No 1 (89) 2012
January - March

A Laminate

tekst: Eulalia Domanowska, Piotr Zalewski

An extraordinary exhibition of painting and actions by Igor Przybylski has been opened at the XX1 Gallery in Warsaw. The works by the artist, and the object he has devoted to a considerable part of his life, are out of the ordinary.

Eulalia Domanowska

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

Eulalia Domanowska

"A LAMINATE", THE EXHIBITION TITLE, SOUNDED quite strange to the majority of the visitors invited to attend the gala opening, it conveyed no clue. The initiated knew that in a trade slang the name refers to .... The Czechoslovak 230/240 series locomotive manufactured by SKODA in 1964. It was made as a result of the problems constructors had with achieving an acceptable weight level of the locomotive. They addressed Otokar Dibilik, a famous Czechoslovak designer (an author of a concept design of the 706 RTO Skoda - a forerunner of our cucumber like Jelcz bus and Morawa aircraft) to present a concept design of a locomotive body made of glass fiber composite saturated with resins, the material popularly called laminate. The body, designed in this manner, had no formal restrictions resulting from use of thick metal sheets. Thus, they achieved the shape unprecedented for the 60's. The artist has been fascinated with its unusual form and lasting beauty to the extent that he has prepared a video and photographic documentation to record "the life" of this nearly fifty years old product of Czechoslovak railroad industry. It has been a real achievement for the graduate (2002), then lecturer and PhD student of the Warsaw Fine Arts Academy to collect photographs of nearly 90 percent of the total of vehicles which are still operated.

Paint remains intact on laminate much longer than on easily corroding steel, so the locomotives maintenance rarely called for repainting. At present, however, we are faced with a whole variety of them as an outcome of the demise of the Czechoslovak state upon which individual locomotives were handed over to Czech and Slovak rails; by the same token, they were naturally "redesigned".

The latter has been a source of the artist's fascination. The pictures feature fragments of locomotives that have been the main topic of the painting by Igor Przybylski, the artist "crazy" about poetic aspects of rail, technology and traveling. For at least ten years now he has been collecting various objects and their specifications, and listing means of transportation. At the 21st Gallery he has showed visionary side of the piece by Dibilik produced in the years 1964-1970. Paintings have been complemented with photographs and the video depicting laminates as they are everyday operated. The project has focused on a great design concept - extremely innovative when made - which continues to perform very well today. Further, he has proved that in spite of alterations introduced by various carriers, as well as paint color changes, the initial idea - behind the then technically pioneer body - maintained its beauty, and remained one of the best achievements in European locomotive design. The latter being a responsibility of such reputable designers, as Italian Pininfarina or German Porsche.

The pictures by Igor Przybylski illustrate numerous details; headlights, windows, air intake gratings, cockpit and control elements, notices, symbols. Fans can recognize fragments of their favorite machines. Several of them attended the exhibition opening where they easily identified technical motives presented in the pictures. They earnestly discussed locomotive properties and appreciated the creative rendition. The uninitiated approached these as abstract pictures, artistically refined compositions of sets of forms and colors. Some pictures can be considered concrete painting. Others border on new figuration. On one hand Igor Przybylski seems to be an artist who employs freely various painting conventions, poetics and means, on the other - a fan of a section of the industrial era he has perfectly registered.

The "Laminate" project has taken him two years. He visited Slovak and Czech railway stations to record the machines and to bring back "the railway realities in Czechoslovakia". The project of this type should be presented in the Warsaw Rail Museum. Unfortunately, the Museum is interested neither in the work by Igor Przybylski, nor in the insight and collections of old railroad fans. This is a pity. I could lend the rail fans expertise and excellent pictures by the Warsaw painter.

Igor Przybylski, "A Laminate", the XX1 Gallery, Warsaw, January 2012.