No 1 (89) 2012
January - March


Knaf, the Rebel

When one is looking for creative roots of a visual artist, these are usually found in the area of fine arts. Paradoxically, the origins of the work by Leszek Knaflewski go back much further; including music - the 80's punk, to be more exact. As early as during his studies, Knaflewski played percussion in the first Poznań punk groups (Rasa, Sten, Social Realism). In the end of 1980 and the beginning of 1981, he founded in the State Poznań Fine Arts Academy - together with Leszek Siejkowski and Tomasz Wilmański - the New Wave Bottom (Dno) Club that promoted the punk and new wave culture. The Bottom Club, closed down when martial law was imposed, and percussionist experience have shaped his rebellious and defiant background.

Marta Smolińska

Post-doctoral degree holder, Prof. at the University of Arts in Poznań, Art Theory and Philosophy Faculty.

Marta Smolińska

IN NOVEMBER 1983, Knaflewski - still a 3rd year student of the State Poznań Fine Arts Academy Painting Faculty under Prof. Jerzy Kałucki - co-founded the famous today Earring Circle group with Mariusz Kruk, Krzysztof Markowski, Piotr Kurka, Piotr Postaremczek and Wojciech Kujawski. During the first exhibition mounted by the Earring Circle, Knaflewski presented the "Spears" (today in the collection of the Łódź Art Museum) that marked his departure from a picture and painting in a classical sense of the terms. The output by the Poznań group has been accurately defined by Anda Rottenberg, who called it the post painting sculpture, since both, Kruk and Markowski, also studied painting.

Knaflewski, as the cofounder of the Earring Circle and coauthor of its name (with Kruk) has taken part in all presentations till 1990, the date marking the end of shared activity. Being responsible for the graphic setting of exhibitions, he made posters and very interesting drawings to register the works displayed at every exhibition mounted by the group. He has always approached them as a homogenous environment, never listing by name authors of individual objects. The ink drawings, referring to the expressionistic aesthetics by the Poznań Rebellion, carried not only recording values, but turned into autonomous pieces that reflected the climate of the Earring Circl; permeated with mystic realism and distinct references to surrealistic poetics.

 Beginnings of Own Path

Following the group, devoid of individual traits period in the Earring Circle, in 1990-93 Knaflewski focused on quest for his own language of artistic statement, and different, new means of expression. To mark the turning point stronger, the artist started to sign his works as Knaf. During his first one-man exhibition in 1993 he showed the "Calendar" - an outcome of a truly painstaking effort of collecting and processing tiny roots which he then placed against a white background of a thin fabric, added hair and covered them with a glass pane, as though they were peculiar, decentralized preparations. He has been inspired with bird's eye views of the World War 1st battlefields with dead bodies inertly scattered around, as well as with organic qualities of animate nature intrinsic to a given material. Having been processed, little roots got to resemble sperm, while their mass on the white fabric surface gave an impression of movement, constant shifting, living the life of their own, far from the rules of traditional composition. After object and installation oriented experience of the Earring Circle, Knaf returned to pictures; nevertheless, the latter exceeded the borders of classical painting.

The "Calendar" has clearly indicated the artist's inclination to play with symbols, visible in the fact that some of the little roots sperm have been crowned with crosses to mark extreme points where the beginning and the end, the life and death meet, standing for a certain condition of "being frozen" and an inertia to follow any course of action. These pieces, beside "The Catholic Cola", "The Couple" and "Sunday" have been presented on the famous "Irreligia" exhibition held in Brussels in the end of 2001and the beginning of 2002.

An Electric Coffin

In 1999 Knaf opened the Audio Sphere atelier at the State Poznań Fine Arts Academy to investigate relations between the visible and the audible world. So far this has been a unique atelier of this kind as far as Polish Fine Arts Academies are concerned; equipped with a whole set of instruments, mixers and amplifiers. The present Hobos (Penerzy) - Wojciech Bąkowski, Piotr Bosacki and Konrad Smolański, as well as Honza Zamojski, Mateusz Sadowski, Franek Orłowski, Maria Ewa Toboła - were coming and going through the Audio Sphere. This is the place where the Cat group started, originally composed of Bąkowski and Smoleński, with Knaff himself as a percussionist.

In the year when the Audio Sphere was opened, an unconventional pedagogue initiated - to be later repeated many times - an audio performance in the course of which he played one chord of the "Electric Coffin", adding life to this with his own breath and strongly amplified sound.

 A Glance under the Frock

In 2005 Knaff showed 8 light boxes and a video jointly entitled "Spirit", devoted (what a word in this context!) to ambivalent qualities associated with a figure of a Catholic priest. Individual pieces pose questions about the standing and authority of clergymen, the pressure they put on the faithful, their role in the World War 2nd, inclinations towards material goods, pedophile instincts. They touch upon most sensitive and appalling issues related to the Church as a part of establishment.

 An Artist versus the (Power) of Matter

The "white power" video (2008) depicts Knaf imprisoned inside the white paint tube; the artist's head is sticking out and he is throwing up the white. The stress has been put on the relations between an artist and matter, accentuated by means of altered proportions: the artist's body fits into a tube which regular size is just enough to cover it with a palm. In the video by Knaf it is the tube that "has enclosed" the artist, imprisoned him, limited him, restrained his movements, dominated him, even made his silhouette invisible. Could it be that matter holds power over an artist, not the other way round? Further, an insoluble problem comes out, does matter inspire an artist, or rather an artist inspires matter? What would be the fruit of this specific union? Knaflewski seems to suggest that art is a result of the combat, not merely intellectual, but also and outcome of physical efforts to confront matter.

Oppression/ Pressure

The most recent pieces by Knaff, presented on the "Przedmowa/Preface" exhibition, deal with the topic of artistic education and aspects of the artist's identity. The artist, who got his audiences accustomed to actions with matter, this time offered two projections and the "Full Screen" object in the form of a cage.

The cage, made in shining metal, seems material and at the same time dematerialized; this effect being intensified by the presence of multiplied shades of the cage outlines cast on its surroundings. This is an extremely precisely made and perfect structure with opened side walls giving an impression of free entrance and exit. This feeling, however, is contradicted by sharp bar ends sticking out of each arm of the construction, resembling sharpened pencils or chisels. Their rhythmical arrangement refers to a staff, while a general dimension offers perfect, point-blank sterile conditions for didactic work and the pupil teacher relation. The pointed bars and the atmosphere of terror of the cage direct viewers' imagination to perceive artistic education as a nearly surgical, painful operation conducted with cool calculation, and with perfectly selected, sharp tools.

The cage structure turns into a frame of a monitor screening the "This Is the Soundtrack" video which features a crazy dance of a microphone tied to a long cable, tossing wildly on a wooden floor as though it were a stage. The mike does not perform here its original function of amplifying and recording; it hits the floor and merely amplifies the sound it makes. It is wriggling about, running in circles, jerking, yanking and losing energy in vain. Just making noise that leads nowhere. This is still a preface, not the right message awaited with growing tension by the audience. The oppression/pressure of waiting is an added value contributed to this project by viewers who, in this case, stand for the public that over and over again expect from an artist something new, attractive and ever more captivating. The artist - having gone through the "education cage"; after numerous didactic treatments, pumped with expectations by his masters, his family, as well as his own - finally stands on the stage with all headlights focused on him, and instead of grasping the core, he (she) is still wriggling and hysterically attempting to move beyond the preface. The shape of a microphone and a cable brings associations with sperm which - under circumstances arranged by Knaf - is infertile, a constant, desperate seeker after. All the time unfulfilled and "shut" in a cage, its shadow being subdued, nevertheless providing a strongly present frame for its pointless quest. Apparently free to move; in fact an invisible cable ending restricts its freedom, a result of the earlier oppression/ pressure of the education system.

The "Preface" seems to be a subsequent aspect of the "story" on the standing of an artist obliged to get stripped and remain on the top forever. The video features Knaf himself, thus being a sort of a self -portrait, who presents himself, then his penis as a separate all- grasping existence jauntily sticking out of a fly of a smart suit. The artist gets involved in a serious dialogue with his phallus, testing it by means of shifting around it audio tapes with recorded songs to be recognized. Chanted titles of popular pieces of music - mainly rock - fall into a kind of a manifesto (the beginning runs: "Children of the Revolution" "Burning Down the House", etc). Every shift of the audio tape over the penis results in a creaking sound "illustrating" the nature of this inner dialogue with his own self the artist has been constantly involved in to check his creative potential; notoriously tested by others: audiences, curators and other artists he competes with.

The works by Knaf, a lecturer at the Poznań Fine Arts Academy, provide bitter observations on the standing of a contemporary artist who remains under permanent oppression/ pressure: first through education, next - audiences. Fortunately, a sense of irony contained in the pieces, prevents viewers from feeling compassion. Further, it is generally known that Knaf, a pedagogue in the Audio Sphere, has not been oppressive at all - as a rebel, he "lets out" onto the Polish artistic scene subsequent rebels, equally open-minded as he is.

This is due to the fact that the author of the "white power" has been constantly probing his own artistic condition and creative identity, observing them with a cool detachment for three decades.


Leszek Knaflewski

Born in 1960 in Poznań. In 1985 he graduated with distinction from the State Poznań Academy of Fine Arts Painting Faculty under Prof. Jerzy Kałucki. In the period 1983-1990 he co-founded the Earring Circle art group. Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań, Head of the Audio Sphere Atelier at the Multi Media Communication Faculty Intermedia Department. His work has been focused on images, in the large sense of the term, and sounds. Co-founder of the following music bands: Rasa, Sten, Social Realism, Art Sound Project, Drum Machine, Cat. Since 2003 He has cooperated with the Piekary Gallery in Poznań.

Selected One-man exhibitions

2011 -   „Przedmowa", Galeria Piekary, Poznań
2010 -   „Oni Śpią Za Nie", Galeria Stereo, Poznań
2008 -   „Skrzyżowania Przeciwko Rondom", Miejska Galeria Sztuki 13 Muz, Szczecin; Galeria Piekary, Poznań
2006 -   „Killing Me Softly", Galeria Nowy Wiek, Muzeum Ziemi Lubuskiej, Zielona Góra
2004 -   „Born To Play", Galeria Sztuki BWA, Jelenia Góra
2003 -   „Trumna Elektryczna", Galeria Piekary, Poznań
        -     "Born To Play", Galeria At, Poznań
        -     Galeria Grodzka, Lublin
2000 -   Galeria Atelier 340 Muzeum, Bruksela, Belgia
1999 -   Galeria At, Poznań
        -     Galeria Wschodnia, Łódź
1998 -   Galeria X Art Space, Ateny, Grecja
1997 -   Galeria Acte De Naissance, Valenciennes,Francja
        -     Galeria Miejska Arsenał, Poznań
1994 -   Galeria At, Poznań
        -     Galeria Kubus, Hannover, Niemcy
1993 -   Galeria Miejska Arsenał, Poznań
Selected Collective Exhibitions: 

2011 -   „Formy Zamieszkiwania, Publiczne i Prywatne Przestrzenie Miasta", Galeria Miejska Arsenał, Poznań
        -     Sacrilege, La Religion Satirisee, Ulb-Salle Allende, Campus Du Solbosch, Bruksela
        -     „Daj Głos!", Zona Sztuki Aktualnej, Szczecin
2010 -   „Uporczywość", Salon Akademii, ASP, Warszawa
        -     Coexistence, Tembi Contemporary, Jakarta, Indonezja
        -     „Mediatorzy", Muzeum Narodowe, Warszawa
        -     „I Could Live in Africa", Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej, Warszawa
        -     Von Fahnen, Farbbeuteln Und Fixierungen, Motorenhalle, Drezno, Niemcy
        -     „Credo", Zona Sztuki Aktualnej, Łódź
        -     „Pokolenie 80, Niezależna Twórczość Młodych 1980-1989", Muzeum Narodowe, Kraków
2009 -   Wasser Und Wein, Stadtische Galerie, Leere Beutel, Regensburg, Niemcy
        -     2. Biennale Sektor Sztuki, Katowice
2008 -   „Repulika Bananowa Ekspresja Lat 80.", Zamek Książ, BWA, Wałbrzych; Muzeum Narodowe, Szczecin; Galeria Wozownia, Toruń
        -     Asian Gates, Kunsthalle Faust, Hannover, Niemcy
        -     Shifting Indentity Visual Production Li Space, Beijing, Chiny
2007 -   Objecthood, Galeria Hardcore Art Contemporart Space, Miami, USA
        -     Nachbarn. Deutsche Motive In Polnischer Gegenwartskunst, Kulturforum Altona, Hamburg, Niemcy
        -     „Asteizm, Dowcip i Władza Sądzenia", CSW, Zamek Ujazdowski, Warszawa
        -     „Kolekcja Sztuki XX i XXI wieku", Muzeum Sztuki , Łódź
2004 -   „Muzeum Jako Świetlany Przedmiot Pożądania", Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź
        -     Made In, Foire D'art Contemporian De Strasbourg Start 2000, Strasbourg, Francja
2003 -   Mixed Media Art Communication Festival in Tokyo, Japonia
2002 -   „Polacos" Capella De L'antic Hospital De La Belles Arts, Barcelona, Hiszpania
        -     "Art Front / Water Front", New House Center For Contemporary Art, New York, USA
2001 -   „Irreligia", Morphology Of The Non-Sacred in 20th Century Polish Art, Atelier 340 Muzeum, Bruksela, Belgia
1997 -   Art & Aids, Halles St. Gery, Bruksela, Belgia
1995 -   Πr2 Cirque De Varietes, Liege, Belgia
1994 -   Sensations And Conventions, Centrum Kultury, Ateny, Grecja 

Wystawy Koło Klipsa 

1990 -   „Galerie lat 80.", Galeria Zachęta, Warszawa
1989 -   Galeria Wielka 19, Poznań
        -     „Przed pokój", Galeria Promocyjna, Warszawa
1988 -   „Świeżo Malowane", Galeria Zachęta, Warszawa
        -     Polish Realities - New Art From Poland, Third Eye Center, Glasgow
1987 -   II Biennale Nowej Sztuki, BWA, Zielona Góra
        -     Group-Art-Work, Kassel, Niemcy, (wystawa towarzysząca Documenta 8)
1986 -   Galeria Wielka 19, Poznań
        -     Galeria Krzysztofory, Kraków
        -     Festiwal Teatralny (scenografia), Teatr Współczesny, Wrocław
        -     „Obiekty i Figury", BWA, Puławy; BWA, Olsztyn; BWA Szczecin; BWA, Lublin
1985 -   Galeria Foksal, Warszawa
        -     Galeria Wielka 19, Poznań
        -     BWA, Bydgoszcz
1984 -   I, V, XII, Galeria Wielka 19, Poznań