Rafał Zajko - MFA Degree Show Text
Originally published to accompany Rafał Zajko’s Goldsmiths MFA Degree Show ‘Filter’, 2nd-6th October 2020
2nd October 2020

For his MFA Degree presentation, Rafal Zajko presents ‘Filter’, the culmination of four years of part-time study. With a triptych of wall-based reliefs and a trio of free-standing sculptures set against a lurid scarlet backdrop, Zajko proffers his allegory of societal self-censoring, the impedance of ecological expiration and the pursuit of harmonious collectivism.

Ceramic circuit boards and measures of wheat, barley grain and flour are interred within transparent domes, the sculptural reliefs serving as an amp visual representation of Zajko’s dual lineage - his family in Białystok, Poland being employed as factory workers and field workers in equal measure. Here the wheat is both literally and metaphorically separated from the chaff, echoing the established refinement methods integral to post-harvest processing. In their adjoining display domes, a similar search for purification is taking place; red, green and blue light can be glimpsed through the vents, ducts and stoma of the indeterminate ceramic switchboards, as they continue their refractive quest to unite and form white light.

Zajko’s preoccupation with the additive primary colours of RGB and human trichromacy is further evidenced by the tricolour structural supports of his totemic sculptures, which near figuration as they stand to attention, close to life-sized. Likewise, a more corporeal distillation is occurring within, as synthetic urine thaws from frozen casts and collects in the ceramic conduits/organ imitations beneath, before being excreted onto copper panels below. Undoubted chemical corrosion occurs and Warhol’s Piss Paintings are evoked as Zajko’s engraved copper plates are gradually obscured by oxidisation and the resulting copper oxide patina. Just as the innate cyclical nature of agriculture or manufacturing is suggested in the wall-based works, so too are biological bodily systems in the free-standing sculptures, as the urinary simulacrum is repeatedly recollected, remoulded and refrozen allowing the filtration function to recur.

Lastly, art and artifice collide in both series of works, as Zajko hints at deceitful doings through both the depiction of cylindrical forms comparable to countryside crop circles, the hoaxing phenomenon aimed at propounding extraterrestrial existence, and the appropriation of synthetic urine, a semi-illicit substance commonly utilised to ‘beat’ urinalysis drug tests.