HangART–7 Edition 17: Poland

"In dark woods"

The art programme HangART-7 starts 2011 with an exhibition of eight young artists from Poland. Entitled "In dark woods", it shows contemporary Polish paintings from February 26 to early May 2011, at Hangar-7 in Salzburg. 

The title of the exhibition, "In dark woods", indicates moods or atmospheres painted in many colours, yet then again strikingly marked by dark colours and by strong contrasts. Light in these works shines out like a flash between trees, and themes and motifs emerge suddenly like a blaze of light falling on the canvases, as if they came forth out of a mysterious forest of memories and phantasms. Using all the means of an exacting technique, the young artists, trained in the tradition-conscious Polish art academies, seek to challenge our senses with sometimes fairytale-like images.

Curator Lioba Reddeker about the exhibition

The 17th exhibition in the series HangART-7 is dedicated to our neighbouring country Poland, a country that, though it is really quite near to us, probably few of us could say we know well. Numerous political conflicts and the sudden death of a controversial President in an aeroplane crash made 2009 and 2010 notable years. For events such as these there is considerable international press coverage. But otherwise? Yet since 1989 Poland has been working intensely at its political and economic reorientation, and careful observation will reveal the rapid pace of changes and re-structuring that has likewise been taking place in the social fields of culture and art. The resistance against the regime in the 1980s ended with fundamental changes also in cultural policy. Museums were re-staffed and private art galleries and foundations gradually assumed the work of re-definition and internationalization in the visual arts. The Zachęta National Gallery and the Foksal Art Gallery, established in 1966, may be mentioned as two representative examples of many initiatives in Poland, ranging from Danzig and Posen to Krakow.

Possessing a rich cultural history and an ambitious young generation, Poland has in recent years produced works of art that have commanded our attention for some time. Seen here and now, the take-off of Polish painting in the 1990s is the most striking. It is bound up with the internationally known artists Adam Adach, Marcin Maciejowski and Wilhelm Sasnal (and many others), members of a generation born in the early 1970s who have been explicitly relevant for the young artists introduced here. These artists strike mostly soft and gentle notes, which here and there could remind one of the music of probably the most popular Polish artist, Frédéric Chopin. They sound the note of a romantically tinted pain of loss, a loss that engenders the need for change, and changes that the young generation of Polish artists must see as their challenges. For this process of change will not be accompanied by the touching music of Chopin. It will rather be the sounds of contemporary cities and living conditions, interspersed with political rhetoric, hype and the pulsation of incited longings. Religion, state doctrine and patriotism are only part of a noisy stage set, behind which lies the barren land of meagre possibilities. The cold wind that is currently driving us is of another kind. For many young Poles it is the lot of labour migration and social problems.

The artists gathered together in this exhibition have faced these challenges in an impressive way and show in their works, in the most diverse manner, how they are seeking new bearings and how their art is enabling new perceptions. Let us give them the attention they deserve. It could also become a journey to ourselves.

Exhibited are works by three women and five men:

Aleksandra Bujnowska (*1979), Michał Chudzicki (*1983), Aleksandra Czerniawska (*1984), Michał Korchowiec (*1987), Dorota Kozieradzka (*1982), Andrzej Roszczak (*1974), Michał Szuszkiewicz (*1983), Michał Zawada (*1985)

Aleksandra Bujnowska, Small night searching, 2009, oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm
Aleksandra Bujnowska, The tree with the house behind, 2010, oil on canvas, 18 x 24 cm
Michał Chudzicki, The child looking from my face, 2010, oil on canvas, 130 x 100 cm
Michał Chudzicki, Boys, 2010, oil on canvas, 42 x 34 cm
Aleksandra Czerniawska, River, 2009, oil on canvas, 180 x 291 cm
Aleksandra Czerniawska, Autumn forest (yellow), 2010, oil on canvas, 120 x 90 cm
Michał Korchowiec, Self-portrait (auto 3), 2009, acrylic on canvas, 120 x 140 cm
Michał Korchowiec, Cliche A (from the work series Thrombosis), 2010, acrylic on canvas, 105 x 125 cm
Dorota Kozieradzka, Beat the cold with the warm (from the series Chaser hunting), 2010, egg tempera on canvas, 130 x 195 cm
Dorota Kozieradzka, Suspense (from the series Flights suspension), 2010, egg tempera on canvas, 140 x 190 cm
Andrzej Roszczak, untitled (Veruschka by Richard Avedon), 2010, oil on canvas, 150 x 160 cm
Andrzej Roszczak, Jumping Cars (Old Racing Cars), 2010, oil on canvas, 115 x 135 cm
Michał Szuszkiewicz, Short cut (from the series A few most interesting ideas to reach Mt. Everest), 2009, oil on canvas, 130 x 180 cm
Michał Szuszkiewicz, untitled, 2008, oil on canvas, 240 x 130 cm
Michał Zawada, [After Chim] (from the series Shadows), 2009, oil on canvas, 165 x 135 cm
Michał Zawada, Night of the world V (from the series Winterreise), 2009, oil on canvas, 170 x 160 cm

Further information

Exhibition period and opening hours

From February 26 to early May 2011

Every day from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm

Aleksandra Bujnowska (*1979)

Aleksandra Bujnowska’s pictures are charged by a keynote of dissonance. What at first glance seems beautiful and seductive, swiftly turns into a structure of suspense that lures the viewer down the laid out tracks. Small points of light in the darkness of a late evening landscape mark the torches of search parties. Sheer phenomena become a scene. The implied action remains invisible, laying by means of the indicative title Night searching, a tangible level of suspense over the picture.

In her work Bujnowska treats themes such as fear and uncertainty, embedded in everyday places and situations. Appearances deceive. Beauty here has a dark side. Films, for example those of Alfred Hitchcock, as well as everyday impressions and feelings furnish her with her starting points.

In the series Rambo, the elongated proportions of sections of landscape painted in medium-sized formats immediately recall cinema screens. Darkling woods or a craggy beach here become a painterly event that goes far beyond the mere copy of a film still by suggesting to the observing eye a manifold of sensory impressions.

Michał Chudzicki (*1983)

The window is a common motif in painting. To reduce it to the simple function of a vanishing point would fall short of its pregnant pictorial effect. The window is a symbol of the separation between inside and outside, and thereby creates two opposing sides of the world. In addition to its role as a boundary and bridge, the window enables us to recognise on which side we are: one side of the window opens on the outer world, the other gives us a glimpse into the intimacy of inner space.

In his works, Michał Chudzicki, born in 1983 in Krasnik and now living in Cracow, places us very classically in the interior of a space and so in the same position as the artist. What happens when the outer world we are observing turns into a catch basin for our memories? For everything we have experienced and then perhaps forgotten? Suddenly, we are no longer neutral observers looking out into a strange world, but rather images in a mirror filled with subconscious memories and images cavorting in paradoxical, even surreal play. Chudzicki’s works have since 2009 been drawn from this very personal and contemporary interpretation of surrealism.



Aleksandra Czerniawska (*1984)

Aleksandra Czerniawska has deep roots in her city and childhood surroundings, the city in eastern Poland, Białystok, and this familiar background has strongly influenced her, forming the principal field of exploration for her art. Residence in Warsaw, the current centre of her life, provides the needed distance for this.

One series of Czerniawska’s pictures leads us into the forests of her homeland. The uniformity of these forests makes it hard to gain bearings in them, so that the people depicted in these scenes appear to be lost and it is not clear why they are there. The viewer may surmise they are searching for traces – traces of the past, on the quest for which they and the viewer, so to say, get lost. The forests remain silent and aloof, while subjective associations and projections turn them into scenes of virtual action. The simplicity of these pictures stands in marked contrast to their suggestive power, charged with individual as well as collective memories of a possible past.

Michał Korchowiec (*1987)

Michał Korchowiec, born in 1987, is currently a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. He sees himself as an artist who wants to create an open space in which the present can happen, in its essence and uncensored. He therefore prizes the work of Artur Żmijewski (born in 1966), whose unconventional and provocative films (for example, about extermination camps and people struggling against pain and death) have stirred up fierce debate. By clinging to conventional forms of remembrance, Żmijewski argues, many people keep painful memories at arm’s length and freeze the past. This artistic vision has been important for Korchowiec.

The paintings presented in this exhibition should be seen as one part of his current work and so as belonging to a total installation created in several media. He always chooses that medium which is best suited for the realization of the ideas at hand. In this case, the medium is paintings that seem to recall faded photographs from family albums or fleeting impressions and forgotten thoughts, as if they were the after-images of past years when the colour grey possessed more than only a metaphoric significance.

Dorota Kozieradzka (*1982)

Kozieradzka paints with egg tempera on large canvasses, a very exacting technique that allows for no errors and, in return, generates a fine, continuous pictorial surface. The sensory impression is striking. The brush strokes are nearly invisible, making the material appearance of the painting approximate that of photography. 

Kozieradzka is not afraid to take her bearings directly from models such as Vermeer or Giotto and Masaccio, whose careful handling of colour is reflected in her painting. She is suspicious of trends in art and so has found and invented her own world of imagery, sometimes deliberately alluding to the aesthetics of socialist realism which, after years of obloquy, is currently undergoing a controversial re-evaluation in Poland. Kozieradzka explores her artistic questions in series of pictures. After an intense reflection on the monuments of social realism (Aviator), she has made aeroplanes the central motif of her paintings.

Andrzej Roszczak (*1974)

The iconography of everyday life and its invisible surroundings furnish the ideas and the themes for the work of Andrzej Roszczak, who was born in 1974 in Krotoszyn and now lives in Warsaw. After studying painting at the University of Posen and subsequently focusing on conceptual works with objects of various materials, Roszczak has now turned to painting as his primary medium of expression.

Roszczak has established his pictures somewhere between Pop Art and hyperrealism. He uses a visual language whose possibilities are still not (even today) exhausted, and which he has re-interpreted in terms of black and white with oils on canvas. Images from the collective memory, such as the frontal portrait of Brigitte Bardot, which he transformed into a painting entitled The Most Expensive Portrait in The World, leave a lasting impression on the viewer – first by making him recognise the image again and then by making him recognise it as an icon. Unlike its status in Pop Art, which is working with contemporary subjects at the time of its creation, the portrait of Bardot is for today’s viewer an anachronism.

Michał Szuszkiewicz (*1983)

Dylan Thomas’ book Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog has left its mark on Szuszkiewicz, who sees in it the confirmation of the artist’s role as a seeker free of the stern commitments laid down by a constricting agenda. Szuszkiewicz has spoken of his suspicion of routines and said that he keeps a close eye on himself at work so as to avoid them by changing formats and themes as swiftly as possible at the first sign of his art’s falling into a predictable manner.

Michał Szuszkiewicz paints whatever comes to his mind. There, a monkey leaps over the scene with refreshing agility, and is caught by the artist with corresponding liveliness; here, on a giant canvas, a dancing bear balances a red ball. Animals appear repeatedly in these pictures, even though Szuszkiewicz does not attach all too much importance to this. Motifs such as a green air mattress washed upon a nocturnal shore, or a Laocoön group winding themselves round pink serpents, make us aware of the breadth of the artist’s thematic range.

Michał Zawada (*1985)

Michał Zawada has said that his primary interest lies in the study of pictures themselves: the first impression conveyed by a great number of his paintings makes the viewer think of chromatic aberrations, with their typical differently coloured edges. In photography, such phenomena are caused by image errors of the lenses. Moreover, such images then appear blurred and hazy. How do these facts bear on Zawada’s pictures, which are subject to no such physical-optical logic of mapping?

The relationship between image and text has usually served as the anchor point for the critical study of pictures. Zawada often anchors his questions in the picture titles. Thus he has called a gestural abstract painting Nihil simile II, quite as if painting could be an illustrative expression of an ironically tinted nihilism, a kind of nihilism that could develop according the numerical progression I, II, III …

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