No 4 (84) 2010
October - December

Within Her Inner Circle

Katarzyna Karczmarz has been dealing with three classic topics: still life, self-portrait and portrait. She started her photographic studies at the Higher School of Photography in Jelenia Góra under Wojciech Zawadzki.

Krzysztof Jurecki

B. in 1960. Art historian, AICA member. Lecturer at the Łódź Academy of Arts and Design.

Krzysztof Jurecki

THUS, SHE HAS BECOME A GIFTED, if not outstanding, follower of the "elementary photography" tradition, and Jelenia Góra School, focusing on the values resulting from the documentary oriented awareness.

Still Lives - that she has pursued since 2002 - are generally the arrangements containing few elements, with a characteristic deep modeling achieved through lighting and the minimum of accessories applied. Some of them serve as metaphors of human life, while as a whole they illustrate its impermanence and fragility. Certain arrangements slightly resemble one of the series by Zawadzki, others reflect traces imprinted in the artist's memory by the pieces by Grzegorz Przyborek and Wojciech Prażmowski. Their intrinsic mystery has been contained in their unusual titles. For example, The Fifth Category of Existence offers a foreshortened, flatly lying white envelope. This melancholic, nevertheless beautiful in its expression, "simple" piece subtly reveals a symbol that can be seen, while referring to the zone of immortality.

These genuine works can be divided into two parts: a classical still life tradition with its illusory vigor features (Ambiguity), and more modern works where the artist has applied geometric forms established in art in the late 19th century. Further, the author has been capable to use "immanently photographic" qualities, such as properly selected depth of focus, (Forest, 2003). Thus, the presented flora fragment turns unreal and slightly fantastic, while remaining realistic.

Self-Portraits have been more diversified in their form which is not said by way of criticism. One can see natural photographs, as though performances for a camera; multiply exposed, where the inner relations are more surrealistic, or others - with strongly accentuated attributes, for instance white gloves, or even purely magic symbols. One has an opportunity to watch her dreams about innocence and childhood, as well as the photographs that could be associated with Robert Mapplethorp, focused on the strength of human body fighting the illness. The photographs render a whole spectrum of psychophysical conditions, comprehensively grasping the matter of photography. Their next characteristic feature is the use of sophisticated symbols; the artist's silhouette or just the sign of it - since one does not see her face - written into a define interior or undefined space. Some photographs - with disturbed silhouettes or the ones in search for a spiritual self-portrait - reflect the output by Piotr Komorowski who happens to be a penetrating commentator of the work by Karczmarz.

So far, her remarkable achievements have been associated with the portraits of her artistic friends. An essential feature, since the artist could get an easier insight into the psychic sphere of her characters, or at least make an attempt at it. This is why her works reveal the hidden and hardly perceptible emotions; a reverie, a thought, a grain of pleasure, as well as a sense of fear of life. These are the photographs rooted in the 19th century tradition, going back to the times of Nadar, following the ¾ composition rules, but also more modern, showing the so called "tight frame" popular in the twenty-year inter war period with modernists, i.e., Aleksander Rodczenko or Witkacy. Nevertheless, they are the sign of death (Narcissus II) which is not merely its symbol but the seal. This has been later continued in the film art, to mention The Seventh Seal by Ingmar Bergman. This group further covers a small series Ecce Homo dealing with a difficult iconographic topic. This is a subsequent time when the artist - through the application of sophisticated painting like effects - has succeeded to present a wayward creature against the supernal mystery.