Specificity of Places
Around Katarzyna Kujawska’s Work
it’s real early morning
no one is awake
I’m back at my cliff
stiII throwing things oft
l listen to the sounds they make
on their way down
l follow with my eyes ’til they crash
imagine what my body would sound like
slamming against those rocks
when it lands
will my eyes
be closed or open?…)
l will begin my reflections on Katarzyna’s work with some remarks on art schools. There are three reasons for this. First, the author herself recently graduated from two art schools where – significantly – she met inspiring teachers, something not to be taken for granted.
Secondly, because she has so far presented the most essential public manifestations of her work in galleries, in circumstances connected with art schools in Poland and England.
Thirdly, she herself has classes with students at the Poznań Academy and – not contrary to the constant alertness of her nervous system -she actively participates in the intellectual and moral movement in the Academy circles aiming to reformulate the present functioning of art schools – to reanimate them – one might say.
Katarzyna studied at the Poznań Academy of Fine Arts. She received her diploma in painting from Jerzy Kalucki’s atelier, in video her supervisor was Antoni Mikolajczak and in theory – Jaroslaw Kozlowski. These three teachers – themselves active, expressive and radical artists – participate in the confrontation of arguments and counterarguments in current art. At the same time they lead open, focused and serious pedagogical work liberating students’ individuality. l wish particularly to stress here the openness or – what Jaroslaw Kozlowski after KarI Jaspers calls “Socratean teaching.” It consists in sharing experience through “conversation and partner dialogue encouraging students to question conventional views and be sceptical about obvious truths”1. As Katarzyna herself wrote “that which keeps painting alive is our extraordinary ability to change ourselves.”2
With his roots in constructivism, Jerzy Kalucki is – as l could see with reference to some adherents of this orientation, for instance Michael Kidner – extremely open towards different explorations. Hę calls his own search looking for the philosopher’s stone which “should be a simple thing and at the same time full of magic power – like a charm.”3 Katarzyna writes that her realizations are “Games between the inside and the outside, It is an attempt to grasp the cosmos, the universe and converge it, turn it inside out .”4
The third of Katarzyna’s teachers, Antoni Mikolajczyk accentuated the importance of the “atmosphere of permanent confrontation of artistic ideas”, bringing about problems of “potential interest to individual students.” Hę also stressed the role of very active student groups, which arose at Poznań school while Katarzyna was a student there. “l think that it is a frequent phenomenon – impact based on certain radiance” -continued Mikolajczyk. “Their growth can be likened to new branches which appear on some genealogical trees.”5 Such school atmosphere considerably influenced Katarzyna’s formative years. She wrote: “What painting reveals is not what the painter knows before he begins his work. The knowledge acquired while working, dilemmas following the finish, broaden awareness.”6 Let us add that consciousness is here complemented by instinct for places, intuition as regards their specificity.
Indeed, her diploma work presented at the Poznań U Jezuitów Gallery in 1997 explored elementary questions of colour and light and the relation between the work itself and the place where it was made present. She used techniques which gave her realizations – “For blue”, “For yellow”, “For black”, “For white” the character of installations.
Such nature of her explorations was even more manifest in her video-installations also realized at the U Jezuitów Gallery – “Games Between Is Inside and Outside”, “Column”, “Arch of Triumph – Samson and Delilah”, where the imaginary in-determined what had already existed at the presentation place where the author “installed” permanent tension or even contention between the place and her work. The effort each time to redefine the exposition space, to connect into an integrated whole what the artist brings into the place with his own and his works’ presence, to temporarily settle and inhabit it – also seems spontaneously to follow from the three Teachers’ lesson. She herself feels best with her work in places of distinct identity, in “polluted” spaces, where history of places is recorded in their architecture and decoration. This is how l saw it looking at her video installations in the Poznań Zastępcza Gallery in 1998: the very descent into the “underground” – the basement of an old town house, the way leading through a forgotten yard, made way for a derealized “surf” on electromagnetic waves to which she had invited us. She seems to profess Arthur C. Danto’s principle that “… the work is not simply in the space – the space is in the work. The presence of the work transforms the space into a property of itself, vesting it with a meaning internal to the work (…). One cannot thus experience work and space separately from one another.”7
Alongside her studies at the Poznań Academy Katarzyna studied at Central Saint Martins College of Art in London under, among others, John Carson. It may be worth remembering what great role London schools – Chelsea, Camberwell, Slade, Royal College of Art, Goldsmith, Central or St Martins itself – played in the renewal of art and teaching methods. Michael Craig-Martin of Goldsmith College says that art schools teach us to cope with the complexity of the world through individual practice and prepare us to do things in a personal, separate, different and holistic way. Moreover, he adds that “Good art schools teach one independence of mind”8, something of the foremost importance in the present time of the unification and standardization of life goals and ever narrower specialization of all kinds of practice. Alongside her own work Katarzyna strives to share her experience in this kind of school with her successors, those who undertake the risk of life in art. She has faced up to the challenges which l sketched here in an attempt to show her artistic origin. In an independent and peculiarly her own impatient way she continues to develop them in her artistic quest.
A very convincing realization was the work entitled “Games Between Outside and Inside (l).” It was shown in the Zastępcza Atelier in Poznań in 1995. These were two aluminium door handles fastened to two rods swaying vertically. It was really two sides of one whole door handle, one on the inside and one on the outside of the door – a “masculine” element with its square pivot and a “feminine” one (with the corresponding square hole), l use here “masculine” and “feminine” not only to illustrate the arrangement and co-dependence of the objects. Just as in the 1995 “Arch of Triumph – Samson and Delilah” presented in the Poznań
ON Gallery, two screens facing one another competed (like in the Biblical story of treacherous Delilah depriving Samson of his power) to present the relations between man and woman, so the door handle realization made us aware of the experience of cooperation, complementation. We all know the strange feeling in a situation when two people – without seeing one another – are simultaneously trying to open the door from the opposite sides. This concise work touches on the very essence of elementary sensations adequately grasped in the object-space arrangement. It evokes the memory of a gesture through the author-enforced fruitful encounter in that arrangement – of individual memory, shared experience, reflection, idea and sparing use of means. “When an object stops acting on the senses a remembrance of that which we have known with our sight appears.” wrote the artist adding that “Ali our knowledge comes from the senses and impressions.’”‘ It is on such knowledge and not – against all appearances – on reasoning that the power of persuasion of Katarzyna’s works rests.
ApriI 1999 in Poznań
‘Bjork, “Hyper-ballad”, l quote after: “The Campaign Against Living Miserabły” (exhibition catalogue, edited by eleven RCA students), Royal College of Art, London 1998 p. 6
1. “Conversations aboul Art (VI), Jaromir Jedliński talks with Jarosław Kozłowski”, in:
“Odra” No 9, 1997, p, 90.
2. Katarzyna Kujawska, “A few Words On Impressions” (theoretical diploma thesis supervised by Professor Jarosław Kozłowski), Poznań 1997, /p.4/
3. l quote after: Jarosław Kozłowski, “Another Constructiyism”, in; “Jerzy Kafucki”, Cracow Group Artistic Assodation, Cracow 1992, p. 20.
(“the philosopher’s stone” which “should be a simple thing and at the same time full of magic power – like a spell.”)
4. “A Conyersation. Jaromir Jedliński – Antoni Mikołajczyk”, in: “Antoni Mikołajczyk. Realne i nieuchwytne/ Real and Unattainable”, (exhibition catalogue., no editor), Arsenał City Gallery BWA, Poznań 1995, pp. 26-27.
(“atmosphere of permanent confrontation of artistic ideas” bringing about problems of “potential interest to individual students.” “Their growth can be likened to new branches which appear on some genealogical trees,”)
5. Katarzyna Kujawska, op. cit., /p.4/
6. Arthur C. Danto, “The Message in the Ashes”, in: “Joshua Neustein Light on the Ashes” (exhibition catalogue., ed.: Nancy H. Margolis), Southeaster Center for Contemporary Art. Winston-Salem, North Carolina 1996, p. 30.
(“..the work is not simply in the space – the space is in the work. The presence of the work transforms the space into a property of itself, yesting it wjth a meaning internal to the work (,.,). One cannot thus experience work and space separately from one another.”)
7. “What is – or was – the Goldsmith phenomenon? interview with Michael Craig-Martin by Roger Bevan”, in: ‘The Art Newspaper” No48. May 1995, p. 21.
(“Good an schools teach independence of mind.”)
8. Katarzyna Kujawska, op. cit. /p.1/