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//Ambiguous stories// Elzbieta Sala

Ambiguous stories Elzbieta Sala

In primary school, Marta Sala had to recognise a painting by looking at its fragment. The reproduction showed a pair of elegant flip-flops from the Arnolfini Portrait painted by Jan van Eyck in 1434. He placed the flip-flops on the floor next to the couple and not, as could be expected, on the feet of one of the spouses. Marta Sala decided to create a variation of this task when designing the educational insert. According to the artist, shoes represent the emotional state of their owners. The shoes we wear say a lot about our personality, about our preferences and even about our lifestyle. By choosing certain styles of shoes we describe our character and construct our identity. The people portrayed by Marta Sala seem to be smiling brightly but at the same time the viewer can feel their inner tension. This ambiguity is characteristic of the young artist’s work and corresponds with the varied ways in which van Eyck’s painting may be interpreted.

What happened to Marta?

The work presented in this issue is a collage of fragments taken from the artist’s painting. Each of the pairs of shoes scattered around the intriguing figures was cut out from portraits that present the artist’s friends. The woman with the mug as well as the laughing, boyish person are in fact Marta. In this way, the viewer is encouraged to think about what happened to the artist and how her friends could be involved in this mystery.


They are (not) only shoes

Marta Sala decided not to give any instructions as to her work. Viewers are free to interpret her project in any way they want, trying to guess the hobbies of each shoe owner, to draw his or her image or to dress the artist in her friend’s shoes.

Marta’s work also contributes to the discussion on education within the discipline of art. Her project is mischievous and full of irony with regard to traditional ways of teaching. An educator, just like in the case of the van Eyck task mentioned above, usually separates an item from its context and ignores its complex meaning. Sala’s work reverses this process; the concrete is again replaced with the symbolic, and the viewers are asked to use their imagination.


Elzbieta Sala – see bio page 76.

Marta Sala (born 1985) – painter, designer, costume-maker and curator. In 2010, she graduated from the Faculty of Painting, Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, where she studied in Professor Leszek Misiak’s Studio. Her paintings have a psychological underpinning, closely related to the intuitive experience of the complexity of human nature.