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Themes

That's how free Poland looks like

The opening theme of the exhibition embraces works by artists who use art as a medium to react, often instantly, to the political situation in Poland and abroad. The title quotes a painting by Władysław Matlęga, whose work illustrates and comments on the current developments, such as parliamentary elections, the planned ride of the Russian Night Wolves through Poland, or the refugee crisis. Many of his works reveal disappointment and distrust of the political elite. Antagonism towards the direction that democratic transition took in Poland, expressed from a completely different ideological position, is present also in the works by Daniel Stachowski, who represents a younger generation of artists. His radical drawings and short stories, which gravitate towards a punk zine aesthetics, denounce economic liberalism, industrial plant closures, and the overwhelming presence of political right-wing and clerical tendencies in the public sphere. Stanisław Garbarczuk – a critical artist from the countryside who displays his poignant manifestos against the system on the fence of his house in Gorzewo – said once that when he turned the TV on, he needed to turn it off the next moment because of the unbearable surge of inspirations for his paintings.

The problem of the individual confronted with the state apparatus is prominent in the work of artists who serve sentences in prisons: Radosław Perlak and Damian Czeladka. Perlak pursues a critique of the prison system and the illusory nature of such institutions as pardon granted by the president. Czeladka’s works address the current armed conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, while they also convey his own struggle against the “system.”

Political themes appear also in works of other artists, albeit on a more implicit level. The enigmatic disquisitions of Władysław Grygny abound in references to the political realm, for instance the little drawing “Tomorrow’s Poland is a Handful.” Maria Wnęk’s works “May Day Parade” and “Lenin” offer examples of a fusion of motifs from two different orders – state and religion. For the artist, each of those orders has an equally transcendental character, which originates “from above.”