On the morning of 1 January 2000, Krzysztof Zieliński headed out with a camera to the market square in his hometown of Wąbrzeźno. There, in the grey winter light of the New Year, he created the first pictures of what, after three more years of work, would form one of the most intriguing photographic and artistic projects carried out in Poland since 1989.
There is little art giving such a deep and timeless expression to social reality. Wąbrzeźno, an ordinary little town starting with W, down near the end of the alphabet, in a language where “w” could stand for wszędzie—anywhere, portrayed by the photographer after a decade of systemic changes up to the eve of Poland’s joining the European Union, became a visual synonym for the creeping transformation.
Working on colour negatives and alluding to the minimalist poetics of topographic photography, Zieliński created an image of the postsocialist countryside that is the first of its kind, moving and empathetic, constructed from mist and a thousand and one shades of grey. The region’s systemic transformation, viewed from this perspective, appears as little more than a fresh coat of paint on the walls of the old stone houses and few new commercial signs clashing with the surroundings. The image of economic relations is shops with used clothing and a plastic shopping bag from the German discount grocery chain Aldi hauled by a woman in a pink beret. The space yawning between the houses and blocks of flats leads nowhere.
Twenty years after taking the first photos and 16 years after presenting Hometown at Warsaw’s Zachęta National Gallery of Art, we are again exhibiting an extensive selection from Krzysztof Zieliński’s series, with a sense of the recurring and disturbing political currency of these images. What 15 years ago seemed a phantom of the past, a relic of hard times, today appears to be a fixed element of our identity and a grey trace of unprocessed history.
Emilia Kina’s paintings combine erudition and aesthetic appeal. Their sources are in lie in the theory of painting and depiction, but the essence lies in the relations between painting/image and painting/object. Here the Renaissance metaphor coined by Leon Alberti of the painting as a window takes on an intriguing contemporary form. Kina’s paintings call to mind screens, curtains and blinds, which like a room divider conceal the view. The figure of the window is treated here literally as a material frame, more an element of stage design than a frame from reality.
Equally important is the allusion to 19th-century studio photography. Painted views and drapery were used as a backdrop for portrait photos. This analogue engineering for constructing illusions particularly interests the artist. Focusing on the margins of depiction, of what is merely a frame for the proper view, what hides it or merely appears, Kina develop intriguingly her own programme for a new iconoclasm. Her relief compositions, painting/screens captivating in their material beauty, divert attention from the digital inflation of images and messages. In their place, they restore attention to a dimension of gazing that is intimate and free of violence.
|Artist||Emilia Kina / Krzysztof Zieliński|
|Exhibition||Screen (E. Kina) / Hometown (K. Zieliński)|
|Place / venue||Raster Gallery, Warsaw|
|Dates||opening: 7 March 2020|
|Index||Emilia Kina Krzysztof Zieliński Raster Gallery|