Tag Archives: Krakow

New toys of a dirty boy – Eric Fischl

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A gifted boy with dirty imagination is back.

Eric Fischl (b. 1948, NY) has apparently abandoned his flamboyant yuppies and bad boys lost in their hedonistic activities on daddies’ yachts and in flashy apartments. Or rather – he grew up with them, since the new characters of his painted stories are middle- aged couples, lost again, yet in thoughts more than in purely sensual stimulants.

In 2002 the painter has staged and directed few episodes of a very contemporary drama, he hired actors and then extensively photographed them in a home-like setting; then he painted a series of works based on their performance there. So-called “Krefeld Project” (from then name of a place in Germany) has been accomplished.

As the portrayed relationship goes deeper and stranger, so the paint on the surface of canvas dissolves and disintegrates. Identity of the examined individuals goes to pieces (or rather – layers) with it. They are every-and-any-of-us, white, heterosexual, ‘normal’, inhabiting a modern-looking, comfortable space.

Yet, there is that unsettling, heavy air that lingers, much like in D. Lynch’s movies. Sexually charged atmosphere is rendered beautifully in peachy, golden light; a viewer is faced with everyday scenes of great intimacy… But it’s hardly yet another “Casablanca” – nobody is going to make a life-saving sacrifice here. A couple plays enjoyable roles in their cushy world, just like many of us do. They may stay this way for years or leave each other next day, to find another apartment with fresh towels and soft robes, to create a new illusion of communication and sense with another human being. Like many of us – middle-class, Caucasian, modern – would do…

Leaving all these complex (always highly individualized) readings of Fischl’s work, there is no way to miss his technical mastery (best appreciated, obviously, in details), which he had managed to gain over the years and displays in his recent paintings. He virtually doesn’t ‘paint’ mechanically speaking – he seems to project his thoughts seamlessly on canvas, like dreams project upon consciousness without any conscious effort or even a will. Fluid yet fractured, complex yet straightforward, intimate yet sunk in itself – the life, the world, the people of our age. We – our – selves… A lesson from a grown-up dirty boy?

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One can appreciate E. Fischl paintings from the “Krefeld Project” in the National Museum of Krakow, Poland till the end of August 2009. To see my article on the exhibition there: here. To see more detailed photos and descriptions: here.

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“First step…” – Western Contemporary Art in Poland

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Phillip Taaffe, Artificial Paradise (Loculus), detail,  2008, oil on linen

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Miquel Barcelo, Des Meduses, detail, 2000, mixed media on canvas

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Eric Fischl, The Bed. The Chair. Touched, detail, 2001, oil on canvas

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Andreas Slominski, Untitled, 1993-94, bike/plastic bags

Well, this exhibition may serve perfectly those who know, how the bipolar disposition works.

One moment – one is proud and full of gratitude, tasting great art in an unexpected setting… only to go mad in the next second, when realizing some obvious organizational and curatorial flaws.

“First step… Towards a Collection of Western Contemporary Art” in the National Museum in Krakow (Cracow) is the show of ambition and potential with some recent works (mainly paintings, photos and prints) by  Nobuyoshi Araki, Miquel Barceló, Francesco Clemente, Eric Fischl, Mike Kelley, David LaChapelle, Sherrie Levine, Andreas Slominski, Philip Taaffe and Andy Warhol on a display. On the other hand it is, indeed, ‘the first step’ , which had to be done in order to learn how to walk.

Creators deserved credit for overcoming many practical and theoretical problems – it’s still not as easy as it should be – to borrow and even temporary import artworks to Poland, red tape and financial reasons are the main obstacles. And theoretically speaking – it’s all in the title – Polish art lovers had to leave for Paris, London and New York in order to see contemporary art in a compendium, in moments – to… see it at all… Some sort of an  ideological attitude, then lack of the proper connections and even specifically driven individuals made that ‘first step’  difficult to be accomplished.

But it’s been finally done. With the choice of artists, which, unfortunately, looks accidental – one cannot help thinking – that whatever was comparatively easy available – has been put on a list, and then – on a display. Sherrie Levine’s conceptual sculptures and Andy Warhol’s prints – all from early 80s look outdated and out-of -place next to Eric Fischl’s or Philip Taafee’s recent paintings from the last decade. Francesco Clemente is represented by a series of moderately interesting pastel drawings only, mentioned Warhol by his hardly revolutionary prints/collages taken from one private collection. On the overall, one faces an acute sense of hunger, of an insufficiently experienced encounter, aesthetically and historically speaking.

Then, those who paid for the privilege of photographing artworks get to realize, with all the surprised uneasiness, that it borders impossible to capture some of the works in their full glory. As for an example: P. Taaffe’s mesmerizing “Artificial Paradise” in two uncovers, each at least 4 x 4 m. has been put in a small passage, corridor-like space; to experience these artworks properly, not to mention to document them in this very setting, is a task for a superman. The same relates to the most of the paintings presented in Krakow – it appears like, quite unsurprisingly, the communist designers of the Main Building of the National Museum didn’t allow enough space to comfortably fit in something bigger than folk artifacts.

On the other hand – the biggest rooms has been taken to accommodate another international, simultaneously presented exhibition of American art and design. Who said that quantity over quality in art serves well or even to the acceptable level anyone – curators, visitors, artists and – art above all?

Well done for trying, not so well done for not trying even more. Looking impatiently forward to see further steps of Polish curators towards the Western Contemporary Art.

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All photos by K. Skonieczna. To see more pictures from this exhibition go here


Polish Theatre gets the clapping!

I just couldn’t miss this great opportunity to dive in the memories of my family town – Krakow (‘Cracow’ as it is misspelled sometimes).

The annual,  intensely energetic festival of theatrical performances – the “Divine Comedy” hosted by Krakow’s stages has made the arts news in the Irish leading newspaper. In the recent edition of the “Irish Times” Peter Crawley reports from Poland in all the acclaiming terms, tinting the relation with a bit of jealously (‘why something similar cannot be done here, in Ireland?’ – one can read between the verses).

To emulate the success of the cultural event is equally difficult like – I guess, to gamble if a transplant will be accepted by the ‘mother’-body or not. In Krakow, as far as I can remember, there were at least three major national theaters (independent companies) functioning all year long and few minor ones – all employing the set of full-time and excellently prepared professionals – actors, directors, stage design artists and so on. To be a respected theatre personality in Poland has meant to be more than the talented painter, even some of the writers didn’t get the same devotion; some of the poets only (mainly Nobelists and other great-s) would equal or surpass the actors and directors on the Pantheon of the ‘moral’ and ‘existential’ guides. The most famous academies for the future ‘theatre people’ have got the magic aura around them; fine art centers only rarely could have matched them in the sky-high level of the artistry in their principles and the artworks produced.

Above that, Poland’s social, political and cultural life has been always evolving around the drama-comedy sweet-sour swing – it’s been full of a struggle, bloodshed, brain-washing, oddities and bizarre elements, hate and vanity – a bit like in Ireland, yet – in Poland there is ten times more hands to meet the challenge of becoming a professional playwright or a performer. Adding to it the long tradition and the comparatively recent excitement with the ‘showing Europe who we are’ (Poland joined the EU in 2005) – and you got a high-quality international festival, prepared and ‘powered’ mostly by the young generation and – what’s important – getting the claps!

Well done Krakow. Looking forward to hear more good news.

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Read the original article here.


“That Youth of Ours”…

pLegendary Polish cabaret “Piwnica Pod Baranami” (“The Cellar under Rams”) has his stage underground indeed – just under ‘the rams’ – under the very dignified part of Krakow’s main square. It used to be a truly magic place, in a cellar, lit by candles with an ‘extravagant’, improvised scene (that meant all sort of ‘found’ weird artifacts being put together without any rule, yet – it was brilliant). It happened that the most talented Polish poets, composers, signers had their “Piwnica” period – it was like a forge of genius – very often without any plan, scenario a group of artists would improvise in front of any public, often asking for a glass of vine in return… Beautiful women, charming gentlemen, gallons of wine, signing about freedom, passion, meaning of live… And all that ‘dissipation’ right in the middle of Communists’ concrete world – that was an immaculate miracle… “Piwnica”‘s creator and the ‘main magician’ – Piotr Skrzynecki (above) belonged (he died in 1997) to the one of the most unusual people one can come across. Quiet yet charismatic persona without a home and family, a poet and artist himself, a perfect dreamer and ‘father’ to all those performing on his request. His motto: If you can make people laugh that they will forget being sad and that the world is an alien place – you will be redeemed just because of that.

Here artists of “Piwnica” with Halina Wyrodek as a soloist sign one of the cabaret’s unofficial hymns. Hymn of being always young… Lyrics adapted from Tadeusz Sliwiak poem of the same title. Music by Z. Konieczny. Great video by a youtube user: jurek46pink – Thank you.

This song is redeeming truly… It makes me think of people like Skrzynecki that angels exist, sadly – they  live too short…

That Youth of Ours

She can be found among pebbles,
In a brook rapid light,
She whisks along trees
And branches as squirrels,

She is a spark in a stone,
She is milk in a nut,
She is curious about the world
Like a copper coin in a money bag…

That youth of ours,
Of bones and blood,
That youth of ours,
Mocking at time,
That is always on a move…
She that happens for the first,
And then the second time…

That youth of ours,
That joyful time,
That pair of wings,
Folded inside us…

She is a flower in hair,
The first vinegar in apples,
And the bitter beer – head,
In a bustling inn of the world,

She is an unfulfilled rebellion,
That dies on a heart-attack,
She gives you only that,
What she takes away from others…

That youth of ours,
Of bones and blood…


Krakow (2)

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Krakow (2), 2005 (Nikon, digital)

What I like about this scene is that it looks like a dream-view or a frozen image from a handicapped mind. What’s the strange place the door leads to, and why somebody had put a drawing of a bike on a wall (you cannot see it but as a background of that drawing is a weird text about existential importance of a bike)? There is “Alchemy” small board and a number to it (?). Sculptures are those of angels and demons – all in one… I almost got myself inside but a gaze of people there made me abandon my curiosity…

This place exists at the corner of so-called Jewish Market in the former Jewish district of Krakow – Kazimierz (the memorable part of the Shindler’s List of the ghetto being established and liquidated was executed in that district).


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Krakow Series. Krakow, 2005 (Nikon, digital)

On the black gate there is a small inscription (in Polish) – Street Bar “Just sit down and watch”. It’s very characteristic for Krakow-made sense of humour and corresponds well with the figure of an “elegant” bohemian man.

And there is another key to the scene hanging on the window: We invite you for a delicious coffee and cheesecake (both treats are like a Polish sense of home and hospitality in a capsule; they’ve got their coffee and cheesecake on each occasion under the Sun – for family and formal meetings, for the wedding and funeral, in a very poor and very wealthy menu).

I enjoy reading the image and extracting senses, I like the way how it tells a story (unfortunately, only to initiated people).


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