Exhibition: Standing aside (Stojąc obok)
Dates: September 18, 2020 – November 11, 2020
Venue: Gdańsk City Gallery 2, Powroźnicza 13/15 Street, Gdańsk
Artists: Jarosław Bauć, Koji Kamoji, Hermann Nitsch, Jacek Sempoliński
Curator: Andrzej Zagrobelny
They can see us – they can’t, we are hidden behind the rain.
(Do widzenia do jutra, 1960, dir. J. Morgenstern)
We are alone, left to our own devices. We are unique, but only seemingly, not much different from the other seven billion people. Prone to persuasion, we move towards collective non-existence. Diluted by culture, we dissolve in an amalgam where we are supposed to feel fine. We stand aside, we want to look into ourselves, and the deeper we look, the more we delude ourselves that we can have separate existence. But we fail, so we start again.
It may be seen as a chance meeting – whether chance should be at all considered – of the works by four artists – Jarosław Bauć, Jacek Sempoliński, Hermann Nitsch and Koji Kamoji – all in one place, overlooking something that should flow but is standing still. Or perhaps a true encounter of artists liberated from doctrines or mass culture whims. All we have is their works, snapshots of things carried by time – their time.
Moving beyond the culture of a particular subject, we become our own observers, explorers and researchers. Art which goes beyond the boundary parameters of culture becomes our reflection. Culture will probably consume us. To stand aside is to make an attempt to leave the territory of the repeatedly aroused culture, overloaded with narrations, offering nothing but answers. It is a reflection on one’s own place and foundation without a didactic tone. There is only us and our unique place in the world, which always puts us aside of things. This is an opportunity to look at what is external to us. The external is always seen through our conscious or subconscious mind, and everything else is hidden because of our lack of cognition.
Each of the artists participating in the exhibition appears to lean towards the claim that the external can be learned by reaching to the internal self. To them, art is a borderline experience. For Jarosław Bauć, painting does not express feelings or describe the world but is an experience of form and language developed by art throughout history and in variety of narrations woven around art. Bauć draws on and subverts the broadly understood painting art culture. He creates his own guide on the history of painting where he legitimises a specific range of themes usually reserved for religious representations, which he uses for the benefit of his own art. The rich oeuvre of Jacek Sempoliński is also marked with religious references, although Sempoliński’s paintings are more oriented towards the metaphysical. The paintings from 1980s, such as the series Czaszka (Skull), Miejsce zwane czaszką (The Place Called Skull), or Ukrzyżowany (Crucifixion), are considered his classic works. Many of them were subsequently perforated by the artist himself in an act of bold self‑expression. At the turn of the centuries, the artist decided to repaint a number of his earlier works to stand aside from everything that has condemned him in culture. While Sempoliński draws a symbolic representation of his own person on the earlier-occupied artistic space painting self‑portraits and nudes, the lost colour returns and ultimately legitimises his work. Sempoliński’s all but iconoclastic gestures towards his own paintings are somehow akin to the approach taken by Viennese Actionists from the early 1960s. The works of Hermann Nitsch, one of the last active artists from this radical group, is an uncompromising extension of his own life. Nitsch’s artistic performances in 1960s and 1970s, targeting social norms and customs and breaking religious and sexual taboos, are grounded in artist’s life. This contributes to the intrinsic quality of his art – art with the dimension of life of a human being complete with ups and downs of the fate.
Of all the presented artists, Koji Kamoji has always been a part of a culturally distant area, yet never alienated. Instead, he has pursued separate practices of artistic reflection based on meditation. His works take the viewers on a journey to the source of creative expression which is far from easy, as beside his rudimentary works there also those that escape definitive interpretation. In this way, Kamoji invites the viewers to a unique labyrinth of places and events founded on the notions of beauty, truth and balance.
Jarosław Bauć (1959)
Painter, graphic artist, teacher and art curator. From 1980 to 1985, he studied painting at the Gdańsk Academy of Fine Arts under Professor Włodzimierz Łajming, where in 1985 he obtained his diploma. Since then, he has been working at the Academy as an academic teacher. In 2005, he became head of the Laboratory of Knowledge of Visual Actions and Structures at the Gdańsk Academy of Fine Arts. Since 2006, he has been teaching at the Gdańsk University Institute of Art History. He took part in the Erasmus Program teaching at the Porto University Faculty of Arts in 2011 and at Milan’s Academia di Bella Arti di Brera in 2014. In 1997, he took a master course in Amsterdam. Between 2005 and 2011, he ran his own art gallery in Gdańsk at Jesionowa 4/3 Street. He has received a number of prizes and awards, including the Grand Prix of the 17th Polish Contemporary Painting Festival in Szczecin.
Koji Kamoji (1935)
Studied at the Musashino Fine Arts Academy in Tokyo between 1953 and 1958 (diploma in 1958) under Professors Saburō Aso and Chōnana Yamaguchi. In 1959, he came to Poland to study under Professor Artur Nacht-Samborski at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, from which he graduated in 1966. Since 1965, he has been an active figure in the Polish contemporary art scene. He won the Cyprian Kamil Norwid Art Critics Award in 1975 and Jan Cybis Award in 2015. He has been working with Warsaw’s Foksal Gallery since 1967. Due to their laconic and breviloquent form, Koji Kamoji’s works are often compared to a haiku poem, which was used to convey the spirit of transition. His art is rife with references to nature and its symbols. He says of his art: “In its form, my work is similar to urban planning. What is matters is the spacing, weight, texture and background of the surface; only my goal is the opposite. My purpose is not to build something new but to find and preserve things that we forget and the world from which we move away. I would like to find a form that could capture their presence.”
Hermann Nitsch (1938)
A member of Vienna Actionists, he graduated from Wiener Graphische Lehr-und Versuchanstalt in 1958. He worked as a graphic artist in the Vienna Technical Museum. In 1960s, he started the Orgien Mysterien Theater (Theatre of Orgies and Mysteries), staging nearly 100 performances in Europe and the US by 1998. His paintings as well as performances are inspired by aggression and violence. Colour plays a vital role in his work: various shades of red and grey bring to mind a mutilated body. In 1963, Nitsch was sentenced to prison for his controversial activity. He represented Austria during the 1988 Biennale in Sydney and the 1992 Expo in Sevilla. Nitsch’s works were shown in a number of venues, including the Prague National Gallery, Villa Stuck in Munich, and Nitsch Museum in Mistelbach (Austria). He also worked as a stage designer for Viennese Opera, Zurich Opera and Bavarian State Opera in Munich.
Jacek Sempoliński (1927-2012)
During years 1943 to 1944, he took a course in painting at the Konrad Krzyżanowski underground school in Warsaw. After the war, he studied painting at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, inter alia under Eugeniusz Eibisch; he joined the Academy as a lecturer in 1956. In 1988, he was awarded the title of professor. In 2011, his works were exhibited in Łódź during the Łódź of Four Cultures Festival as part of the Ręka Farbiarza (Colour Maker’s Hand) vernissage. In 2012, he received the Gloria Artis Medal for his outstanding contribution to the Polish culture. He received the Jan Cybis Award in 1977 and Kazimierz Ostrowski Award in 2004. He was a painter-philosopher and his works focused on the fundamental questions about the sense of existence and identity. All his actions were marked with an urge to explore and a deep reflection on the nature of art and the human being.