Wilhelm Sasnal: Sleep review

3 out of 5 stars
Wilhelm Sasnal: Sleep review
Copyright Wilhelm Sasnal, courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London

There is no single thing on Earth more tedious than someone telling you about their dreams. Why does no one realise that their dreams are only interesting to them, why? Why? Fortunately, Polish artist Wilhelm Sasnal’s show of new work isn’t quite about dreams, but that little bit between being awake and asleep where you kick out at a dream football, flinch at a dream slap, and you’re jolted awake. That hypnagogic state seems to course through all these paintings, as if they’re grasped in that single inbetween-y moment.

The images come to Sasnal from the news, art history and daily life. There are fleeing Rohingya refugees, big recreations of Matisse paintings, musicians playing guitar, burbling fountains, empty rooms, dark faces. But it’s all off. The fountains are captured in a night that’s too dark to see through, the Matisse painting is fading away, the trees seem unreal, the faces too menacing. It’s as if Sasnal is trying to reach for these nearly lost dream moments and having them just slip through his fingers. Ropes appear throughout the works, like he’s trying to tie all these half-thoughts together into something more coherent.

Some works totally fail: the tower against a blue sky with ropes stapled on it is something you’d find in some awful chintzy seaside gallery, the Matisse recreations are a little half-arsed. But others are brilliant: the sleeping face, the peering woman, the empty room. They’re creepy, ungraspable, dark things. Sasnal proves, conclusively, that if you’re going to tell someone about your dreams, they’d better be damn interesting.


By: Eddy Frankel

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