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Themes

My pain is immense

Many works in the exhibition address existential questions. The title of this path borrows from one of Maria Wnęk’s treatises that the artist published on the backs of her paintings. Works by the most famous Polish artist-outsider enjoy a position at the centre of the exhibition in recognition of their potential to become a symbol of art as a voice of discord. Although Wnęk’s texts adopt the form of “urgent news,” which the artist needed to convey from God to humanity, they often reveal a sense of anxiety and pain related to her living situation: poverty, lack of a permanent home, and the sense of threat (induced by her illness). What is more, Wnęk’s treatises often refer to everyday life, such as conflicts with people in her environment, and the objects that the artist owned or lost. In a similar fashion, photographic documentation of activities by Pisarka M.H., which inaugurates the show, marks a very powerful artistic gesture of protest – the artist used one of the walls of the Cloth Hall in Cracow to create a drawing complete with the inscription: “I am a laboratory rabbit without my consent.”

The artistic practice of Tomasz Machiński betrays the qualities of an existential total work of art. The artist has pursued a mission to solve the mystery of human existence through a series of self-portraits painted every single day for the last half century. As he incarnates a famous figure from history or culture, the artist captures the moment when his fate becomes intertwined with the fate of the person he impersonates. “You need experience, maturity. I didn’t create Marx at the beginning of my life, but when I joined the Party.” – the artist explains in an autobiographical film "Ja Machciński" (complete film available in the exhibition’s reading room). The community of people whom Machciński impersonates in his works is populated both by positive characters (such as Mother Teresa, Gandhi) and by disturbing figures (an SS man, General Wojciech Jaruzelski). The artist’s works operate in an existential sphere and pose the most essential questions concerning good and evil, the greatness and mundanity of a human being, life and death.