Barbara Gorayska’s most recent work takes cues from one of Western arts most dramatic historical paintings, the1793 painting Death of Marat by Jacque-Louis David and blends these with a past socio-political ideology grounded in social Darwinist views and a newly emerging field of genetic engineering. The conflation of these two sources is portrayed in an exquisitely produced dramatic canvas.

The David painting featured the death of a writer deeply involved in the politics of the French revolution and who pursued a radical ideology of returning the politics of the Republic to the world of discourse by eliminating socio-political ills such as treachery, dissent, disorder, or violence. An ideology that Gorayska believes to be as fervent as the debate surrounding human nature and society and the advocacy of cloning, inheritable genetic modification and the new eugenics aimed at eliminating bio-pathology. David’s work is thus based on similar considerations to the ones in the her current body of work, including an interrogation of the association between art, the media, politics, ideology and representation, all of which are at the heart of Gorayska’s new work.

Gorayska has been studying the subject matter of the Death of Marat and its potential for re-activation for some time. However, in her work the central character of Marat has been removed from the paintings narrative. Gorayska says “When studying the painting and its history I was greatly influenced by Tom Gretton’s analysis of it (Gretton, 2000). In particular, he helped me understand that the true power of David’s painting rests not in what we see in it but in what David chose to exclude. I also appreciated the discussion of numerous ambiguities in the symbols used, which, e.g., led me to turn Marat’s bath into an ambiguous symbol in its own right of both a healing place and a crime scene.” She continues “In some ways this new work is not only emotional but also an intellectual exercise for both myself and the viewer. I hope it will allow them to freely-associate a myriad of other connections between the two paintings — whether the connection really belongs there or not.”

Tom Gretton (2000), “Marat, l’ami du Peuple, David: love and discipline in the Summer of ‘93”. In W. Vaughan and H. Weston, eds., “Jacques – Louis David’s The Death of Marat”, Cambridge University Press: pp 34-56.

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