The legendary castle hosts an exhibition to mark the historical link between historical legends of Polish art and contemporary works. The series presents works by Edward Dwurnik along with iconic paintings by Jan Matejko. The aim is to analyse the way Polish people create and perceive their own image and history through painting...
Edward Dwurnik, "Bitwa pod Grunwaldem" / "Battle of Grunwald", 2010. Photo: press materials
The series presents works by Edward Dwurnik along with iconic paintings by Jan Matejko. The aim is to analyse the way Polish people create and perceive their own image and history through painting.
In the past, the Wawel Royal Castle has presented very few exhibitions of living artists, mainly between the two world wars. Following in the footsteps of such painters as Józef Pankiewicz, Jan Cybis or Zygmunt Waliszewski in the previous century, the Edward Dwurnik exhibition re-inaugurates the series of events that celebrate one of the most victorious episodes in Polish history and the dialogue between modernity and the illustrious past.
The exhibition combining paintings by Dwurnik with epic works by Matejko not only celebrates the 600 anniversary of the victory over the Teutonic Knights, it also relates to national myths. In that specific context the collaboration between two institutions such as the Wawel Royal Castle and the future Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCAK) in Kraków symbolises the link between what is recognised and noble in Polish art and the contemporary progress.
Edward Dwurnik is one of the very few contemporary painters who focus on historic themes. Though history is not the sole motif in his work, it appears in over 200 of his paintings and in a few thousand drawings. Dwurnik is clearly addicted to history. He is aware that it has shaped him, deformed him, demoralised him, dignified him, and manipulated him in ways on which he had no influence at all. Historical events and monuments (such as The Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw) represent urban signposts of the artist's memory. They also function as public signs of remorse and moral obligation. Dwurnik was born in the year of the Ghetto Uprising and has experienced and witnessed numerous acts of historical violence that befell Poland. All these events appear in Dwurnik's work, divided into series, each one being treated with different aesthetics and point of view.
Maria Poprzęcka compares the two paintings in the exhibition's catalogue:
Is Dwurnik's painting a caricature or a pastiche of Matejko's original? Is it deconstruction, or a fashionable 'intervention' in the sanctity of the museum and the nation? Neither. Just for the sake of amusement, we shall attempt an analytical comparison. Following in the footsteps of the first (and still the best) author of a detailed study of Matejko, Stanisław Tarnowski, we can hardly fail to notice that the common element in both paintings is the 'confusion that reigns in the painting'. Tarnowski, followed by others led by Stanisław Witkiewicz, regretted in Matejko's Grunwald the lack of a focal point of significance, an internal hierarchy, a dominant note or momentum; in fact, they rather regrettably critiqued the fact that there were actually two: the death of the Grand Master and the frenetic figure of Witold. The 'confusion' in Dwurnik's painting is total. The entire surface is evenly covered with tiny figures beating, grabbing, and jostling each other. 'There is hardly any empty space' might lament Tarnowski. The painting is like a design on fabric, which can be freely extended in any direction outside of its frame and repeated to infinity. Dwurnik constructed his Diagonal City in a similar way: a network of streets without people, built in blocks and rows of trees not bounded by any horizon. The only limitation is the actual frame and the lack of perspective. The Battle could similarly spill over in every direction. Matejko has also been accused of a lack of breathing space and perspective. Dwurnik represents these same characteristics, except that no one expects correct perspective today.
On the other hand, the differences between the two Battles of Grunwald can be multiplied to infinity, beginning with their size. Dwurnik's canvas, while large, is significantly smaller. Matejko thrusts the viewer into the midst of the crush of the battle. Dwurnik, in line with an old battle-painting tradition, offers a bird's-eye view. Matejko's painting is strikingly colorful. Dwurnik paints his Grunwald with 'tar and ink' (as Józef Czapski described his paintings under martial law). There is no delectable display of glistening armor, rich caparisons, embroidered satin, or flashing swords. There are no heroes with historical names. The anonymous, shabby figures lay into each other with clubs (and crosses). Without enumerating all the differences, we might also note some observations regarding gender.
" 'The Battle of Grunwald' is a world without women. An ideal image of a homosocial community", writes Ewa Toniak. Several female figures wander among the brawling men. Are they camp followers? No, rather sisters of Florence Nightingale in white smocks with big red crosses on them. In the fervor of the battle, they have lost their high-heeled shoes that now litter the field here and there. These nurses are not, indeed, rendering aid to anyone, but as red-and-white spots they punctuate and unify the black and dark-blue plane opacity of the image. Additionally, they bring in the always desirable red-and-white accent. Continuing with the theme of gender, we might also suppose that the presence of women relieved the artist of the necessity of painting horses, which are eroticized in Polish culture and treated as interchangeable with women. Many other animals, however, are lingering here, and not only the mongrel dogs that always feature with Dwurnik. In the center, we see two small elephants (mascots?). Next to the condors waiting for their carrion is the profile of a disconcertingly large white dove of peace.
Maria Poprzęcka in The Polish Scene after the Battle
To accompany the exhibition, a bi-lingual catalogue featuring texts by aforementioned prof. Maria Poprzęcka, curator Maria Anna Potocka and Jerzy T. Petrus, along with an interview with the artist.
Organisers: Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków and Wawel Royal Castle.
Exhibition curators: Maria Anna Potocka (Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków).
Coordinators: Aneta Giebuta (Wawel Royal Castle), Delfina Piekarska (Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków).
Exhibition runs between October 28, 2010 - January 17, 2011.
- Wawel Royal Castle - The National Art Collection
Wawel 5, 31-001 Kraków
Tel: (+48 12) 422 51 55, 422 61 21
Source: Press release, www.wawel.krakow.pl