How Street Art Brought a Village Together: Meet Daniel Rycharski
#photography & visual arts
small, How Street Art Brought a Village Together: Meet Daniel Rycharski, Daniel Rycharski, Shrine Gallery, 2012, photo: courtesy of the artist, galeria_kapliczka2.jpg
With his mysterious and whimsical murals, Daniel Rycharski became the precursor of ‘village street art’. At the age of 26, he became the youngest recipient of the prestigious Kulturysta Roku award. Now he has received Polityka’s Passport award. Here’s why.
At the age of 26, he received an award presented by the journalists from the Radiowy Dom Kultury (editor’s translation: Radio Cultural Centre) broadcast on the Polish Radio Three. Agnieszka Obszańska, Agnieszka Szydłowska and Michał Nogaś explained their decision:
We presented Daniel with the award for his work in the village which proves that modern art is not only a big-city luxury, for his unpretentiousness, for his cooperation with the village folk and dedication to them and for the mobile shrine which is a modern art gallery.
It all started when Daniel Rycharski came back to his home village of Kurówko after his studies in Kraków. It was there that he created a series of several dozen murals depicting whimsical hybrid-animals on houses, barns, sheds and bus stops. The paintings referenced imaginary creatures inhabiting the nearby forests – Rycharski was named the inventor of ‘village street art’.
When he involved the inhabitants of the village, the popular Polish television station TVN made a documentary about him in the Uwaga! programme. Ewelina Kuczmińska and Aleksandra Potoczek describe his work:
His murals painted on farm buildings became a tourist attraction of the small village in the Mazovia Voivodeship. Daniel Rycharski is a young artist who shuns socialising with his peers and urban events in favour of the countryside and its inhabitants. He organises cultural projects for them. He dedicates all his free time and money for to culture in the countryside.
village street art
In 2015, his Monument to a Peasant installation travelled Polish village and cities and excited a lot of attention. Rycharski pokes fun at the stereotypes associated with the countryside. Karol Sienkiewicz describes the work at dwutygodnik.com:
Inspired by Albrecht Dürer’s print depicting the German Peasant Wars from the beginning of the 16th century, the perversity of Rycharski’s modern Polish Monument to a Peasant brings to mind Drzymała’s wagon, a famous symbol of struggle against the occupiers. The figure of a contemplating farmer stands on a lift on the back of a trailer, resembling ones used in manure spreaders. The statue wanders through the Polish countryside like sacred images and travelling shops operating out of vans – when we talk about monuments in the countryside, we usually mean tombstones. He travelled around villages in Mazovia and Lesser Poland but he also stood in front of museums and galleries in Kraków and Warsaw. The monument carried new, often political messages in various places. In 2017, during the Open City Festival in Lublin he stood in front of a statue of the Pensive Christ –and so they stood, in distress, looking at each other.
In the 11th issue of Magazyn Szum, Weronika Plińska analysed the Monument to a Peasant:
Recently, a lot of authors have pointed out the shameful presence of exploitation and subjection of peasants during the lauded times of noble democracy. They indicate that hundreds-year-old slavery and its consequences still haven’t been worked through by Polish society, mostly of rural origin, who still look fondly upon portraits of supposedly noble ancestors. The outcome of these discussions in academic and journalistic milieus is the idea that the consequences of economic and mental dependency are quantifiable through the tools provided by post-colonial criticism. We have to go through the historical role of the subjugated people, which is rooted in the repertoire of repetitious and culturally stable gestures described by Ewa Klekot as auto-folklorisation. But we also have to work out the uncomfortable role of the coloniser, inherited by the Polish intelligentsia in their fight for the peoples’ souls.
Iwo Zmyślony, a Polish art critic, submitted Rycharski’s work to Polityka’s Passport awards:
Rycharski is a social activist and a sensitive rascal. He clears an alternative path for Poland without succumbing to didacticism and sentimentalism – a Poland open to diversity and simultaneously happily conservative, celebrating its own provincialism.
The jury justified giving the Passport to Rycharski:
His works are an interesting blend of spirituality and activism, conservatism and openness, countryside and European values. They give a new meaning to ‘village art’.
The artist himself commented on his victory in the Dzień Dobry TVN morning programme:
In my artistic practice, I try to show the true countryside, not the stereotypical one. For me, Polityka’s Passport is very important because I feel like it’s a sort of compensation paid to the countryside by the urban elites.
Sources: polskieradio.pl, tvn.pl, polityka.pl, magazynszum.pl, dwutygodnik.com, edited by AS, 31 Jan 2017, translated by AP, 2017