Duration: May 14 – July 8, 2022
meeting with the artist: June 30, 2022, at 6:00 PM
Anna Szpakowska-Kujawska, a doyen of the Wrocław art scene (diploma at the Faculty of Architectural Painting of the State Higher School of Fine Arts in 1956), is primarily a painter. However, she has decided that the exhibition at 66P should feature several dozen spatial objects, most of them created recently. She calls them “the winged ones.” One of such winged objects, enlarged several times by Jerzy Kosałka and Tomasz Opania, was erected just before the vernissage outside 66P, from the side of Księcia Witolda Street.
More about the sculpture: The City Wingling of Anna Szpakowska-Kujawska enlarged by Jerzy Kosałka and Tomasz Opania.
The exhibition Breaking up the Darkness resonates with the energy of Szpakowska-Kujawska’s colourful and luminous works against a dark background. They flash and glow in the dark, radiating their peculiarly untameable vital energy. Form-wise, the featured objects are situated at the intersection of the abstract and figurative trends. Their universal message is the visualisation of a strange, indifferent and alien world, whose cruelty and beauty mix according to impenetrable yet reasoned rules. A formative experience for the artist was the Second World War, and in terms of art – works by her father Wacław Szpakowski. Later, there was Matisse seen by her in Vence, travels around Asia and seven years spent in Africa. She used her works to record her experiences – of life and art, of a child looking at war. Although she started from very intimate memories, what she most wanted was to share those of them which, in spite of everything, offered hope and promised to face and overcome indifference and strangeness.
The exhibition focuses on the artist’s recent works, but in order to give a more complete picture of her artistic experiments, it also includes some of her older pieces. They are characterised by spherical spatiality, described by the artist as “entering the sphere.” However, she used the phrase to refer not only to her long-lasting formal experiments, but also to her attempt to combine divergent sensations and experiences in one whole. She eventually settled on the form of spatial mandalas, which resulted from both the search for a safe haven and the desire to express deep connections with the surroundings. Apart from interpersonal relations, they reveal a fascination with the biological world and inanimate matter. The spherical form, explored by the artist since the 1970s in Wrocław, was further developed in Africa, when her intuition combined the resonance of musical and visual rhythms. There, she discovered an unusual foundation for her works: spherical gourds, or calabashes, which trigger associations with the protection of the mother’s belly and the pain of childbirth. The exhibition Breaking up the Darkness features both older works, such as the calabashes, and more recent ones: the winged and spatial objects and several paintings from the series entitled Roads to Within. Such an approach illustrates her departure from the flatness of the painting.
The colourful spatial objects are not a direct extension of painting, because their conspicuously three-dimensional nature almost turns them into living creatures. They are extraordinary visitors – guests who disrupt our everyday life with their intriguing, material presence. Each of them has something akin to an eye looking back at the viewer and demanding action. This eye is closely connected with what the artist terms her inner red light. When switched on, it indicates the need for immediate reaction – of both herself in the creative process and the viewer in the reception process. This is why it seems as if the mysterious objects desire something very much. Above all, they want people to change their language for describing the world in order to be able to marvel at it anew, open their eyes to what has been summarily dismissed as too ordinary or obvious. The influence of the spatial objects on the attentive viewer can be seen by watching the film accompanying the exhibition, which will premiere on the opening day.
Preview of the film Breaking up the Darkness. Anna Szpakowska-Kujawska directed by: Anna Markowska and Jacek Chamot:
Anna Szpakowska-Kujawska was born in Bydgoszcz in 1931. Her mother, Aleksandra (granddaughter of a January Uprising insurgent, exiled to Russia), brought up four children while being actively involved in social work. Her father, Wacław Szpakowski, was an architect by profession, known today primarily as the creator of a distinct idiom of abstract drawing, the so-called rhythmical lines. The Szpakowski family survived the Second World War in Otwock, and in 1945 they settled down in Wrocław. It was here that Anna got married (1952), had two children and graduated from the State Higher School of Fine Arts (1956). Less than a decade later, she went on a scholarship to Vence. She gained recognition in the local artistic milieu thanks to her series of figurative paintings titled Atoms, which was shown in 1967 at the famous Mona Lisa Gallery, run by Jerzy Ludwiński. The critic viewed the uniform mass of people depicted on the canvases as “a total society, acting (…) on command.” He concluded that Szpakowska-Kujawska exposed the threat of destruction of individual personality, and that her works had the rare quality of creating an emotional space. Moreover, he aptly characterised the singularity of her artistic proposition; as he wrote, it was both traditional and new, and as such following neither the avant-garde nor the conservative trend.
Photo-documentation of exhibition and grand opening, fot. Małgorzata Kujda:
Szpakowska-Kujawska was the originator of the Wrocław ‘70 Visual Arts Symposium, for which she prepared a project consisting of colourful anthropomorphic balloons floating over the Oder River against the background of the historic Ostrów Tumski. Her works in the public space of Wrocław include a ceramic mosaic on the wall of the Faculty of Mathematics of the University of Wrocław (1972) and a painted plafond in the Provincial Public Library (1975). In 1977–1984 she lived in Ilorin, Nigeria, where she taught painting at a local college. Although she is primarily a painter, she has used different media in her practice. Among her most well-known and appreciated works are various spatial objects, including ceramic quasi-poems, as well as spherical forms painted on calabash gourds and on specially shaped forms.
The most recent retrospective exhibitions of works by Szpakowska-Kujawska were held at the National Museum in Wrocław (2005) and at the Silesian Museum in Katowice (2005). Apart from Jerzy Ludwiński, her practice was described by Janusz Bogucki, Zofia Gebhard, Andrzej Jarosz and Elżbieta Łubowicz, among others. She is the author of many texts, including the memoir/artistic diary Ekundayo czyli droga [Ekundayo means road] (2015). In 2021, Karolina Tomczak’s book Artystyczne światy Anny Szpakowskiej-Kujawskiej [The artistic worlds of Anna Szpakowska-Kujawska] came out. The artist’s works are included in the collections of the National Museums in Wrocław, Warsaw and Szczecin and Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź.
Organizer : 66P Subjective Institute of Culture
Curator: Anna Markowska
Collaboration: Łukasz Kujawski