Photographer. Her images reach back into a shared cultural heritage or family memory in order to revive it and endow it with multiple layers of meaning. Born in the Polish town of Kowary in 1985.
Like most of her projects, Alicja Dobrucka's photo essay I like you, I like you a lot came about spontaneously. In 2010 she received a text message from her father informing her that her younger brother had died. She immediately left her flat in London behind and returned to her hometown in Poland. There she began taking photographs, using her camera both as a "shield from the brutality of the experience" and a way to document the last traces of her brother in her life.
These images, filtered through her melancholic state of mind, are a testament to the experience of loss and remembrance. The series grew into a collection of 42 photographs that confront the precarious situation of society as a whole in the face of death, but also in the face of other onerous issues, such as the troubled economic market, from recent retirees and the unemployed to illegal immigrants and refugees, even soldiers in combat and everyday people experiencing a tragic loss. Interspersed are landscapes that carry a sensibility and vulnerability that carry forward the idea of traveling through various stages and episodes in life. This is a multi-faceted, visceral portrayal of Polish existence as seen through the sensitive eye of a Pole who has essentially emigrated to the west, but maintains a solid emotional tie to the culture of her homeland - no matter how trite, sad or destitute. Dobrucka sees her project as a way to address matters that are usually left unspoken, explaining in an interview with jotta.com,
Part of what it means to live is to face death, and yet I feel we have lost an ability to do this openly in our contemporary culture. I would risk a statement that death is one of the last taboos, if not the last taboo, of our times. I think that since death has been removed from homes to institutions, we are no longer experiencing the physicality of death as we used to.
The photographs in the series were collected into a book published in May 2011 by the London College of Communication, subtitled *some text missing*. A diptych from the series was recently selected by the Ohio-based Manifest Gallery for this year's edition of its International Photography Annual, presenting 83 works by the most promising young photographers on the global scene.
Dobrucka's background is based in documentary photography, yet she strives to endow her works with another layer of meaning. As she herself says, 'What I want to do is to create an effect, rather than a narrative, a meaning, rather than a story'.
Scholar and critic Joanna Zylińska notes that in spite of her funereal subject, Dobrucka manages to 'create openings in the wall of mourning by letting the light in'. She creates a link between the familiar spaces of home with the unknown spaces of death and lament that speak across several generations. Zylińska writes,
It is this generational aspect that anchors the project. Rather than being about the passage of time, and of life, everywhere, every time, the work takes as its focus a group of central European youths in a small urban-rural locality, on their way to a fuller, more mature, life.
Contemporary culture and traditional folk are important themes in Dobrucka's work, often coming together as a universal message on the passage of time and transition. Her most recent project takes the typical motifs of traditional Polish crafts and takes them across the world to reinterpret them within an entirely new cultural setting. In 2011 she launched her Culture Translated project in India, bringing traditional paper cutting design from the Polish city of Łowicz to local craftsmen in India, who reinterpret these highly recognisable patterns in the gurajati and zardozi styles. The effects of this endeavour have been included in the Creative Cities Collection at London's Barbican, a cultural exchange programme between artists from China and the UK in celebration of the Olympic games. The next stage of the project takes place as part of an exhibition of young Polish artists at the Polish Arts Festival in Essex organised by Hungry Arts in late August. This time a local UK graffiti artist takes the Łowicz cut-out to the street.
Dobrucka's travels are her main inspiration as she uncovers the singular and evanescent aspects of local cultures everywhere she goes. Her 2011 trip to Albania uncovered the vast store of the nation's bunkers (some 750,000 of which were built between 1967-1986 under the dictator Enver Hoxa), now slowly disappearing. As Dobrucka explained in an interview with domusweb.it about finding her inspiration, 'I usually work in a spontaneous way, that's how it works with photography, you feel inspired at the moment and you go for it, or the moment is gone forever and you don't feel the same way about the things you are seeing'.
Her Concrete Mushrooms project celebrates the unusual form of these bunkers, which rise up from the landscape just like mushrooms after the rain. Time has weathered these structures, squashing them into the sand, toppling them into the sea, growing them over with trees and bushes. The bunkers have been inscribed into the local landscape, the site of children's games and lovers' trysts. Bogucka's charming photographs embrace the social function of these structures, playing with the rotund form against the inviting backdrop of the Albanian coast. The images in the series also come together as an album edited by Elian Stefa & Gyler Mydyti and published by DPR-Barcelona and an exhibition at the Kunst Raum Riehen Im Berowergut in Switzerland in mid-August.
Alicja Dobrucka was born in the Polish town of Kowary in 1985. Today she is based in London, following her graduation from the London University of the Arts. Her work has received a number of prestigious prizes, such as the Sortiri Prize 2011 in Korce, Albania and in 2010 she received the highly competitive Deutsche Bank Fine Art Award and Grant in Photography at the Saatchi Gallery in London. She has exhibited her works around the world, including the Asia Art Projects at the Studio X in Mumbai, Experimenta EXD'11 - Architectural Biennale in Lisbon (2011), as a part of the Bloomberg New Contemporaries at the ICA, London and the S1 ArtSpace and Site Gallery in Sheffield (2011), the 54th Venice Biennale with the WW Gallery (2011), UK Young Artists at Quad in Derby (2010), Hereford Photography Festival (2010), Brighton Photo Fringe, London Photomonth and at the Photographers’ Gallery, London (2010).
Selected Solo Exhibitions:
- 2015 - By Set Square, Compass and Eye (with Emma Charles), South Kiosk Gallery, London
- 2013 - I like you, I like you a lot, Wallflower Gallery, Mildura Arts Center, Mildura, Australia
- 2011 - I like you, I like you a lot, Tirana Ekspres, Tirana, Albania
- Dystans, The Agency Gallery, LondonDystans, The Agency Gallery, London
- 2010 - I like you, I like you a lot, Kallitas Elott Galeria, Tuzrakter Arts Centre, Budapest
- 2007 - The Swimming Pool Series, The Foundry, London
Selected Group Exhibitions & Projects:
- 2014 - Workshop on Wedding Photography and Sexuality, Openhaus ZK/U, Berlin, Germany
- Death and Dying, MAG3 Gallery, Vienna, Austria
- Non-Static Depiction, Napa Gallery, Rovaniemi, Finland
- Non-Static Depiction, Vyner Street Gallery, London
- Restate, ArtICurate, NEO Bankside, London
- Non-Static Depiction, Ataturk Arts Center, Sivas, Turkey
- 2013 - Vitis Vinifera, London
- Vikhroli Skin, Godrej Foundation, Mumbai, India
- Bodies That Matter, Space Station Fifty-Five, London
- Deutsche Bank Award Winners Exhibition, UAL Showroom, London
- Space 188 Open Studio, Mumbai, India
- 2012 - NIPHA, Manifest Gallery, Ohio, USA
- Creative Cities Collection, Barbican, London
- Subject to Change, Southend, London
- Concrete In Common, Kunst Raum Riehen, Basel, Switzerland
- 2011 - Asia Art Projects, Kala Ghoda Café, Mumbai, India
- New Contemporaries 2011, ICA, London
- Utilitas Interrupta, Experimenta EXD’11, Museu da Mãe d’Água, Lisbon, Portugal
- Profiles 7, Galeria Slodownia +1, Stary Browar, Poznan, Poland
- New Contemporaries 2011 Site Gallery, S1 Artspace, Sheffield
- HPF Online Print Auction, HotShoe Gallery, Londo
- Tirana Ekspres, Independent Cultural Center, Tirana, Albania
- Sortiri Prize, Galeria Guri Madhi, Pallati i Kultures 'Vangjush Mio' Korce, Albania
- Bar Tur Award Exhibition, London
- Charlie Dutton Gallery, Photomedia Open Exhibition, London
- Surface Gallery Open Exhibition, Nottingham
- Instant Coffees, slideshow, Bristol
- Venice Biennale ‘Afternoon Tea’, WW Gallery, Venice, Italy
- 2010 - Nature Rewritten, Wieden + Kennedy, London
- OPEN Here, Hereford Photography Festival, Hereford
- Homeless Gallery, Photomonth, London
- UK Young Artists, Quad, Derby
- Fresh Faced Wild Eyed 10, Photographers’ Gallery, London
- 2009 - MA Final Show 09, The Atrium Gallery, LCC, London
- Eyes Wide Open, Blue Dog Gallery, Brighton Photo Fringe, Brighton
- Homeless Gallery, Shoreditch Town Hall, London
- 2008 - Interim show, Well Gallery, London College of Communication, London
- 2007 - Signals 5 Festival, Il Restauro, London
- 2006 - Home, Holesovice, Prague
- FAMU Interim Show, Duende, Prague
Author: Agnieszka Le Nart
For more information on the artist, see: www.alicjadobrucka.com