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Kraków: Witold Stelmachniewicz

December 10, 2020 - January 31, 2021

Witold Stelmachniewicz

More News for Lulu

The title of the exhibition refers to the name of a music band and the title of their second release, which hit the shelves following News for Lulu in 1992, featuring music improvised by alto saxophonist John Zorn, trombonist George Lewis and guitarist Bill Frisell. The concept that underpinned the project envisaged a meeting of contemporary performance in line with the concept of free improvisation with the tradition of so-called mainstream jazz, which emerged around the Blue Note record label from around the mid-1950s to about the mid-1960s. News for Lulu and More News for Lulu were by no means a result of nostalgia for a bygone era – rather, they can be considered an example of a practice common in contemporary art, where a canonical piece is appropriated in order to build a new, different narrative related to the original work. The visual aspect of the music project featured photographs of American actress Louise Brooks as Lulu –an exclusive prostitute from the 1929 silent film Pandora's Box, condemned by Hitler as ‘decadent art’, directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst. My gesture –referring to the contexts and reasons underpinning this project– stems from my observations of certain analogies that I use in my own painting practice. For more than a decade, I have been working with archive photographs — recalling them serves as a pretext to explore what they try to convey. As a result, some may recognise situations or images from the past in my paintings, but in many cases they are subjected to very intensive interventions. My methods of acting upon the motifs I cite are intuitive, and the final results are never strictly planned in advance –they are improvised. I do not separate paint from anecdotes, since the cited motifs serve the role of signposts –without their presence, my further painting activities would be –I dare say– pointless. The driving force that stimulates my artistic practice is thus the same as the method used by Zorn, Lewis and Frisell to approach the aesthetics of the past, which could be described as creating stories of other stories, following in the footsteps of Jean- Luc Godard. The annexation of the title –More News for Lulu– also bears a certain importance, since it makes it clear that my artistic ethos is characterised by activity based on facts and contexts. I do not aspire to reach transcendence, nor to explore metaphysics invoked by geometry or surrealism.

The first exhibition entitled News for Lulu took place in February 2020 in Konduktorownia Gallery in Częstochowa –the local seat of the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts. Some of the paintings presented there were created in the latest few years; however, the exhibition also included some new pieces –such as the painting depicting Louise Brooks, Lulu from Pabst’s work, the patron of the music project by Zorn, Lewis and Frisell. The second exhibition –More News for Lulu– which was supposed to pick up where the previous instalment left off– was slated to open on 19 March at the Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, less than a month after the exhibition in Częstochowa. Unfortunately, it did not take place at that time due to the coronavirus pandemic, which led to lockdowns across Europe, giving rise to restrictions that we all had to observe. For the same reasons, I decided not to organise the event in June.

Now, in December, at the end of the year, I decided to make this exhibition a reality, in spite of all the restrictions and limitations stemming from the sanitary regime, as well as the ongoing pandemic. I want –in a sense– to finish what I planned and started in spring, namely to carry out two individual exhibitions in two different spaces, but connected and supported by the same idea. The presented exhibition will be a bit different from the one that was supposed to take place in March. This is because of two reasons. First and foremost, it is due to the fact that new paintings were created, naturally pushing out the ones I wanted to use earlier. The other reason is that… seeing the ongoing turmoil engulfing the country in the past several weeks, I decided to showcase paintings that might not be my latest works, but feature motifs referring to various forms of protest. The painting, not yet shown in Krakow, depicts the tragedy of a Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc, who committed an act of self-immolation in protest against religious persecution in South Vietnam. The painting presenting Gabriel Narutowicz takes us even further back in time, but the circumstances of his tragic death make it clear how little the political mood in contemporary Poland has changed since that fateful day.

The original idea underpinning the exhibition at the Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow was based on making the exhibition space more attractive in a certain way, thanks to interventions on the walls and other means. It was supposed to be accompanied by a film, a music video of sorts, enabling the visitors to listen to Zorn's music with wireless headphones, all while watching the film, as well as separate paintings from a distance. Given the current circumstances, I decided to abandon these plans. The exhibition will be simple and austere –if only because it will be seen only in virtual space.

Witold Stelmachniewicz, 2020

Virtual tour


December 10, 2020
January 31, 2021
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