“I could adore beauty only then,
if associated with breath of death...”
Edgar Allan Poe

The Silver Couple, 1996
The Silver Couple, 1996

Venice – an extraordinary city, seemingly suspended over water, fleeting, full of decadent splendour, yet at the same time under the mantle of a sickly spell
Pantomime I
(Flowers), 1996
– once a year becomes an unusual stage, a theatre open to all who want to be transported, if only for a few days, into a world of magic. Then anything becomes possible... The refined beauty of Venetian masks and costumes, their magnificence and glamour together with the mystery surrounding the disguised figures transformed my encounter with this world in February 1996 into a continuing source of inspiration.

The Scream (Red), 1996
The Scream (Red),
Amazement (Black and White), 1996
Amazement (Black
and White), 1996

Both the impact of the photographs taken there and of the acquired accessories has been so powerful that, quite aside a totally different and demanding career, it has opened up for me a new creative path. A second look at the Venetian Carnival, dazzling and mysterious to the same extent, has revealed that phantoms were hiding behind the same masquerades, which just a day before were consumed by joyous frenzy.From the series Ash Wednesday II, 1996/2000
From the series Ash Wednesday II,

These are now revealed again and there appears the breath of death on the frozen faces… After Shrove Tuesday Venice suddenly becomes deserted and its austere atmosphere engenders meditation. This experience has influenced the first series of photographs for which the melancholic mood was distinctive: "Ash Wednesday II" (1996/2000).

(Arrangement in Ultramarine), 2000

Simultaneously, mainly during 1999-2000, the first studio pieces were created which developed the subject of the Carnival into a specific direction. The concentration on an empty mask, devoid of any décor, which magical appeal results from its ambiguity, has established – subconsciously – a connection with the From the series Requiem, 2000
From the series Requiem,
etymological meaning of the word "mask" (Ital. "maschera", Lat. "larva"). "Larva" can stand for "the soul of the dead" and its typical colour is white… The studio arrangements focus on enigmatic faces with their empty eyes, frozen mimic, faces suspended in vague space continuously assuming a new identity. The persistent return to this subject, even years later, is the expression of the unabated fascination with the impact of the pure masks, a mystery, which remains a riddle. It is also the expression of the fascination with the autonomous effect of the fabrics, their textures, their colours.

From the series
The Harlequin in Venice
– in the Gondola, 2001

Finally, recognizing the limitations of studio work and as a performance in its own right I had to undertake a nostalgic return to Venice in 2001. This time it was not for the Carnival, but to experience the city nearly devoid of people, a city in a mantle of the autumn atmosphere, ravaged from time to time by rain and wind. This return journey provided an opportunity to create not only new costumes and masks, but entirely new characters: the Harlequin with his tendency for pantomime and the dignified Doge. They have now started moving through Venice quite independently, following in the footsteps of their historical
From the series Return to Venice
– the Doge
(The Mystic Marriage with the Sea), 2001

prototypes and blending organically with the landscapes of the city – the canals, the bridges, the sea and the ubiquitous and persistent pigeons. Their walk has remained quite untainted by the present that is otherwise only spoiling the creation of this unusual mystery, the present for which, in recent years, the masses of spectators during the Carnival became synonymous.

The Joker (Dissonances),

All these areas of artistic expression intertwine and interconnect with one another – something that may be clearly seen at every exhibition of "Faces, Masks, Mimes": the tragic "Joker" ("Dissonances") from 1999 is pointing towards the later Harlequin who keeps wandering through Venice until the night sets in. The mysterious figure from "Ash Wednesday II" comes back to life in the autumn-like "Return to Venice" (2001),
Pensiveness, 1996
although she is now acting in a slightly different context. "The Black Hat – in Memory of…" (1996) is all that has remained from both: "The Angry One" (1996) who had still, although marginally, participated in the Carnival and from the "Pensiveness" (1996), where the same figure, this time disguising her
The Black Hat
– in Memory of..., 1996
identity behind a mask, bends over the empty city full of thoughts. Faces, masks, mimes – all of them are telling their own story, hiding their own mystery or luring one into the illusion of something that does not exist...

Beata Wielopolska (2006)