Dreams are my Reality: Aneta Kajzer

4 March - 1 April 2023

An orange duck wearing a bright blue wig floats on a moonlit pond. Or does it? Two stretchy arms wrap themselves around a tall green cup. Or do they? Aneta Kajzer’s paintings play with the limits of our perception. Recognisable forms and figures suggest themselves amid her lines, swirls and squiggles but never become fully concrete. Pairs of raisin-like marks transform the abstract sweeps of paint into funny little creatures – some sad and vulnerable, others comical and showy. These well-placed dabs of colour manipulate the narcissistic part of the human brain that is programmed to recognise a face in anything. And through this enticement to create meaning, Kajzer subtly but ingeniously probes the very experience of seeing and interpreting art. At what point does a brushmark become a face, she seems to ask. 


Aneta Kajzer intuitively knows when one of her paintings is finished. Some of them take many months, others just a few hours. Following in the tradition of the Abstract Expressionists, she works with her canvases on the floor – up close, intimate, with maximum control. She paints wet on wet or adds layer upon dry layer, always making several paintings simultaneously, in a range of sizes. She sometimes applies thick paint directly with her hands or tips her canvases so that the watery colour drips and dribbles across the surface. It’s not always clear to her initially which side is up or down. 


Then the figures start to emerge. She teases them out and gives the paintings intriguing titles which seem to confirm their existence. Fairy. Pony Twins. Swimmers. The characters are part-human, part-animal, part-anthropomorphic blobs. Viewers of the works often say that they remind them of something, but they’re not quite sure what. This might be because the figures speak to the lexicon of images that we collectively accumulate from cinema, comic books, fairy tales. The compositions are also informed by the history of art. Kajzer cites both abstract and figurative artists as influences: Helen Frankenthaler, Louise Bourgeois, Mark Rothko, Philip Guston, Maria Lassnig, Miriam Cahn. Her style, though, is distinctly her own. 


The title of the painting which gives the exhibition its name – Dreams are my reality – is inspired by a lyric from a French pop song of the 1980s and points to a unifying theme among the works in the show: dreams, clouds and imagination. You might be forgiven for thinking that the bubblegum pinks, soft lilacs and lush corals in this group of works imply that what they depict is sweet and innocent. But there’s always an emotional ambivalence in Kajzer’s paintings – a streak of darkness or a menacing undertone. In I’ve seen it all, set against a luminous blue background, a screaming face seems to almost burst out of the canvas. Its eyes are like two spotlights and its mouth is a quivering swash of black paint. Nightmares, the evil twin of dreams, are present in these paintings too. 


As Kajzer tells me, the phrase ‘dreams are my reality’ also relates to the experience of being an artist: ‘You’re creating something from nothing’. In Kajzer’s case, that something – filled with colour, energy, movement and emotion – is both immediately eye-catching and rewarding the longer you spend time with it.


Naomi Polonsky, March 2023

Naomi Polonsky is a writer and curator.