Poles Apart: new art from Poland

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Agnieszka Kalinowska

art and artists from Poland: Agnieszka Kalinowska

Agnieszka Kalinowska's multi-disciplinary practice is underpinned by the theme of struggle and resistance, not only in political terms, but as an exploration of the human will to overcome all types of adversity.

In earlier sculptural works, this often involved the depiction of human forms in situations of explicit jeopardy or stress.

Figures made of rubber bands (above), are stretched to extremes, the very material of their construction indicative of tension.

In other pieces, similar figures are evoked by strewn party streamers clumped on the floor, the proximity of an industrial cleaner an obvious threat to their fragile existence.

As Kalinowska has stated, "If our life was an action movie, I would only focus on those moments where we show our strength and resiliency... where we resort to our sheer superhuman capacity to solve problems."

More recently, the artist has also begun to focus on the pressures of societal demarcation in its many forms.

A 2009 video/installation takes on the issue of the treament - and perception - of asylum seekers, while a 2006/2007 video, Doormen, (detail, left) examines the lives of doormen at New York's luxury hotels. By providing them with a platform in which to voice their views, beliefs and personal histories, Kalinowska reverses their working status as largely anonymous 'facilitators' to the wealthy, affording them an identity they are usually expected to suppress.


Agnieszka Kalinowska, Polish contemporary art Polish contemporary art and practice, Agnieszka Kalinowska
images © Agnieszka Kalinowska

Slawomir Elsner

new art from Poland: Slawomir Elsner

Polish by nationality although now based in Berlin, some of Elsner's earliest works feature the artist himself in photographs taken in various working environments; alongside swimming pool attendants, with policemen or in a teachers' staffroom. Donning, in each case, suitable apparel and posing alongside 'colleagues', Elsner's identity is rendered multiple and uncertain.

Something of this chameleon quality applies to all the artist's work, which constantly reinvents itself in terms of style, medium or thematic concerns.

new art from Poland: Slawomir Elsner

Large-scale, gorgeously hued coloured pencil drawings of far from pretty events such as devastating fire or missile-testing (above and below) exist, for example, alongside paintings of darkly enigmatic rooms or the stylistic oddity of 'Old Street' (left).

Throughout his practice, Elsner has embraced multiple forms of image-making, but the diversity of this enterprise is underscored by a recurrent fascination with particular themes; identity, the reproduction of images from the media, and the often spectacular visual aspect of disaster.

Slawomir Elsner, Polish artists today
images © Slawomir Elsner
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