FT columnist Jackie Wullschlager has deemed the current exhibition of Polish modern and contemporary art at the prestigious BOZAR centre in Brussels "world-class".
Tadeusz Kantor, "The Trumpet of the Last Judgement", 1979
FT columnist Jackie Wullschlager has deemed the current exhibition of Polish modern and contemporary art at the prestigious BOZAR centre in Brussels "world-class"
Wullschlager's review of the show, which opened on June 23, 2011, garners a great deal of praise for the achievements of Poland's most ambitious artists of today and the tremulous decades of the past, calling it "the best contemporary art exhibition [she has] encountered anywhere this year".
The Power of Fantasy. Modern and Contemporary Art from Poland presents some 200 works of more than 30 internationally acclaimed Polish artists of today - from Monika Sosnowska, Wilhelm Sasnal, Mirosław Bałka, Katarzyna Kozyra to Julita Wójcik, Piotr Uklański and Robert Kuśmirowski - against the backdrop of seminal Polish works of art from earlier periods - Witkacy, Bruno Schulz, Tadeusz Kantor and Magdalena Abakanowicz. The exhibition comes as part of the International Cultural Programme of the Polish Presidency, which officially begins on July 1 - the date on which powers are transferred from Hungary to Poland.
In Poles Apart, Wullschlager recognises the immediate impact of history and political change on the works of many of these artists, citing Piotr Ukłański's "Solidarność" series and Robert Kuśmirowski's "D.O.M." cemetery in cardboad, wood and polystyrene, and remarking on these artists' roles in "an illusionist game in a culture of image distrust and manipulation". Today's artists have inherited the legacy of major historical change, but over the years, their focus has expanded to a broader social perspective, while narrowing in on an individual scope and style of their very own within the realm of critical, absurdist themes. She singles out Paweł Althamer and his "Bródno People", marveling at how this parade of Warsaw residents of recycled materials was endowed with the resonance of a "mythical procession, Everyman's journey through life". She calls particular attention to Jakub Julian Żiółkowski's "The Great Battle under the Table", writing:
In a flawlessly controlled composition, this teeming battleground is divided by outsize bizarreries – a cauldron, a shoe propped up by a canvas crawling with a salamander and a skeleton – but reduced to nursery scale by its location beneath a table whose surface displays a much larger still life of potted plants, insects and a magician’s hat. Jewel-like and lavishly detailed, this in turn is framed by red curtains, tied with a pair of skeletons: a universe in miniature, meaningless, chaotic, yet abundant, painted with crystalline delicacy in short precise strokes, and touched with enchantment and death.
The juxtaposition of the freshest art and artists out of Poland with their predecessors creates a particularly fertile context that endows each work with deeper layers of meaning. As Wullschlager writes:
In other company, the Balka could look severe or dreary, but the juxtaposition with Kantor lends it expressive energy, brings out its drama of the fragility of attempts to dream infinity, and – in the works’ common use of poor materials – emphasises the strange meeting ground between magic realism and conceptualism. Monika Sosnowska’s painted steel and MDF sculptures, referencing the construction of emerging democratic Poland, acquire resonance in this context too.
The Power of Fantasy. Modern and Contemporary Art from Poland is among several dozen exhibitions of art and among several hundred individual events dedicated to the greatest accomplishments in Polish art and imagination, passed down through the ages and taken up again by the most ambitious and visionary artists of our time. For more information on the exhibition, see: The Power of Fantasy.
Source: "Poles apart" by Jackie Wullschlager