Ewa Łączyńska-Widz

curatorial text from the book accompanying
Cultivating Culture exhibition,
BWA Tarnów, 2015

Since the spring of 2013 Biuro Wystaw Artystycznych w Tarnowie (Gallery of Contemporary Art in Tarnów) has had its seat in Pałacyk Strzelecki. The building, once a vibrant place and witness to events of key importance for the city, for several years was falling into disrepair. The place of human activity and order was slowly being taken over by nature. One moment more and the Neo-Gothic building would be overtaken by greenery. You would say: picturesqueness, like in Romantic landscape paintings, which, incidentally, date back to the same period. Indeed, ruins happen to be romantic, but this is not what we want. Life-giving cultivation is preferable to beautiful disasters, even if the former is inseparable from occasional dry fruitless summers.

The Park used to be called Ogród Strzelecki (Rifle Club’s Garden). It was adjacent to a gardening school, whose seat remains here to this day. In 1930s one of the school’s students was Andrzej Pawłowski (1925-1986), the future creator of the Faculty of Industrial Design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. Organicity will be a key motif in his theoretical reflections and artistic practice. Pawłowski will coin the term a naturally shaped form. He will also substitute the notion of a work of art with an energy field. According to Pawłowski, creating art is producing energy, carrying and emitting it. Outdoor exhibitions have become an unwritten tradition of the BWA programme in the new seat. We invite artists to share their energy field with the visitors to the Park and by doing so often to point out some new contexts following from the Gallery’s new neighbourhood.

Cultivating Culture is a collection of Kama Sokolnicka’s works dedicated to (presumed and real) relations and roles of the BWA Gallery and the surrounding Park. Set in the local contexts, the works also refer to the activity mentioned in the title, whose very name implies hardship or the risk of injury. Both in her life and work the artist—daughter of gardeners—points out to the idea which defines two kinds of men’s attitudes: the horticultural and the hunting. The artist has placed her works among the trees, shrubs and buildings of the Park. In fact, they are a kind of lay monuments or rather unforgettables for the plants, ores and the Park’s history. There is no great remembrance and celebration, but ease and tenderness. Photosynthesis is a brass composition that alludes to the chemical formula of photosynthesis, regarded as one of the most important biochemical processes that take place in nature. Moreover, the chemical formula of photosynthesis resembles a honeycomb. Advisor (brass letters saying PSYCHIC ADVISOR ) hanging from the leaning trunks of robinias reminds the fact that nature is the best therapist. In the past the same idea stood behind e.g. schemes of treating war traumas by donating allotment gardens to the victims.

Rhapsody located next to the Mausoleum of Józef Bem—a brilliant and mysterious design by Adolf Szyszko-Bohusz—is a wind chime playing the six tones of Czesław Niemen’s A Funeral Rhapsody in Memory of General Bem written to a poem by Cyprian Kamil Norwid. The number of the pipes of the chime corresponds to the number of columns in the Mausoleum. It is a beautiful idea, dependent on the whims of the weather and open to even somewhat humorous interpretations. We like this tone of the exhibition, too (an observant viewer will notice that most of the works have been placed approximately at the height at which the tomb of General Bem is located).

The pivot of the show is Fence—a sculpture which recreates in real scale a span of the historical fence designed by an inter-war Tarnów architect Edward Okoń. He was the very man who designed the houses of the engineers’ housing estate Za Torem in Mościce—a modernist district of Tarnów. The fence, designed in 1927, makes interesting use of prefabricated elements. Sokolnicka’s idea of the Fence assumed it would be made by the Tarnów craftsmen. Confronting the contemporary test of materials was an interesting exercise before the revitalization of the Park, which is due to take place in the near future. The pattern of the mesh in the Fence, elegantly embedded in concrete, is made of rhombi—the shape Okoń was very fond of. The same crystal forms can be found on the façade of the tenement house at 8 Sowińskiego Street, where the architect’s office was located, as the preserved hand-painted advertisement says. The fence, also in the sense of activities performed by cultural institutions, not only fences off, but creates frames, as well. It delineates a distinct space; embraces and protects it.

The rhombi of the mesh in the fence have determined the shape of the new plantings: two clumps of blackthorn have appeared on the slope next to Pałacyk Strzelecki from the side of Nowy Świat Street. The title of the work—Czyżnia—refers to a thicket formed by thorny bushes, usually dense and impassable. Blackthorn bush is connected with Celtic culture, where it was used for its hardness and interesting shapes. Young blackthorn shoots were used for drying fruit and mushrooms. This traditional practice had been adopted from birds. Blackthorn (Polish: tarnina) can also be found on Saint Martin’s Peak, which offers a panorama of Tarnów. According to Jan Długosz, it is this very bush growing on the hill that gave the city its name. So far, blackthorn has not been represented in the park’s greenery. The alloys that the works are made of—brass and gold—have an interesting dendritic structure, which resembles a tree.

Kama Sokolnicka’s Cultivating Culture will precede the 150th anniversary of the Park, which is due in 2016. Goldfinger is the work alluding to the title of the exhibition; it consists of thorns of living chaenomeleses, robinias, roses and hawthorns gilded by the artist. Hawthorn, the symbol of eternal love, grows out of Tristan’s grave to reach Isolde’s tomb, thus uniting the lovers forever. We believe that the roots of culture run deep. Kama Sokolnicka’s works represent an option of culture which fits in with landscape, does not subordinate it to itself, but significantly and sensitively interferes in it.

© 2023 Kama Sokolnicka. All Right Reserved.