A couple of weeks ago, Roy Nydorf took our drawing and printmaking in color class to look at a selection of prints by Jacek Zielinski,, and Krzysztof Skorczewski, in a small corner of Hege Library. Aside from having the coolest names ever, the three artists share a common polish ancestry, and their work reflects an unexpected relationship with their country of origin.
1989 marked the end of a communist regime in Poland and its laws regarding censorship in art and publicly displayed imagery. The rebellion against the communist government was largely led and organized by the Catholic church, and the church continued to play huge governmental roles in the democracy that followed. During the 1980’s, prior to the collapse of communism, polish citizens addressed their opposition to religious freedom by using religious symbols, like a crucifixion, in artwork and protest. In his artist statement, Zielinski states that his work symbolizes a derivation from the “everyday sad, grey life” and that his “drawing and graphic best express our reality and maybe in a higher more universal standard.” Zielinski is the only artist in the exhibit to blatantly depict a cross (in a particularly dark and compelling image of the crucifix shaped trench, amongst a leaf-scattered terrain) in the exhibition, which may or may not relate to some of the art’s religious tendencies during this era of Poland’s national history.
While circumstance is often a go-to point when trying to understand the significance of artists and their work as a whole, these etchings and engravings have enough optical intensity to carry themselves without the baggage of having to unpack a deeper, circumstantial meaning. On an aesthetic level, Skorczewski’s work carries a level of detail and contrast that so exemplifies how graphically satisfying an etching can be. The content also has an uncanny element, begging the viewer to question more than identify the setting.
This work is so easy to see! In fact, you’ve probably already seen it without even consciously realizing so. Go to Hege Library and search in all the corners till you find this selection. Chances are, you’ll find something worth looking at along the way.