The Merchant House has asked Elsa Tomkowiak and Mary Sue to interpret the gallery’s building, rich with Golden Age symbolism, as a contemporary public sphere. Using both spoofing techniques and serious art, they—Tomkowiak in painting and Mary Sue in video, sculpture and photography—join forces to give the interior topography a provoking and provocative face-lift. In so doing, the artists also address individually, and emphatically with respect to their art, the underlying theme of TMH’s Making Things Happen: Young Artists in Dialogue cycle: How does a young artist inscribe herself in the history of an art medium? This, in the case of Mary Sue and Tomkowiak, refers to performance and a performative gesture in art making.
With a chance to exploit her adopted identity to the full, Mary Sue decks herself out as a trim housemaid to burnish the canonical fixtures of the Amsterdam bourgeois residence. Bent on a dramatic entry and transgressing the cannons of working with paint, Tomkowiak opens the space up to the spirit of liberty and munificence. French artists of the same generation and artistic formation, Tomkowiak and Mary Sue have featured in solo and group shows as well as festival commissions, and are on a mission to experiment.
Sweeping through TMH’s walls, floors, windows, ceilings and terraces with the exigency of their craft, both artists construct a probing play of color as a cultural value. With confident proficiency in their medium, they are able to create a unique artistic exchange that invites viewers to join in and enjoy. The relational and artistic aspects of their dialogue are, however, both real and illusory, intimating telling slippages in modern day sociability and bonding.
Tomkowiak and Mary Sue studied at ENSA, Dijon. They have been featured in gallery and museum exhibitions, and more recently in large public and festival commissions.