“The urge to create visions…” 1929–2017
The exhibition (and its title) has been inspired by Stefan Themerson’s essay from 1936. The author’s primary focus was art film, which he pioneered in Poland. Together with his wife Franciszka, he made films employing various unconventional methods, to the point that one might call them multimedia artists of their era.
At the exhibition at the Orońsko museum art film is one of the media, although other featured artists have also been experimenting with moving image, light, space use and optical effects.
The exhibition has been designed as a collage comprising of a mosaic-like multi-level experiment with the visual in its broadest sense. It is a record of historical and contemporary artistic practices, which engage our imagination in a much more active way.
The twentieth century engendered a new reality in art that has transcended the boundaries of the field with which it had been previously associated. It was not long before artists questioned the traditional canons that had been upheld for too long. It was no longer their goal to find various ways to reflect reality, but to create a new technique, one that made use of the scientific achievements and was developing dynamically in the first half of the twentieth century.
As a consequence, in their pursuit artists crossed all the existing boundaries.
The motto of the exhibition is Michał Martychowiec’s neon work from the series The Daily Questions. The laconic question How Far Can You See encourages the viewer to reflect on how far our imagination can reach. Is what we can see at the exhibition at any given moment only ‘a game for the eye,’ or is it a more profound reflection on the meaning of active participation in the process as part of the interaction between the artist, the work and the viewer.
The presentation has taken over several rooms within the museum, which provide space for the artists’ unique dialogue. The latter extends to the context of the place, as evidenced by in the works by Mikołaj Grospierre (installation TATTARRATTAT at Józef Brandt’s Palace), Paweł Grobelny (installation Le Mouvement in the park) and Carlos Cruz-Diez (his iconic light installation Chromosaturation from 1965, presented in the chapel for which the artist completed a special design in 2017).
The chronological framework of the exhibition is the space where Franciszka and Stefan Themerson’s photograms from 1929-1930 are showcased – the artists used them as material for their films, arranging them on a specially constructed (‘trick’) table. They were juxtaposed with the large format digital pictures of the Taiwanese artist Lin Yi. Using computer software, he makes abstract compositions, which, in fact, are not abstract images but a new virtual reality.
Subsequent spaces are devoted to kinetic art and optical experiments. Early works by Jesus Rafael Soto and Ludwig Wilding bring to mind the cofounders of new trends in the twentieth century art: kinetic art and op-art.
Elias Crespin, contemporary Venezuelan artist, uses kinetic art experiments to create his mobile sculptures suspended in space. Geometrical figures – in this case circle and square, which additionally connote the interwar avant-garde – are fluidly evolving from one form to another, creating completely new spatial configurations.
In two adjacent rooms an interesting relation emerges between by the works by artists representing vastly different cultural backgrounds and eras. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s film Ein Lichtspiel schwarz weiss grau was made in 1930 using a light and space modulator – a kinetic sculpture on which the artist started working in 1922. It is a recording of an unlimited number of effects one could achieve using the electrically powered modulator.
Chi-Tsung Wu’s installation, which is an extended version of his work Crystal City, is a contemporary interpretation of the historical modulator. It shows a different, invisible world consisting of electronic equipment, software, networks, media and information, which the artist calls ‘the crystal city.’
The Welsh artist Bethan Huws presents a neon monochromatic work White, Grey, Black, situated between history and present. Bethan Huws’ artistic practice focuses on the study of language both in the context of history of art and the contemporary means of communication. She translates the results of her studies onto various media: interventions, objects and, first of all – textual works.
Another example of an intergenerational dialogue is found in Wojciech Fangor’s early paintings juxtaposed with Michał Martychowiec’s contemporary analogue photographs. Fangor’s centric, abstract paintings from the mid-1960s expound on the artist’s previous concepts, in which the spatial relations between images were more important than the images themselves. Contour-free transition of colours creates the effect of, as the artist put it, ‘positive illusory space.’ It is in this context that Michał Martychowiec’s large format photographs from the series Blue are presented. The monochromatic frames of cloudless sky, which the artist has been photographing since 2013 all over the world, pose a question: what is the colour blue? – a boundless space, a universal dream about combining the past with the present, or an image that does not succumb to the passage of time? The blue in his works is invisible, becomes visible, has unlimited dimensions, and becomes the universe.
The work of the Korean artist Kimsooja may be interpreted in similar context. The four-channel video installation A Mirror Woman: The Sun and the Moon was created in 2004 on the Goa island in India. The sun and the moon complement each other, forming a Yin and Yang relation, which stems from ancient Chinese philosophy. It describes two primitive and contradictory forces that make up the universe. The mutual effect between Yin and Yang is the reason for the conception of all things.
In the context of this exhibition, the series of photographs by the same artist, titled The Sun – Unfolded (2008), is a symbolic afterimage – one that will hopefully remain in the viewers’ memories.
Stefan Themerson concluded his historical essay with a statement-question, “The new avant-garde will come. I know what I would like from it. I would like it to make what I would like to see. And I would like to see clear, rational, common-sense, visual statements. But what it should do is not at all what I want to see. It should do what its own need to create visions will force it to do.”
Artists: Elias Crespin, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Wojciech Fangor, Paweł Grobelny, Mikołaj Grospierre, Bethan Huws, Kimsooja, Lin Yi, Michał Martychowiec, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Jesus Rafael Soto, Franciszka and Stefan Themerson, Ludwig Wilding, Chi Tsung Wu
Exhibition organized in cooperation with the Signum Foundation
Curator: Grzegorz Musiał, Signum Foundation
Coordinator: Leszek Golec, CRP Orońsko
Opening of the exhibition: 27 May 2017 2:00 PM
Works from the collection of the Signum Foundation, Galerie Tschudi and artists’ own
Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko, ul. Topolowa 1, 26-505 Orońsko
Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko, ul. Topolowa 1, 26-505 Orońsko