The title of Piotr Lakomy’s exhibition at The Sunday Painter – ‘Room Temperature’ – prefaces the human body as both a starting point and remnant of its display. A ‘comfortable’ ambience of twenty degrees centigrade is at odds with the body’s thirty-seven, and it is this tension between comfort and discomfort, absence and presence, which lingers in the air.
What is particularly distinctive is Lakomy’s unique response to and activation of The Sunday Painter’s architecture. The exhibition extends beyond the white walls of the designated gallery space into the corridors, beams and exterior spaces, which sets up a conversation between centre and periphery. Lakomy’s response to space is from a position of subtle disruption and reconfiguration. For example ‘Untitled (Nest)’ (2016) is a nest made of aluminium mesh insulation and coated with beeswax that hangs precariously from the beam of the gallery. Its form and material is embedded with both life and death, as the life force of the beeswax on its exterior is undermined by the absence of a living body inside. A second body bag hangs in the bricked arch, this one white in colour, with insulation foam and more beeswax. Its offset positioning next to an empty power socket is an ironic intimation of a superfluous life source, as the protruded wiring reaches through the fabric of this minimalist composition.
The preoccupation with human comfort is also related to the ergonomic forms that these two works take. On the wall outside is the fragmented frame of another body bag; its centre has been removed and its flimsy remains rest gently on a pair of ostrich eggs. There is something inherently cyclical about this relationship to comfort, the liquid warmth of a fertilised egg compared to the artificially fabricated shroud of a body bag. Again, Lakomy does not appear to resolve this binary but leaves both together hanging in the air.
A more cylindrical structure is positioned on the roof: a thin column made from bamboo, aluminium, honeycomb and beeswax. Here, the dense pattering of hexagonal wax cells suggests the networked constellation of living producers, and yet the reality is just surface; the sculpture is manmade. This work, together with a similar column that is inverted and hung downwards on the staircase, speaks of structures, patterns and formations that exist in both nature and industry. The fact that Lakomy’s process involves significant labour over his materials – stretching, compressing, melting and dissolving – is paradoxically countered by the sense of absence that pervades each work. A series of ‘paintings’ hang in the gallery, their empty fields are segmented and framed by blobs of paint that cling to the surface edges like cultivated bacteria in a petri dish. There is something domestic about these works; although the human body may be absent from the scene, the memory of its presence carries through: growing, developing, and remaining.