No 1 (65) 2006
January - March

Pictures on Themselves

Among a great number of currently organized – not only in the galleries, but also at other locations - displays and shows, problem oriented exhibitions are a narrow margin. Work selection criteria frequently seem just a pretext to present what is currently available.

Bogna Błażewicz

She writes about art, film, literature. She lives and works in Poznań.

Bogna Błażewicz

More often, simply the works by one particular artist are being presented. Against the background of this schematic exhibition strategy, a presentation guided by an objective, intended to answer questions and inviting to ask more questions, is a valuable and worth noting phenomenon. The Self-Aware Picture screenplay has been a winner of the competition by the “Painters and Poets Gazette” and “ARTeon”. The author, Marta Smolińska – Byczuk, an art historian and the Polish Science Foundation grant holder, has confronted, in a closed space of a gallery, the works by the artists following the meta- painting trend. Her text accompanying the exhibition read: The meta-painting trend has been distinctly visible in the contemporary Polish art. Nevertheless, it has remained hardly noticed because there has not been developed any discourse stressing its presence. Yes, there have been some exhibitions but usually showing the works by just one artist. The exhibition at the “Arsenal” Town Gallery in Poznań has filled this gap. The works by five Polish artists have been presented: Jan Berdyszak, Tomasz Ciecierski, Piotr C. Kowalski, Kamil Kuskowski and Paweł Łubowski. The light space of the gallery loudly “resounded” with questions on painting. The pictures contrasted by Smolińska – Byczuk, the curator, made one think about what is so basic that we tend to take it for granted with no further reflection or doubt. Who asks a question today what is the purpose of a frame or a passé-partout? The artists, invited to take part in the Poznań exhibition, have addressed these fundamental issues. They have stressed the trivial, asking their audience and themselves questions, frequently the tricky questions. They have played a game with space, with the convention, and they have invited us to redefine what we had been used to as art viewers. Thus, the custom proves to be a stereotype, the conventionality turns to be a fact. What has been left is a mockery at the convention and at ourselves; at a viewer who trusts an artist too much; at the artist who is too self-important and pompous. Kamil Kuskowski, Piotr C. Kowalski and Paweł Łubowski have criticized these aspects. Humor has been an important element of their works. Kowalski has combined the game of words and meanings with painting. The Tasty Picture – Smoked is the surface showing traces of being smoked over the fire. The Marine Landscape with a Low Tide by Łubowski also refers to verbal associations. Kuskowski has written over the Polish Landscape picture in a perverse, minimalist way. Jan Berdyszak has verified space, explored the potential of the inside and outside. He has adopted an artist – philosopher attitude, leading to the art backed by an intellectual approach. The pictures by Berdyszak, painted with great precision and concentration, leave a large margin for interpretation; they provide food for one’s imagination and focus viewers attention encouraging them to observe carefully spatial relations revealed in visual arts. Tomasz Ciecierski has constructed the pictures that seem not to have final borders. He has been putting layers one on top of the other, thus unveiling the creative process close to absurd, though serving a certain purpose – namely illustrating a reflection over painting and what is more, rejecting the limitations imposed by the tradition. The carefully planned exhibition has met its objective. Reflection provoking works quite frequently invited a smile. Grunwald Battle of the Games and Fun series by Łubowski provided not only intellectual entertainment but it encouraged active recreation. Viewers had a chance to throw balls - with faces of the characters from the pictures by Matejko painted on them – to the suspended basket. Who could have resisted? “The Self-Aware Picture” , the Arsenal Gallery, Poznań, October – November 2005; The Wozownia Art Gallery, Toruń, November 2005 – January 2006.