Poles Apart: new art from Poland

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Jan Smaga

art and artists from Poland: Jan Smaga

The representation of complex form through photography is a consistent theme in the work of Jan Smaga.

His approach to this interest is varied; he has, for example, used photographs themselves as sculptural elements before re-photographing them, as in Untitled (dog) left, in which a crouching male figure is papered with images of women.

In other cases, digital editing is used to build representations of reality that the camera alone could never capture, such as portaits of a subject's entire, flattened head (below).

Jan Smaga: Polish art photography
images © Jan Smaga

Plan, a project undertaken with fellow artist Aneta Grzeszykowska, depicts the interiors of Warsaw flats as if seen from above, a viewpoint that reveals myriad details about the lives of their occupants.

What look like single shots, however, are stitched together digitally from hundreds of separate images, making the apparent representation of single moments in time a fiction controlled by the artists themselves.


Rafal Bujnowski

painting from Poland: Rafal Bujnowski

Born in 1974 and a leading figure in Poland's late '90s artistic renaissance, Bujnowski's deadpan depictions of the everyday conceptualise painting as an almost utilitarian gesture, a necessary record of the often unremarkable aspects of day to day life.

Frequently painting in series, or producing multiple copies of a single work, subjects such as tools, remote controls, windows, household pets or even wooden beams are depicted in a style that verges on the monochrome and is as direct and uncomplicated as possible.

Nevertheless, these very restrictions reveal an almost paradoxical complexity. As noted in the catalogue introduction to a 2005 show, "his painting cleverly dispenses with cleverness and every brushstroke contributes to a clear definition."

Increasingly, although his conceptual concerns and subject matter rarely waver, it is Bujnowski's painterly precision that takes centre stage in work that pursues the possibilities of vivid expression through an absolute economy of style.

Polish painters: Rafal Bujnowski
images © Rafal Bujnowski

Tomas Kowalski

art and artists from Poland: Tomasz Kowalski

Tomasz Kowalski's paintings, sculptures and installations evoke surreal, vaguely 19th century worlds in which humans resemble malformed puppets and many of the functions of everyday life are represented by absurd mechanical systems.

The opressive connotations of this emphasis imbue the apparent naivety of his figuration with a grotesque edge, his bourgeois interiors and costumed protagonists verging on the sinister.

As his characteristically arching figures leer towards the viewer, or are forever frozen in their attempts to step inside the picture plane, Kowalski's self-contained, miniature societies evoke a sense of history as hollow theatre, its dramas scripted and directed by some vaguely ominous force.


Tomasz Kowalski, Polish painting now
images © Tomasz Kowalski

New art from Poland, continued >

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