24 January - 8 March 2014
Marek Piasecki. Untitled (Heliograph).
Undated (c. 1957-59). 23.7 x 26.7 cm.
Andrew Mummery is pleased to announce the first exhibition
in the UK of the work of Polish artist Marek Piasecki [1935-2011]
A photographer, graphic artist, painter, sculptor, and creator of
objects and installations – the most important of which were
his successive studios – Piasecki was a truly independent phenomenon
who did not fit the mainstream narrative of Polish postwar art. Although
his work received some critical attention from the late 1950s into
the ‘60s, and he had connections to the 2nd Cracow Group (whose
most famous member was Tadeusz Kantor) Piasecki was never a central
figure and his decision to move to Sweden in 1967 further distanced
him from artistic life in Poland. It was not until a retrospective
exhibition was presented at the Zacheta National Gallery of Art in
Warsaw in 2008, that the significance and importance of his work to
Polish art in the second half of the 20th century began to be recognized.
The exhibition at Mummery + Schnelle has been curated in collaboration
with Rafal Lewandowski of Galeria Asymetria in Warsaw, and with the
artist’s widow, Mrs Joanna Piasecka. It includes works dating
from the late 1950s until Piasecki’s move to Sweden in 1967,
focusing on two main areas of his practice, firstly the experimental
abstract heliographs and miniatures that excited most critical interest
during the artist’s lifetime, and secondly his photographs of
dolls and of his extraordinary studio in Cracow. An essay by art historian
Maggie Iversen accompanies the exhibition.
Piasecki made his first abstract photographs – his heliographs
– in 1955. They were created by recording traces of spilled
liquids placed on a photosensitive base (a glass plate) and subsequently
transferred onto photographic paper. Further experiments produced
various shapes through the use of transparent materials, such as pieces
of celluloid, or mechanical actions, like drawing, directly onto a
photosensitive base. The heliographs were set in deep-boxed frames
to emphasise the impression of three dimensional ‘objects’.
At the same time Piasecki was also creating his miniatures. These
are of small format and were treated as ‘paintings’ that
combined the elements of the heliographic technique, collage and relief
printing. Piasecki created his miniatures by directly treating photographic
paper with chemical agents, or other stimuli, as well as sticking
on them various ‘alien bodies’ such as dried petals and
leaves, or small pieces of sheet metal.
Marek Piasecki. Untitled
(Doll). Unique silver gelatin print.
Undated (c. 1961-67). 23.9 x 18 cm.
Piasecki started to photograph his collection of dolls in 1959. The
resulting works have close links to surrealism and nouveau-realisme.
The dolls that Piasecki photographed were ordinary children’s
toys that he transformed, in the words of the critic J. Bogucki, by
“dressing them up, posing them, arranging them, illuminating
them, thus depriving them of their infantile carelessness. He encumbers
them with the weight of the moral and mental experiences of the last
quarter of the century”. He sometimes performed surgical
operations on his doll models, taking them to pieces, creating anatomical
curios, removing some body parts and multiplying others. According
to curator Joanna Kordiak-Piotrowska, the origins of a fragmented
female body should not be sought solely in the perception of the woman
as an object. “What is also important is the personal, tragic
experience of war seen through the eyes of a small boy, an experience
that, like with many artists of the same generation, forever changed
the subject’s perception of the human body. It is probably also
the source of the artist’s characteristically surrealistic vision
of the world.”
During the artist’s lifetime, art critics variously described
Piasecki’s studio at Siemiradzkiego Street in Cracow as a cabinet
of curiosities, a micro-galaxy, a surrealistic pharmacy, a museum
of enchanted objects, a gesamtkunstwerk, an art habitat or
a cultivation of objects, where in a dark room, filled with shelves
and drawers, the artist was deconstructing the fragments of collected
objects/pictures, as if on a dissecting table, and was organizing
‘performances’ for his friends. More than a living and
working space, Piasecki’s studio was simultaneously an object,
an environment and an action: a world of art detached from the everyday
Notes on the Artist
Marek Piasecki was born in Warsaw in 1935. His family house was burned
down by the Germans during the Warsaw Uprising and in 1945 his family
moved to Cracow. He was arrested in 1952 for political reasons and
sentenced to six years in prison. He was released early for health
reasons and started to experiment with photography. From the mid 1950s
he was working as a professional photojournalist. From 1957 he moved
in the artistic and theatrical circles of Cracow and Warsaw and belonged
to the 2nd Cracow Group together with such important artists like
Tadeusz Kantor, Jonasz Stern and Erna Rosenstein. His experimental
work began to be exhibited regularly - notably in 1959 at Galeria
Krzysztofory together with the surrealist group Phases – and
was written about by Polish critics. In 1960 his work came to the
attention of American critic Dore Ashton at an exhibition in Cracow.
In 1967 Piasecki went to Sweden at the invitation of the Lunds Konsthall
and decided to settle there.
||Back to exhibitions
Click here to download a press release in pdf form
Please scroll down for installation views