Themerson Estate, courtesy of l¹étrangère.png
Man with Triangle and Blue Spots, c.1977 c. Themerson Estate, courtesy of l’etrangere

– India Irving

Franciszka Themerson: Lines and Thoughts will be on view from 4 November – 16 December, 2016 at l’etrangere; 44a Charlotte Road, London, EC2A 3PD; Open Tuesday – Saturday 11AM-6PM or by appointment; Admission: FREE




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