Roman Stańczak is a sculptor, born in 1969 in Szczecin.
Sculptor, referring to the ready-made tradition.
Stańczak graduated from the Antoni Kenar High School of Plastic Arts in Zakopane. From 1988 to 1993 he studied at the Faculty of Sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, where he obtained his diploma from the workshop of Professor Grzegorz Kowalski. Between 1994–1997 he had a few individual exhibitions (for example, at the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle and the State Art Gallery in Sopot). He later disappeared from the institutional art circuit for many years. Stańczak’s works can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle. He lives and works in Warsaw.
Stańczak studied at Grzegorz Kowalski’s workshop, the famous 'Forge', together with Paweł Althamer, Katarzyna Kozyra and Artur Żmijewski. The students of the 'Forge' were known as boldly experimenting creators. In the 1990s they were responsible for one of the most interesting phenomena in Polish art, called critical art.
Stańczak debuted in the art scene in the beginning of the 90s. He had his first individual exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle in 1996. At this exhibition he presented selected diploma works and sculptures made from transformed everyday objects. The concept of destroying objects of everyday use which is present in Stańczak’s work originated from one of the tasks that the students of Grzegorz Kowalski’s workshop were given:
A bedside table or a school desk. Any means of expression. Deprive the piece of furniture of its everyday (functional and aesthetic) functions by transforming it sculpturally, spatially and colouristically. Give it a new formal and semantic value.
In the 90s Stańczak changed the forms of a kettle (Misquic, 1992) and a bathtub (Mixquic, 1994), and he tore off the outer layers of a bedside table Z drugiego na trzeci (From Second to Third, 1992) and a chair (1993) using a chisel. A couch (1995) and a shelving unit (1996) later met a similar fate. In 1992, Ryszard Ziarkiewicz presented Stańczak’s bedside table with scraped varnish at the Mystic Perseverance and a Rose exhibition in Sopot which signaled the rise of the 1990s phenomenon of critical art.
In an extensive 1994 interview with Artur Żmijewski, Stańczak mentioned his sculptures, referring to the ready-made tradition and his use of ordinary objects subjected to unusual, almost magical procedures:
As my medium I chose commonly used, everyday objects present in many houses. By using these objects I activate people’s imaginations about these things. I use objects as carriers of information. I express my opinion about the world through interfering with objects, which can take the form of, for instance, deforming. After I’m done with an object it starts to create a new situation. A person who uses a kettle, chair or bathtub encounters in a completely new reality an object he or she has been familiar with for many years, which I hope is surprising. That split second of surprise is a doorway through which I can access a person’s subconsciousness.
In order to transform, turn inside out or 'skin' these objects, the artist subjected them to brutal procedures. This was linked to his almost mystical approach to reality, to his asking about the meaning of life, death and the existence of God. Stańczak’s art has an air of spirituality and contains religious elements, which seldom is the case with the works of other critical artists from his generation. Stańczak believed that his kettle and bathtub and the process of transforming prepared him for the death of his loved ones and his own death, for encountering the other world: 'My sculptures speak of living not among objects but among ghosts'. His actions were marked by a will to alter reality and a desire to cross to the other side.
One of Stańczak’s diploma works was entitled Rachunek z miłości platonicznej (A Bill for Platonic Love). It consisted of a performance recorded on video tape and the effect of an action created by the artist – a spatial form mounted on a metal construction. When the artist was making this work he made use of women's tights which he received from a friend who collected them for years from rubbish bins. They were all dirty and bore traces of human use.
I thought about the tights and the one who gave them to me and I came to the conclusion that Krzysztof put deep and hidden emotions and meanings into his unusual passion and into these rags that were so repellent to everyone. Through his actions he expressed emotions – desire and unfulfilled adoration of all the anonymous persons linked to these special garments. Tights envelop legs and are in very close relations with the intimate parts of women’s bodies. These articles of clothing can become a second skin that 'grows onto' the stomach, buttocks, calves, feet and toes. Tights become soaked with human smell and secretions: sweat, organic fluids and often blood. When this nylon substance ceases to perform its functions it is taken off like snakeskin, thrown away and substituted with a new one.
Stańczak put the used tights on his bare body, one after another, until they put so much pressure on his legs that they started to go numb. After the shell created in this way was taken off it resembled a stump. Stańczak repeated this procedure three times until he ran out of pairs of tights. The original spatial work was lost, only the videotape documenting the performance remains. (The soft objects created as a result of removing the multiple layers of tights and the metal framework/display case were re-created for Roman Stańczak’s exhibition at the Stereo Gallery in Warsaw, VI 2014).
In 1996 Stańczak disappeared from the art circuit. He hadn't, however, ceased to work creatively. He drew, made notes and sketches and kept a diary. He also made money conserving religious sculptures at churches. He worked for instance on the sculptures on the façade of St Martin’s Church in Warsaw. He claims that he was realizing a personal project inaccessible to the public, the title of which was The Life and Work of Roman Stańczak.
In 2013 the artist met Paweł Althamer by chance, who invited Stańczak to create a new sculpture (a figure of an angel) for a park in one of Warsaw's districts – Bródno. Karol Sienkiewicz wrote that:
One could say that the new sculpture in Bródno is a monument dedicated to a meeting with a friend, that ended a certain stage of Stańczak’s life. This sculpture may also be kind of an exorcism, an attempt to conquer one’s demons.
Roman Stańczak’s Anioł Stróż (Gardian Angel) is a three meter tall figure, placed on a high base. It has the form of a traditional sculpture, was made out of wood and covered with gilded metal.
bródno sculpture park
polish artists of the 20th century
Stańczak’s first individual exhibition after the hiatus which lasted for over a decade was entitled Jedna z miliarda (One in a Billion). At this exhibition, held at the Stereo Gallery in 2014, he showed one reconstructed work A Bill for Platonic Love and a new piece having the form of a spatial installation. This new piece consisted of a sculpture made from a piece of furniture (a sofa bed combined with a bedside table) the outer layer of which had been ripped off, a form attached to a wall, resembling a hunting trophy, assembled from an old kettle and dry branches, and a miniature shelving unit, surrounded by scraped-off flakes which brought to mind a dolls set.
In the spring of 2016, Stańczak once again cooperated with the Stereo Gallery, which resulted in another individual exhibition Nigdy nie widziałem, nigdy nie zobaczę (I have never seen and never will see).
In 2018 the sculptor was invited to create a joint exhibition in London’s Saatchi Gallery. The 26 artists who were invited to collaborate, explored art’s role in social satire as well as the impact of political uncertainty in the art world. The exhibition, called Black Mirror, offered both a light commentary and a grim afterthought on the modern-day politics with the use of different media, such as photographs, paintings or installation as in the case of Roman Stańczak.
The Polish Pavilion of the 2019 Biennale Arte in Venice will feature Stańczak’s new sculpture Lot (Flight) – a 15-metre-long private jet turned inside out. The plane is the central object presented during the exhibition. It will be placed in such a way that viewers are able to see the cockpit and the passenger seats, while its wings remain rolled up inside. The idea for this project arose in the 1990s during Poland’s transformative period, at the time of Stańczak’s exhibition in the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art. However, due to its monumental nature, it was impossible to carry out and never came to fruition. The 2019 biennale will be the sculpture’s debut. On one hand, it is a continuation of Stańczak’s artistic concept of turning everyday objects inside out and peeling back their outer layers. On the other, it provides a social commentary of contemporary times. The artist offers a critique of capitalism, social inequalities, redistribution of income, resentment, and populism – problems present not only in Poland but around the world.
Author: Ewa Gorządek, October 2014; Transl. MK, updated: HSz, April 2019
- 2019 – Lot (Flight),The Polish Pavilion, The 58th International Art Exhibition, Venice
- 2016 – Nigdy nie widziałem, nigdy nie zobaczę (I Have Never Seen And Never Will See), Galeria Stereo, Warsaw
- 2014 – Jedna z miliarda (One in a Billion), Stereo Gallery, Warsaw
- 1996 – Roman Stańczak, Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw
Selected Group Exhibitions
- 2018 – Black Mirror, Saatchi Gallery, London
- 2013 – W sercu kraju (In the Heart of the Country), Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw
- 2013 – Rzeczy wspólne (Shared Things), Art Stations Foundation, Poznań
- 2013 – British British Polish Polish: Sztuka krańców Europy, długie lata 90. i dziś (British British Polish Polish: Art from the Edges of Europe in the Long 90s and Today), Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art
- 2010 – Rzeczy budzą uczucia. Wybrane narracje z kolekcji CSW Zamek Ujazdowski (Things Evoke Feelings. Selected Narrations from the Collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art), Warsaw
- 2005 – W Samym Centrum Uwagi (At the Very Center of Attention), Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw
- 1992 – Perseweracja mistyczna i róża (Mystic Perseverance and a Rose), State Art Gallery, Sopot