No 4 (88) 2011
October - December

Animated Portraits

People appear on a large screen. They are smiling at us, doing something and making faces. Occasionally they are talking, though we cannot hear them. After a moment we notice that we are familiar with some of them; these are artists, poets, actors and others.

Eulalia Domanowska

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

Eulalia Domanowska

THEY SHOW UP ONE AT A TIME IN THE MIDDLE OF A PICTURE, trying to tell us a story, to perform a scene. We try to decipher their gestures and movements, interpret the accessories they have. Nevertheless, the video is silent as first film productions. One has an impression of being transferred to the past, to the era of Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin. The next take - a girl in a red skirt is dancing in a room. The picture is not clear; everything being enveloped by a cloud of impressionistic mist. Rhythmically repeated dancer's movements are hypnotic. To tell the truth, these two pieces by Ignacy Skwarcan are not videos but animated photographs which look like a piece of cinematography thanks to the applied method. His diploma work, made at the Poznań Academy of Fine Arts Media Communication Faculty, combines photographic and video art elements. This presents a set of miniature self-portraits. Each small screen features the artist's silhouette that holds a certain attribute. He shows the objects important for him - a computer, a photo camera, elements of nature, a telephone set, etc. He stands still as "a man with a face of stone"1). Animated, steppedup movements, alternating hairstyles - slightly smoothed or ruffled - make a comic impression, as in slapstick cinema. The artist applied multimedia to tell with a grain of salt a few words about himself. However, he has not revealed all. The author does not hesitate to look a bit funny but he does not show too much - only as much as he wishes. One can see a mischievous dreamer, as though from novels by Gombrowicz. A set of facial expressions, deformed faces of acquaintances and friends shot with a wideangle lens resemble photographic experiments by Witkacy. Ignacy shows a mocking, detached attitude. He has pursued photography, video, animation, as well as artistic installation and performance. He has applied modern means and ways of expression to question conventional truths we believe in.

The "Portraits" multimedia exhibition, put on at the XX1 Gallery this late summer, offered animations and photographs made by the young artist in recent years. Ignacy Skwarcan studied at the Warsaw School of Photography, then followed his interests joining the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań. Elżbieta Nadulska, the exhibition curator, says that he operates in the world bordering on: photography and film, the abstract and object oriented, a sense of humor and poetry. Four years ago, while still a student, the author showed "Hidden Places" in the Kitchen2); an interesting voyeuristic exhibition which heralded a series of photographs displayed lately. Earlier, he has developed miniature genre scenes placed in small, black boxes resembling a camera obscura or ancient photo cameras. The boxes, suspended at the height of one's eyesight, had a small holes to peep through and see what is going on inside. "Hidden Places" reminded me of one of the latest works by Marcel Duchamp. The latter, after he had announced the end of his artistic career, secretly constructed an installation to be watched through a small hole. Ignacy Skwarcan has also used miniature figures and models for his new presentation. He has photographed these from a very small distance, thus only some of them remained clearly visible. These photographs seem to be half abstract, mysterious pictures, where the artists plays with a size scale of objects and enters into a game with viewers' perception. Many of them have been nearly convinced that a fish, depicted on one of the photographs, is as big as man standing by her side.

With a lens and altered scale, the artist has arranged the visual, slightly surreal world. Igancy Skwarcan has showed us fragments of reality following metamorphosis. These, however, are merely scraps of information for us to build a complete picture. Both photographs and animations illustrate certain moments, images, impressions selected by the artist, constantly exceeding the bordering line between the perceptible and imperceptible.

1)This is how Buster Keaton used to be called.

2)A smaller room of the Sculpture Gallery shows debut exhibitions by young artists.

Ignacy Skwarcan, "Portraits", the XX1 Gallery, Warsaw, August - September 2011.