Marzena Topka at Fremantle Arts Centre, 2014. Image: Bo WongMarzena Topka: Constructive Space

Words by Ric Spencer

Marzena Topka has spent the last five years living and working in Artsource’s Haig Park residency studio. Studio time is a blessing for most artists but it seems pivotal to Marzena’s practice, and by extension having a live-in studio has been critical to the development of her work.

Time is a crucial element to Marzena’s work - time spent literally living with materials, hours in "mind-numbing repetition” using slow, recurring tasks like unpicking and crocheting to extract every ounce out of the process. Because for Marzena, “within repetition is meditation” and the possibility of moving beyond daily life and the structures that hold us in check.

Speaking with Marzena it becomes clear that living and working within the space with the materials, leaving them as they are and coming back to them and being able to regulate her own hours has had an impact on her work

Marzena Topka, Work in Progress, Haig Park Studio, 2014 - so much so that she now thinks of it as “multifunctional” like her space, like her life within the studio.  Over recent years Marzena’s exhibited work has become multilayered in terms of media, using string, starch, video, sound and performance. The inference is that the constancy of the studio has allowed Marzena’s work to reflect the stability and structure of her studio life but has also allowed her thoughts to bend, flex and melt away at the outskirts, while the structure holds fast. I am fascinated by this idea that studio spaces infer meaning on to work and that their energetic residue is invested in an artist’s output. 

In recent times Marzena has been involved in exhibitions at Heathcote Musuem and Gallery, PS Art Space Fremantle and her solo Boundaries of Beige at Fremantle Arts Centre. I had the pleasure of working on the exhibition at FAC with Marzena and coming to understand more the push and pull of ‘beige’ – of the constant tension between regularity, innocuousness and the need for such neutrals and constant denominators to allow us to see bursts of creativity, of colour and of love and devotion that occur within the universe. Within nature repetition is a constant but then so too is chaos - one drives evolution, one sustains life.  It was remarkable to observe Marzena in the FAC studio she was utilizing to complete a large net work for Boundaries of Beige.

Marzena Topka, Time Punch, 2014. Shirts - dimensions variable. Photographer: Bo WongThe discipline involved to pursue, with the help of volunteers, such an ambitious repetition of form was only outweighed by Marzena’s affable acceptance that the neutrality of beige and the support of the grid allowed the opportunity to dream big. 

“What is beige?” she mused to me in conversation, “it’s been mapped and thought of as colour and metaphor. It has been defined and gridded and acts as a neutral to activate other colours. It makes other things appear. There is reference in its use to a certain type of person as homogenous or non-individual and this can be an insidious and dangerous aspect of beige.”

Such is the nature of habit and structure, they offer us comfort and may neutralize our lives but they also offer us the chance to realise things beyond - beautiful moments of clarity and vision that occur through the evolution of ideas. I think within Marzena’s thematic framework and her studio life there are great lessons for all artists interested in process.

Marzena Topka, Telekinesis, 2014. Altered ruler 12x6x10cm. Photographer: Bo Wong

Ric Spencer is an artist and writer and currently Curator at Fremantle Arts Centre.

Image credits (top to bottom)

  • Marzena Topka at Fremantle Arts Centre, 2014. Photographer: Bo Wong
  • Marzena Topka, work in progress at Haig Park Studio, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist
  • Marzena Topka, Time Punch, 2014. Shirts, dimensions variable. Photographer: Bo Wong
  • Marzena Topka, Telekinesis, 2014. Altered ruler, 12x6x10cm. Photographer: Bo Wong