Exhibition opening “Leaves of Grass” Katarzyna Jankowiak

October 7, 2021

Leaves of Grass

The titles of my paintings are simply the dates of their completion. The works are a calendar of sorts; for me the use of dates seems perfectly adequate and sufficient. At this stage of my work, I find it unnecessary to apply narrative titles. Therefore, summing up with a title a set of works selected for the exhibition is a tall order, indeed. Eventually, I chose a quotation from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. I share the poet’s way of observing and then describing the world: the focus on detail, on trivial and inconspicuous things and phenomena which are so commonplace that they elude attention, even though each of them is an inalienable part of the whole. Whitman writes as follows:

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars,

And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the
egg of the wren.

(…)

And the cow crunching with depress’d head surpasses any statue,

And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels.1

I am a believer in the art of looking: staring, observing, absorbing, soaking up, stopping, and concentrating. I consider this way of looking and the time devoted to it an exceptional luxury in the context of the dominant, hastily mediated image of the world we all deal with in our everyday lives. I carefully watch many things, but especially nature; in general and in particular, i.e. forests, meadows, fields, orchards, as well as the most common weeds, their fruit, seeds and roots. 

The oil paintings on display at the Elektor Gallery attempt to synthesise these observations, while the watercolours are a kind of herbarium inspired both by direct observations and by reference material taken from biology and botany textbooks.

While providing titles to works or exhibitions opens some interpretative horizons, it is also restrictive and limiting. My exhibition could just as well have been entitled Tansy, inasmuch as a fascination with this common ruderal weed, its disturbing smell, diffuse shape, healing and poisonous properties and the magical power attributed to it (tansy was considered a witch’s herb) inspired much of my work. The titles Time or Rhythm would be equally legitimate since the process of painting, the rhythm and repetitiveness of spatula or brush strokes is essential. Similarly fitting, for related reasons, would be titles such as Mantras or Meditations as well as Affirmations or The Passing, as my work is also about the passage of time and impermanence. I could also title my exhibition The World Fading Away or The World on the Edge as in the face of an environmental catastrophe I sometimes feel that I am referring to a world in a state of disappearance; soon I will have nothing to look at. The title could also refer to the dominant colour in this exhibition and its symbolic content.

For the time being, for now, I am most obliged to honourable Walter Whitman for the title of the Leaves of Grass show.

  1. Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, London 2013.

A LAND OF COCKAIGNE

May 31, 2019

A land of Cockaigne (exhibition/ ABC Gallery, Poznań
Strzeszynek Wypoczynek (replica of a neon by Z. Kaja/ Poznański Park Rzeźby Visual Park

17 June 2019 – 20 July 2019
Launch 17 June 2019, 8 pm

The vast majority of collective shows of contemporary art organised these days addresses the questions that are central to the exhibition mottos. This seems only fit and proper: nearly all aspects of the present-day reality trigger dilemmas, provoke questions and generate debate. Art, one of the most sensitive seismographs of social and political life, finely tuned to catch the births of new ideas and of the demise of old ones, naturally responds to the oscillations, at times prophetically, at other times critically, fulfilling the demand of commitment and involvement.

The concept of the show titled “The Land of Milk and Honey” was born out of a longing for Matisse’s idea of “art as a comfortable armchair”, which is aesthetic, joyful and harmonious, a veritable feast for the eye and the spirit. The other inspiration was reflection on the question: “What is the mythical land of Cockaigne today? What is the present-day land of extreme luxury and ease, abundance and bliss?” The topics addressed by the works selected for the exhibition seemingly relate to the least problematic realm of human activity: relaxation, fun, entertainment, and recreation. Just like The Land of Cockaigne by Pieter Bruegel, each object on display hides its invisible part behind the aesthetically pleasing façade. The legendary “Land of Cockaigne” in the context of the worship of youth and the omnipresent pursuit of unending and unconditional wellness & fitness once more proves to be an unattainable utopia.

The exhibition will have its very significant annex – another object to be unveiled on the same day on the premises of the Poznań Visual Park in the immediate vicinity of The ABC Gallery building. This will be a replica of a monumental neon by the late Zbigniew Kaja, an eminent graphic artist, author of stage sets, co-founder of the Polish school of poster. The Strzeszynek – Wypoczynek neon, with motifs of landscape and water sports (lake waves, the sun, a sailing boat) was made in the mid-1970s on a wall of a house at the intersection of Hetmańska and Głogowska streets in Poznań. In the 1980, it was taken down and destroyed beyond repair. The replica is being made on the basis of very few extant black-and-white photographs.

Katarzyna Jankowiak-Gumna