No 2 (82) 2010
April - June

Polish Confessions in Norway

The “Pure Art” project, to be implemented for nearly two years by the Warsaw Fine Arts Academy and the Royal Art Academy (KHIB) in Bergen, was launched in the spring of 2010. This is to cover 6 art, design and public space projects displays, as well as student workshops.

Eulalia Domanowska

B. in 1960. Art historian, critic, curator. She publishes texts on contemporary art.

Eulalia Domanowska

IN AUGUST 2009, I WAS WORKING TOGETHER WITH RITA MARHAUG, an artist, on this joint Polish - Norwegian art project. We were sitting at our computers thousands kilometers away; I was in a drowsy, summery Warsaw, and Rita - in a beautiful scenery of northern Norway. We were wondering what kind of art would be interesting for our audience, and what would contribute to bringing the two cultures closer. My Norwegian partner proposed the title for the first show: " Confessions in the Public Space". I believed it was an excellent idea, since this problem was also significant for Polish art, if only due to its relations with politics and religion.

Each exhibition, like each statement, is the confession by an artist who reveals his views, preferences and ideas; bares his mind, if not heart and soul. Displaying his works, he is facing public judgment; while his personal experience joins public social structures. One can say that every message, including the visual, makes a political act. So, where is the border between the private and the public? Further, how is it possible that private ideas have been developed into public ideologies?

These issues have been present in the work by 4 artists from the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts invited to take part in the exhibition in Bergen. It happened that they offered mainly painting which has witnessed renaissance from the late 90's in Poland. Jarosław Modzelewski, a former member of Gruppa, refers to religious aspects which have been not only a spiritual, but also political and social convention related issues in our country.

"I started thinking whether a contemporary picture can contain sanctity" - the artist commented, presenting the piece entitled "After the Communion". In the dark, sacral interior, one can spot some gloomy human silhouettes. Only side altars are illuminated in color. The topic of church and Polish religious devotion have been vital elements of the contemporary culture, faced by subsequent generations of artists. "A Boy on the Terrace", a second picture by this artist presented in Bergen, showed more intimate sphere - the artist's son looking intently at the summer landscape. Both pictures - concise in form, showing an intense palette, understated - have been definitely different in mood, alternating between the dark and light.

Religious, political, philosophical, artistic, erotic and everyday life experience overtones have been  present in the output by Paweł Susid, the author of works referring to the language of geometry and constructivist tradition. The artist has simultaneously applied the form of a template to present laconic slogans. A simple, poster like form of small size pictures calls for individual communication, as it has been said - it demands an intimate contact. The artist offers strong iconic signs deeply rooted in our culture, frequently provided with ironic comments, thus creating a new quality. Norwegian viewers have been impressed with a piece with the inscription reading: "Christ was fantastic - 2000 years ago". The pictures by Paweł Susid register his own experience, describe and comment of the surrounding world, focusing on its sad, joyful or absurd aspects.

Paweł Nowak has made small size "intimate" pictures, complemented with videos and photographs, showing his private microcosm situated in the abstract expressionist tradition and poetic symbolism. I have reviewed in the last EXIT issue the series entitled "The Nude", showed in Bergen.

The latest multimedia installation by Ryszard Ługowski, displayed in Bergen, explores the subject of patriotism and national identity, based on personal family history - a legend of his lancer uncle. The title "They Will Give Me a Chestnut Horse" originates in a popular song and refers to the Polish cavalry from between the wars period. These historical sentiments have been written into a romantic myth of a hero frequently recalled in the Polish postwar culture, i.e., movies by Andrzej Wajda. The installation by Ryszard Ługowski presents the view of the "Horse Head" nebula, hard to observe from earth; night sky full of stars. Who has not have such romantic dreams? This motive combines personal mythology with a public universal dream. "Confessions" have been received in Bergen with interest. Subsequent exhibitions under the "Pure Art" project will be held this summer and autumn in Warsaw.