22.02 - 17.03.2013: ECCENTRIC


How to make an exhibition of two female artists living in the same street

It may seem that Marta Deskur and Janina Kraupe occupy fairly precisely defined and very distant places from each other in the story about the Polish art of the second half of the 20th century. It may suffice to mention that in 2005, at the newly redesigned Gallery of the 20th century Polish Art housed at the Cracow’s National Museum, works of both artists were hung at the extreme corners and placed in totally different contexts.  Thus, Janina Kraupe’s paintings were placed together with works of other artists who were members of the Cracow Group, contributing to the history of modern post-war painting. However, Marta Deskur’s objects were placed in the vicinity of two artists who, just like her, have been considered representatives of critical art, namely Katarzyna Kozyra and Alicja Żebrowska. The gallery curators placed their artistic achievements in the feminist context, and found their anticipation in the art of Maria Pinińska-Bereś.

Undoubtedly, such positioning of both artists in the history of Polish art is justified. Therefore, any attempt to change this logical narrative, based on the generational, ideological and, finally, formal differences constitutes some kind of an eccentric excess. Because on what grounds can this be done? The fact that both artists live in the same street does not seem sufficient.   

Nevertheless, writing the eccentric history of art with the help of exhibitions has had a long tradition. In 1966, Lucy Lippard organised an exhibition entitled “Eccentric Abstraction” at the Fischbach Gallery in New York City. It featured works by artists, including Louise Bourgeois and Eva Hesse, who occupied an eccentric, understood as departing from the norm, place in Minimalism. The eccentricity of the artworks on display in New York and the curator’s choice was not limited to the common meaning of the adjective used in the exhibition title, and which can be associated with the bizarre, nonchalance or extravagance. Rather, it was defined by the attitude adopted by the artists: a deliberate choice of ex-centric, that is decentralised, peripheral (thus transgressive and “other”) formula, transcending the centric art narratives.

The art of Janina Kraupe in the centrically written story of Cracow’s Modernism following 1945, whose central figure was Tadeusz Kantor,  belongs both within it and transgresses it. Being one of the numerous individual languages developed by Cracow’s modern painters, it constitutes an example, very rare in this group, of art deriving its inspiration from irrational traditions such as alchemy, Cabala, astrology, Gnostic philosophies of the East and the West, the occult or Rudolph Steiner’s anthroposophy. This ecumenical syncretism, characteristic of Janina Kraupe’s artworks and evident in such works as the Neo-Impressionistic luminous “The Aura of John Paul II” or ‘Volcano’s Aura’ (both dating to 2002),  provides a unique phenomenon among Polish Modernism although it is present in works of the world’s modern classics. 

Artworks of Marta Deskur, completely different as far as the form is concerned, can be characterised as an eccentric transgression of  the rational formula for critical art where it is thought to belong. This transgression, consisting in the artist’s ambivalent use of motifs coming from religious iconography as well as her interest in spiritualism, parapsychology and irrationality (“Irrelations” dating to 1995), proves that her art has an ambiguous character which is peripheral to the one of the main narratives of Polish contemporary art. “My Family” series (2010 – 2013) which is presented at this exhibition, consists of portraits which combine the painting tradition of the old masters with the medium of monumental photography and which, by the choice of appropriate titles (“Kali”, “Divine Trinity’), deify their subjects. The portraits were created on the basis of the photographs which the artist had taken  after the funeral of her Roma brother’s mother.

Do Janina Kraupe and Marta Deskur have more in common than the mere fact that they live in the same street, both smoke slim cigarettes and their artistic proposals differ from the traditional art narrative, written taking into consideration formal, generational and thematic similarities within which they are presented? The juxtaposition of the works by both artists does not aim to lead to a coherent art narrative. It is rather an eccentric excess which, by emphasizing the radical difference between the artists and the groups they are thought to belong to, attempts to search for another version of the art narrative in this radical difference.

Wojciech Szymański

Translated by Agata Chwastowicz



Marta Deskur (born 1962 in Cracow) — in the years 1983-1988 she studied at the École des Beaux Arts in Aix-en-Provence. Since the beginning of the 1990s she has created multimedia works, linking her fascination of photography and installation, and creating objects, videos and films. She participated in many group exhibitions in Poland and abroad, and exhibited at solo shows in the most important galleries in Poland, i.e. Starmach Gallery in Cracow, Arsenał Gallery in Białystok or Centre of Contemporary Art Kronika in Bytom. Her oeuvre — being inspired by religious iconography — is generally located in the context of so called “critical art”, an axial movement for understanding Polish art after 1989.



Pracownia Marty Deskur / Marta Deskur's studio



Marta Deskur, Trzy Charyty boginie romskie / Three Kharites (Graces) Romany goddesses, 2010




Marta Deskur, Andre Andre Andre, 2010


Janina Kraupe (born 1921 in Sosnowiec) — in 1938 she started her studies at the Fine Art Academy in Cracow that she graduated from in 1948. She progressed her carrier at that academy in the years 1949-1991, where she finally became a professor. She is a member of the Polish Academy of Learning. Since 1957 she participated to the Cracow Group, one of the most important associations in Polish art after the World War II. She exhibited at many group and solo shows in Poland and abroad, among others a famous the 1st Modern Art Exhibition in Cracow in 1948. Her wide-ranging and diverse oeuvre includes monumental and easel paintings as well as graphics. Kraupe’s works are inspired by music, literature, astrology and the esoteric tradition together with theosophy, anthroposophy and gnosis


Pracownia Janiny kraupe / JaninaKraupe's studio


Janina Kraupe, Listy miłosne / Love letters, 2008

Janina Kraupe, Gaja / Gaia, 1998



Galeria BWA SOKÓŁ w ramach projektu "Budowa Małopolskiej Galerii Sztuki NA BURSZTYNOWYM SZLAKU w Nowym Sącz". Projekt współfinansowany z Europejskiego Rozwoju Funduszu Regionalnego Programu Operacyjnego na lata 2007-2013.