Exhibition view, Both Directions at Once, 2021.

Thomas Lesigne & Karolina Orzelek


March 11th - April 23rd 2021

Galerie Mighela Shama is delighted to present Both Directions at Once, an exhibition of works by the Polish painter Karolina Orzelek and French painter Thomas Lesigne. The show features a collection of oil paintings by Orzelek and works on paper by Lesigne created during a period of residency at Galerie Mighela Shama in Geneva in the early months of 2021.

Text by Lucy Olivia Smith

Exhibition view, Both Directions at Once, 2021.

The exhibition takes its title, Both Directions at Once, from the Lost Albums of jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, with a nod to the untold possibility of improvisation and collaborative emergence. The album, discovered after Coltrane’s death, is described as occupying space somewhere between ‘moving backward’ and ‘surging forth’.

It is through this non-linear motion that Orzelek and Lesigne set out to create an entirely new body of work that explores the tension between experience and memory.

Through a layered process that begins by gathering analogue photographs taken by the artists themselves on travels, Orzelek and Lesigne create an archive of places, moments and memories. In an age where images are so easily harvested through digital means, the decision to create a physical collection and to transfigure their source material by pencil and then paint, reflects a remarkable preference and appreciation for the tactile process. 


Smokescreen, 2021, Oil on wood, 80x120cm


La Marche en Avant, 2021, Watercolour on paper, 22x28cm

Karolina Orzelek: People say that our work has something in common. We studied together, worked together, and now share a studio in Paris. There is always a lot of exchange and influence. We also travel together, and since both of us use photographs that we have taken on those travels, we share this original experience of a place. But how we develop that idea first through photography and then through painting is a process that becomes individual. It was obvious that we would at some point do an exhibition together.


Airpark, 2021, Oil on wood, 72 x 50cm.

Karolina Orzelek drops us in surreal hyper luminous landscapes of florescent foliage, apricot skies, flames at dusk and malachite green shadows. Her paintings are carefully staged and mysteriously silent, giving the viewer the perception that they have arrived upon a scene in which the subjects have just left. Playing with notions of presence and absence, she leads her audience to wonder what might have happened or is about to come. Colors that pulse and burn compliment the uncertainty of the moment, highlighting the duality or perhaps, the affinity between dream and fantasy, fear and desire.


Sky Safari, Oil on wood, 2021, 56x60cm

Karolina Orzelek:

The use of vivid, often artificial colors is my most natural form of pictorial expression.

I’m definitely influenced by the way post-impressionists, Fauvists, Nabis and others used the color to “enhance” the reality and symbolism of their works.

I am also really fascinated by the use of color in the cinema and how color choices can completely change the reading of a scene.

However, even though I spend a lot of time “searching” for colors and testing new ideas, I tend to use them in a very intuitive way.


News from Nowhere 3, 2021, Watercolour on paper, 28 x 30cm.

Lesigne’s aquarelles are ethereal, calm and pensive. They convey a powerful sense of solitude. A figure moves unconsciously through a blurred physical world, swathed in the shadow of a branch’s bough. The viewer is led to wonder whether we are observing, or being asked to observe ourselves. Contemplative moments become all the more searching in a mirage that extends slowly and silently. Lesigne’s painted environs visit deserted landscapes, stones and water, often under the influence of light and especially weather. In his mosaic works, soft edges and undefined lines depict large-scale landscapes that upon a closer gaze dissolve into total abstraction.

Thomas Lesigne: Watercolors appeared progressively in my art practice during my studies in Beaux-Arts Paris. Aquarelles exist somewhere between painting and drawing and I like being in between the two techniques. It’s a full fledged exploration where I can be very spontaneous and it offers a renewed vision of my documentation and photographs. I can also easily carry my painting equipment with me when I travel.


Meteora, 2021, Watercolour on paper, 48x76cm

Thomas Lesigne:

I will always remember fog suddenly appearing at the beach in Atlantic City, the atmosphere that emerges is something that envelops you and that you can get lost in.

I love this feeling. Romanticism of the XIX Century is one of my influences, in my practice I have the opportunity to translate a different mood in every painting and I like this dialogue between large spaces and introspective possibilities.

In Both Directions at Once, Lesigne and Orzelek conjure a contemplative space that compels us to rediscover remembrance, illusion and the purpose of our own gaze.

Thomas Lesigne is a French artist born in 1989 in Avignon and Karolina Orzelek is a Polish painter born in 1992 in Bielsko-Biala. Both attended the L'Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 2020, Orzelek won the prestigious Sisley Beaux-Arts de Paris Prize. They work and live in Paris.

Peak into the residency when Lucy Olivia Smith interviewed Karolina Orzelek and Thomas Lesigne. Courtesy of Galerie Mighela Shama. Photo: Mighela Shama