The main theme of this year’s Viennafair was Polish and Georgian art. Keeping with the theme, two stands were arranged to show art from both countries under a common name “Vienna Duet: Poland and Georgia”. The aim of curators Vita Zaman, Christina Steinbrecher-Pfand and Klara Czerniewska was to present Poland as a place full of life, energy and positive passion to create.
On this occasion, we had the opportunity to talk with Klara Czerniewska:
Klara Czerniewska: The title of the exhibition: Who Are You or The Polish School of Happiness, brings to life a new concept, the so called “Polish school of happiness”. We normally don’t associate Polish art with positive feelings – Polish art from the last century was rather traumatic. Young artists who grown up in an already free country may change that. Their art is both very international, and therefore ideologically and aesthetically understood by foreigners, but also very Polish – full of specific kind of irony and nostalgia, but also not afraid to make fun of our own weaknesses. Works of eight artists may be interpreted in the context of broadly understood happiness – they present a deep dive into the past, a hope for a better future or a dream to find happiness somewhere else (which echos the American Dream), a spontaneous way towards satisfaction here and now, or just a pure pleasure derived from appreciating art or recognising contemporary iconography.
Contemporary Lynx: Why have you and other curators decided to combine Poland and Georgia. What is the common thread for these two countries? Or maybe there isn’t one, and they were presented as two opposites?
KC: I organised the Polish part together with Vita Zaman but the Georgian part is the creation of the second artistic director of the fairs – Christina Steinbrecher-Pfand and Irena Popiashvili. Unofficially, there were some jokes that the choice of these two countries was meant to mock the Russian owner of the fair. But on a more serious note, it was aimed to show that Poland and Georgia are the most interesting, most active and artistically developed representatives of the East. The Polish exhibition focused on young but already accomplished artists and presented very fresh works from the past few years. At the “Our Caucasus” exhibition one could see works from last two decades of 20th century, mostly created around 1989.
Georgian works, for me, appeared to be more traditional in a formal sense – a sculpture in wood, classic easel landscape painting, fabric… It is clearly visible that tradition is a very strong value in Georgia. On the other hand, these traditional forms are tools used to deal with some myths or contemporary attitudes. This is my intuition concerning these works. In the Polish section we also have attempts to deal with national mythology and martyrdom (“A card for Ossowiecki” by Dominika Olszowy), with recent history (“Comfort situation” by Małgorzata Szymankiewicz), and with contemporary issues (a banner of Tymek Borowski – let the gold shine).
CL: And what was key when it comes to the choice of the artists?
KC: Firstly – young Polish artists who could be graduates or lecturers at the School of Happiness. Secondly – those who were represented by Polish galleries which participated in the fair (with three exceptions – Olszowa and Toboła are independent and do not belong to any gallery, and Tymek Borowki – also a free spirit, who only recently started working with Kolonie Gallery).
CL: What was the aim of this presentation, given the commercial nature of the event?
KC: Shortly speaking – it was mainly to increase the visibility of Polish galleries participating in the fair. The exhibition was not a commercial one, it was an initiative of Viennafair and Polish Institute in Vienna. I have no idea whether this exhibition was successful in its aims… but there were some collectors who asked about particular works.
CL: Thank you Klara.
Words: Dobromila Blaszczyk
Translated by Katarzyna Ujma
Edited by Contemporary Lynx