Dominik Lejman paints pictures (which he combines with video projections), and realizes video murals and compositions in the form of large photo wallpapers. He was born on March 5, 1969 in Gdańsk.
From 1989-93, Lejman studied in the Painting and Graphics Department of the State Higher School of Visual Arts in Gdańsk, and from 1993-95, at the Royal College of Art in London (his diploma work was awarded by Christie's auction house). In 1996, Lejman obtained his MA at the Fine Arts Academy in Gdańsk. As a scholarship holder of the Erasmus Summer Exchange, he studied at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin where he exhibited a photographic project at the Pergamon Museum. Thanks to the RCA prize, Lejman went to Paris, to the Cité International des Arts. He has taught at the Kent Institute of Art & Design, and the Byam School of Art, and works as a visiting professor in the painting department of the Fine Arts Academy in Poznań. He lives and works in Gdynia, Orłowo and Poznań.
Dominik Lejman has received many Polish and foreign prizes, including the Polityka Passport Award in 2001 for "art that in an innovative way links traditional painting forms with modern media techniques". He has also been awarded scholarships from RCA, the Kościuszko Foundation, the Trust for Mutual Understanding, Location 1 in New York, and the Polish Ministry of Culture.
Lejman's works can be found in the collections of Christie's Contemporary Art in New York, the Centre for Contemporary Art Zamek Ujazdowski in Warsaw, and the Musée Geo-Charles, and the Echirolles in France, as well as in many private collections.
Lejman is the author of the original art happening Hospital as a landscape of small perfomances in which he presented video murals featuring animals in children's hospitals (Warsaw 2002, Białystok, New York 2003 - permanent installation).
In 1998, Dominik Lejman started a series of works in which he combined pictures (painted with acrylic paints) with video shows. The artist wanted to expand the limits of painting with new visual techniques. The surface of monochrome abstract pictures, referring to the tradition of modernist painting, is used as a screen, or a membrane, for the artist to present video projections in full light. The films often show naked, huddled bodies (in many works it is the author himself) or a person from the gallery transmitted by means of a camera into the reality of the picture. Lejman's "electronic painting" or "incorporated pictures" introduce new elements into traditional media, such as time and movement, and, at the same time, create possibilities for building work of many layers, both structural and semantic. A moving video projection blends with a painting, becoming an organic element of the picture as if it were hidden under its surface. In this way, his work can be considered a response to contemporary times filled with moving pictures.
Lejman stresses that he is a figurative painter and presents a human being in his closest environment which in the modern, technological world becomes worryingly oppressive. More and more often a man functions in an artificial environment that he has made for himself. The cool aesthetics of designer interiors is joined by advanced technologies that give comfort and security but, at the same time, can bring about alienation and a loss of contact with reality. In his work, Lejman shows that improved security systems become tools of surveillance.
Dominik Lejman is also the author of works realized in the form of large photo wallpapers combined with video projections and painting. In 2001, he realized the project Homeworkhome which referred to the twenty-first century lifestyle in which professional and home environments often merge . Public and private spaces become transitional spheres and the notions of ‘private' and ‘public' are less distinguishable. . The project has two parts and consists of pictures taken by the artist in places where they were later installed: in a Warsaw office building, the site of McCann Erickson, and in the private flat of a friend's marriage.
In 2001, Lejman created The Floor. On the wall of a Sopot gallery, he projected an enlarged fragment of the floor from the painting The Flagellation of Christ by Piero della Francesco which looked like pop-art pictures from the ‘60s. A visitor who stopped before the floor saw somebody passing and only after a moment realized he was looking at himself: he had been recorded by a camera and transmitted into the picture on the wall. In 2003, during his scholarship at Location 1 in New York, Lejman gathered materials for a series of works about crowds. In the project Video Murals - Social Surfaces the artist recorded pictures of crowds in an urban environment. This material was then prepared as abstract motifs and presented as a video mural on the wall. As Lejman says:
"the structure of the collective pattern is abstract, but it is not only abstract. Aesthetic pleasure given by those static carpets is a kind of informational aesthetics."
The artist defines his works as belonging to the widely understood meaning of painting and stresses that "it is not necessary to paint with a brush in order to be a painter". The surface between spectators and what they observe is very important to him. Lejman also looks for surfaces beyond a canvas covered with acrylic paints and finds them on walls and ceilings, appropriating architectural interiors and facades. As Łukasz Ronduda says:
"In Dominik Lejman's art there is a specific oscillation between indicators of a gallery 'white cube' and cinematographic 'black box' - painting, architectural and cinematographic values are mutually interactive and interchanged."
In most of his realizations, Lejman uses projection, almost always presented in light spaces. Both the projected picture and the screen create an experience for the spectators, and are equally important to him.
Lejman's works are aesthetic statements about the place of an individual in the modern world, who loses his individuality in an anonymous crowd and thus becomes a statistic-. Lejman's works, shown at the exhibition Statistical Garden (Biała Gallery, 2003), became a video mural, a visually attractive pattern, or wallpapers created on the basis of statistical data, the technique of registering and processing. New York Marathon, a video mural from 2003, is a short film sequence, looped and arranged in a decorative, colourful flower motif. The starting point was a dynamic group of runners, recorded by a digital camera, taking part in a New York marathon. This aesthetically attractive mosaic of anonymous people in the form of a virtual crowd, created by Lejman, is at the same time proof of an individual losing his uniqueness in a human swarm.
The video mural Skaters is another work which provokes reflection on contemporary forms of social life and presents a very refined monochromatic aesthetics. From above, Lejman photographed skaters in a skating ring near the Rockefeller Center in New York. He then changed their pictures into negatives. The projection shown on the white wall transforms people into artistic signs, an abstract composition. On the bright surface there is an ephemeral, moving pattern which - seen in good light - makes the work rather ghostly. Very often Lejman treats documentary material as a kind of ready-made which he later transforms in a formal and conceptual way.
The artist also animates architectural features . In 2004, for the 9th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice, Lejman, together with the architect Jacek Dominiczak, prepared the project Slowing/delaminating facade. The purpose of this work was to create a certain "visual machine" that would enable a special dialogue between the architecture, the outside tissue of a town and a spectator. The spectator, going through the tissue of the building's facade, delaminated by several pictures, was confronted by a projection on the wall of his own image taken by surveillance cameras seconds earlier. Hence, the architecture absorbed pictures of people, changing them into decorative patterns. A year later, in the St. John church in Gdańsk, Lejman presented a work called Breathing Cathedral. The artist projected the film of the cathedral's vault onto its gothic ceiling in such a way that it looked as if the vault was breathing.
Lejman often stresses that he is interested in the specific moment in the cinema when, after the film ends, there are the closing credits, and people who get up see their own shadows on the screen. The artist uses this effect of "switched-on light" in his works where the spectators become heroes of his projection, or rather, of the spectacle. Usually, spectators appear on the surface of the picture-screen with a few seconds delay, not knowing that they are included in the work. Lejman sets the artistic trap for them, using them to create the work structure. This structure becomes dynamic and open and the creation process has practically no end.
"I include a spectator in some borrowed scenarios because it is one thing to be a witness of a media event and another - to be present in such a suggested situation. This is possible because of delays in picture transmission. Such delay does not only concern time but also has political connotations. Firstly, it says something about responsibility. We did something a moment ago and now we have to see it, to suffer the consequences. Secondly, it is a basic assortment of technical means used by the censors. The television uses cameras with 15 seconds delay though we think that we are watching a 'live' programme."
Dominik Lejman's works urge people to reflect on how often we are manipulated and controlled, though unaware, because we are used to cameras in everyday life. What is more, in the growing atmosphere of a lack of security, we willingly accept the methods of observation conducted by means of advanced surveillance technologies.
In the work YO LO VI (the Inquisition according to Goya) from 2006, Lejman created a complicated web of relations between the show and the spectator. The spectator sees a picture on canvas which shows the back of a kneeling man with his hands tied behind his back and a pointed cap on his head. The person in the picture refers not only to the victims of the Inquisition but also invokes media images of the prisoners from Abu Ghraib. After a moment, the spectator is troubled by something else: in the depth of the picture he sees himself standing before the tied man, observing him closely. The spectator is anxious because his "stolen" image may have discovered something which would otherwise have remained secret.
Such a "ghostly" body of the spectator is a frequent element of Lejman's works, especially recently. The artist gives the spectator the role of co-author, thus changing his role from passive to active. At the same time , the process refers to the problem of treating a person like an object within the environment of monitoring in which we all exist. In the work My first two seconds meet my first three seconds (2007) a spectator sees a picture in which he can see himself looking at the picture and after a moment he meets himself within the picture. In 2007, Lejman's project Staging Anonymous was chosen by the international jury for realization in the city space of Gdańsk. In this project, the artist reconstructed the underpass where he would stage the surprising spectacle. Lights in the ceiling would respond to movement detectors. "Coincidence will rule. Some of the spectators suddenly, from time to time, will find themselves in the stage light, will feel like they're in a film location, will become the main heroes of the situation" - the artist explained. The project was realized in 2009.
Another of Lejman's projects took place in September, 2008 in Warsaw. The work It is enough to go for a walk was presented for a few days at Krakowskie Przedmieście and Plac Zamkowy. The camera, installed at St. Anna's church during the day, recorded people walking about. In the evening, projectors showed these pictures on the pavement around the Zygmunt Column. Each day more films were projected, one upon another, until, on the final evening, the video mural featured all the people who had walked there during the previous days. The persons in negative created a monumental moving pattern that consisted of thousands of small histories.
Selected individual exhibitions:
Selected collective exhibitions:
Written by: Ewa Gorządek, April 2004; updated in June 2009.
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