26.04 - 19.05.2013: FROM THE DARKNESS

Jan Berdyszak, Tomasz Ciecierski, Wanda Czełkowska, Tadeusz Dominik, Janina Kraupe, Janusz Orbitowski, Jagoda Przybylak, Józef Robakowski, Maria Stangret, Grzegorz Sztwiertnia, Janusz Tarabuła, Danuta Urbanowicz, Witold Urbanowicz, Andrzej Wajda, Józef Wagary, Zbigniew Warpechowski, Jerzy Wroński

Curator: Grzegorz Sztwiertnia

He is always sulking and sneering and preaching about a new form of art, as if the field of art were not large enough to accommodate both old and new without the necessity of jostling.
Anton Chekhov The Seagull

Through a breach he perceives it, it lies before him, he seizes his brushes, but already darkness has come and he can paint no longer, night upon which day will never dawn again.
Marcel Proust In Search of Lost Time

As long as mankind is alive, does he have the impression that he’s merely just at the beginning.
Józef Czapski, Wyrazić ból



Grzegorz Sztwiertnia, born in 1968, decided to make an exhibition about Poland’s older generation of artists; artists who have now surpassed the age of 68 and whose works can be considered as the classics of contemporary Polish art. Artists who were once deemed as the great old masters (a term which now describes alas a rather more ancient form of art). Artists for whom the tradition of the avant-garde and its dedication to  non-conformity is still at the very heart of their beliefs. There’s a common thread that links such artists as Janina Kraupe (born in 1921) for example, the oldest living member of the legendary Krakow Group and surely one of the seniors of Polish contemporary art, she’s one of the old masters indeed, or Tadeusz Dominik (born in 1928), student of the Kapist artist Jan Cybis,  he’s also one of the old masters. By assigning arbitrarily and narcissistically the date of his own birth as the limit by which one can consider old age (which isn’t far off the retirement age of 67 years, for both women and men), Sztwiertnia wants to underline the works of the artists in themselves, rather than the mere ponderings one may have about the artists’ age and the fact that they’re ageing. Earlier, Sztwiertnia visited some of these artists with an infrared camera, in wanting to make them visible to us from the very depths of complete darkness.  During these visits he also somewhat unceremoniously looked around the artists’ studios, where the passage of time can be all but unnoticed, hoping to find there some forgotten or nearly forgotten works of art. Sztwiertnia did much of this in the same way as did Józef Czapski in his writings parodying Cioran: "It should be spoken of, written about, works of art as though the history of art hadn’t existed at all, not unlike that of a stunned and petrified caveman at the sight of it all” . In paraphrasing Dorota Masłowska from the European Union Funds,  concerning such an auteur project about artists over the age of 68.
In the author’s commentary to Sztwiertnia’s 2012 found footage film The Strange Artist it is written: "The narrative and artistic direction of the film presents an unsuspected visit by  the exibition’s own curator as well as that of a  renowned contemporary art galley owner to the Strange Artist’s studio, where both hope to dicover and illuminate the artist’s work (it is dark in the space) and convince him to eventually collaborate with them (under their own terms). A cameraman with an infrared lamp is also present at the space: they want to document absolutely everything about the artist, and this without even the artist’s permission. They want to be well prepared for this eventual visit and plan on negotiating prices with the him ferociously. As they find the studio’s doors to be open, they enter the space, cautiouslly looking inside and snooping  around [...] Once at the height and zenith of disorientation,  the Strange Artist enters the scene and the action quickly picks up pace. The artist is furious at his unsuspected visitors and grabbing a hammer with his skinny hand starts swinging left and right at the intruders, the gallery owner eventually  falling brutally to his death. It can be presumed indeed that the world of art has barely suffered at the sight of this. In the following scenes the Strange Artist’s profile is presented to us more and more, and eventually we start sympathizing with him despite all his impetuousness. After all the Strange Artist is right,  the world of art has caused enough evil in the World and this fact alone cannot be left unnoticed.  As the dead body of the contemporary gallery owner remains lifeless on the floor like a battered piece of pork chop, we do not shed tears for him. We are then shown the artist at work in his studio and we admire his sereness and his concentration. We can feel subconsciously that he’s  thinking about his next work of art, which will open up new horizons for him. We wish we could be inside his head right now, at that very moment of conceptualization” , but we realize this to be an impossibility (and let’s not forget that after all he’s got blood on his hands now). The Strange Artist is an  alter-ego of the film’s creator. In his head it’s a constant battle for survival. This should be reason enough for one to present oneself or consider presenting oneself at Grzegorz Sztwiertnia’s exhibition. The Strange Artist has understood the curator’s desires and has decided to help her in a strange way, has Grzegorz Sztwiertnia understood the desires of the older generation of artists and will he be able to help them as well? One thing is for sure: he will attempt to do so  in a strange way because after all he is a strange artist.

 Janusz Antos

Fragment from the accompanying text to the exhibition, The Classics, the Old Masters and the Caveman.


Translated by: Jakub Chelkowski



Józef Wagary / Pokrzywy (Nettles)
1968 / ołówek, długopis (pencil, pen)





Józef Wagary / Pokrzywy (Nettles)
1968 / ołówek, długopis (pencil, pen)

Z ciemności / From the Darkness, widok ekspozycji / exhibition view © P.Droździk

Z ciemności / From the Darkness, widok ekspozycji / exhibition view © P.Droździk

Z ciemności / From the Darkness, widok ekspozycji / exhibition view © P.Droździk



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.