Photos. Andy Keate


Alexandra Lazar’s essay, Fragile

Group show

9 March - 9 April 2022

l’étrangère is delighted to present Fragile, an exhibition of seven women artists, hosted by Austin / Desmond Fine Art. Traditionally, women have played a central role as home-makers, supporting men to fulfil their ambitions. The undervalued role of women often leads to domestic tensions and abuse. Although women increasingly enter the professional environment today, expectations on them to fulfil domestic roles have not diminished.


This exhibition aims to address the challenges facing women today: from societal expectations to fulfil various roles, from maternal and domestic to professional, staying beautiful and desirable, supportive and understanding. These expectations, are often the cause of high stress and anxiety, take their toll on mental and physical well-being and put enormous pressure on professional and family relationships.


Joanna Rajkowska reaches out to her father, who abandoned her as a child, and attempts to get to know him by inviting him to touch her face, following her hand movements on his face. Through this poignant, emotional encounter, she aims to find the closeness and the physical touch with her father she never experienced as a child. This gesture brings into focus the importance of physical touch in repairing broken relationships and achieving emotional equilibrium.


Guler Ates portrays a woman in a bourgeois domestic Dutch interior, referencing Dutch masters’ genre paintings that show exemplary housewives. Ates’ women, however, invisible under their sumptuous cloaks, are an uneasy, uncanny presence, creating tension and mystery.


Małgorzata Markiewicz performs a frustrated housewife who attempts to be perfect: a good cook andcleaner, sexy and desirable, but tension and frustration is visibly brewing. The Fragile series of teatowels were made using images from Markiewicz’s performance at the Photographers Gallery in 2016, where she impersonated a circus performer, dressed as a housewife, trying to juggle different domestic duties.


Su Richardson’s Vulvacious, a collection of stained buttons suggesting female genitals, point to handcraft, that has been used traditionally for decorating, making and repairing, being relegated to the domestic female sphere.


Anna Kutera’s images show damaged pages from glossy magazines, of the ideal, beautiful faces of women, promoting products that promise eternal youth and happiness. Kutera subverts these dictates of commerce that objectify women and make false claims, luring the reader to a false sense of security.


Anne von Freyburg, in her ‘paintings’ made using a variety of rich materials, including fabric, tapestry and plastic used in fashion and decoration, references the Roccoco ideals of beauty, in the excesses of dress and interior. Her dissolving images are a caricature of the ideal of beauty and a comment on capitalist society overconsumption and excess in the pressures of preserving youthful appearance.


Yelena Popova’s paintings strive to achieve a balance of form and colour, through many interlacing transparent layers of distemper paint, referencing the abstraction of Kandinsky and Hilma af Klint. Through her meditative process of paint, Popova attempts to find tranquillity and spirituality.


Joanna Rajkowska’s sculpture of a scaled-up egg of a bird, emitting the sounds of hatching chicks, reminds us of the fragile ecosystem of inter-dependencies on which our survival depends,bringing the optimism and excitement of re-birth and the anticipation of the new beginning.

Austin / Desmond Fine Art, Pied Bull Yard, via Bury Place, London, WC1B 3BN


Opening hours: Tuesday-Friday 11am – 6pm, Saturday 11am – 4pm, or by appointment