art 2004/1

Krzysztof Stanisùawski (b. 1956) is an art critic, independent curator, editor-in-chief of the magazines Sztuka, Projekt and Art & Business, and the author of books on contemporary art

Iwona Wojewoda-Jedynak. Interjeras. 2002, drobė, tempera, 150x100

OBA (Ryszard Grzyb, Marcin Osiowski). Visi garbingi lenkai kaip Čingischanas. 2002, drobė, akrilas, 148,5x114,5

Ewa Miazek. Pastatas su velniu. 2004, drobė, aliejus, 100x140

Paweł Susid. Be pavadinimo (Vladimiro Lenino daiktai). 1980, drobė, aliejus, 33,5x33,5

Ryszard Gieryszewski. Du trikampiai. 1997, medžio raižinys, 70x50

Sylwester Ambroziak. Jaučiant tavo kvapą, jaučiant tavo kvėpavimą. 2002–2003, medis, 102x110x120

Józef Szajna. Batų siena, asambliažas

A Routine Overview: Contemporary Polish Art

by Krzysztof Stanisławski

The exhibition Warsaw in Vilnius and a concurrent Vilnius in Warsaw are two significant events capable of bridging a cultural gap of the long years and introducing to the viewers the phenomena that appear to be familiar, yet in reality, they are new to them.
The Warsaw in Vilnius with 64 artists and 150 pieces of art presents the contemporary Polish art (predominantly from Warsaw) on an unprecedented scale in Lithuania. No unifying theme has been designated for this exhibition, and all the works featured have been selected on the basis of quality. The Warsaw in Vilnius has a rationale of a simple overview and is, in a sense, a missing link in the chain of two previous (in the past ten years) events of Polish art in Lithuania: a retrospective of Polish art after 1945, held at the Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius seven years ago, and the exhibition Under a White-Red Flag. New Art from Poland, hosted by the same venue early this spring. In general, Lithuanian and Polish cultural contacts are close and cordial, yet it is possible that such close proximity and spiritual kinship prevent from seeking to learn more of each other’s art.
The Warsaw in Vilnius is an attempt at defining a present situation of Polish art and verifying if its traditionally characteristic features have remained the same.
Quite a number of the painters on display in Vilnius can be identified as colourists, even though the very concept of colourism has changed and diffused so much since the times of Post-impressionism. Yet even today there are artists who consider colour to be one of the key elements of art. For Teresa Pągowska colour is the way to express emotion and manifestation of life, for Tadeusz Dominik, colour in itself is an absolute value. Stanisùaw Fijaùkowski also has his own philosophy of colour, based on the theory formulated in the letters of Strzemiòski and Kandinsky.
Several painters of different generations have created their idioms through their relationship with nature. Such colour dominated abstractions, like these by Maria Orzęcka, Alina Bloch or Barbara Pszczóùkowska-Kasten have some remote references to landscape or a ‘skyscape’, as in the case of Krzysztof Wachowiak’s canvases.
The professor Stefan Gierowski represents both geometric and non-geometric abstraction, demonstrating how artificial this division is. Dorota Grynczel and Apoloniusz Węgùowski also recognize geometry as a way of painting and means of imparting discipline and philosophy on it. Though overall Polish artists often rely on abstraction in one or another way, as witnessed by variety of works on display, it is impossible to speak of abstraction as dominating trend on the Polish scene, as it is difficult for the viewers to comprehend to gain wide popularity.
Polish new expressionism, which emerged in the years of military dictatorship, was most active in the 1980s, and exists today. It is most explicit in the art of OBA, Ryszard Grzyba and Marcin Osiowski. Marek Sobczyk and Paweù Susid have also been perpetuating the trend of new expressionism, even though most of the latter’s canvases feature writing. Expressionists in the classical sense are Zdzisùaw Nitka and Marek Sobczyk, while Edward Dwurnik in his art is both expressionist and publicist.
Mikoùaj Malesza abd Jacek Ùydýba can be associated with poetic expressionism, Eugeniusz Minciel and Jarosùaw Wójcik are abstract expressionists, though both understand expression and abstraction in a totally different way.
The professors Gustaw Zemùa, Adam Myjak, and Antoni Janusz Pastwa are loyal to figurative sculpture and are undoubtedly the best in this field in Poland. Displayed alongside with classical pieces by other sculptors, wooden primitive figures by Sylwester Ambroziak strike a distinct note.
The experiments of the internationally established artists Andrzej Kalina and Marek Jaromski, has long ago brought the two beyond the boundaries of graphic art. Andrzej Kalina’s "gypsographs&", (linocut is imprinted in gypsum) are very impressive and fragile, Jaromski makes three-dimensional objects from paper and crushed plants.
"The fantastic&" is probably the weakest category of contemporary art. Through commercial success of the contemporary exponents of fantastic art, it had become synonymous with kitsch. Yet it remains a territory of important and interesting discoveries, and in Poland it is best represented by Maria Anto and Franciszek Maúluszczak.
The young art today seems to be preoccupied exclusively with the "cold media&". Photography, video, computers and installation seem to be created for critics, curators and international events. Those who do not want to give in to the dictatorship of fashion and believe in the universal values of art, have to promote their art themselves.
Piotr Wachowski has combined formal and thematic tricks in his work, while Ola Chaberek has created the longest in Poland painting, combined with installation, using a complex technique of drawing in chalk on cardboard mounted on canvas, oils, and layers of wax.
Iwona Wojewoda-Jedynak, indifferent to fashion, continues painting peaceful, light-filled interiors and still-lives in classical tempera technique. Two Maùgorzatas, Gurowska and Dmitruk, two young graphic art stars, have undertaken a revival of traditional graphic art techniques - linocut, drawing, and lithography. Elýbieta Banecka-Olszewska pursues a similar route.
Vilnius exhibition features some Polish artists who stood at the cradle of contemporary assemblage and installation, Józef Szajna and Jerzy Kalina. Józef Szajna (he worked with Wolf Vostell and Joseph Beuys) is one of the artists has highly individualised this form of expression.
Some of the artists are simply impossible to associate with any trend or style. In such instances a concept of "individual mythology&" is applied. Jerzy Mierzejewski is not only one of these, but also a representative of a dynasty of "individual mythologists&". His metaphysical landscapes and interiors are inhabited with what seem rather shadows than concrete people. Ewa Miazek merges abstraction, figurativism and illusion to constructs her own symbols. Barbara Guzik-Olszyòska and Ewa Peùka "map out&" landscapes of unexciting countries. Jan Dobkowski and Krzysztof Pająk have also created their own mythologies: the two artists have a different experience, but apply similar universal symbols and paint in vibrant colours, which they apply on canvas in thin layers. The canvases by Mariusz Dąbrowski are also beyond time and space, while Michaù Zaborowski combines plain colours with subtle half-tones to capture picturesque moments of life. His art is humorous, sexual and provoking simultaneously, something for a desert.