Henryk | You are not in Kansas anymore
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You are not in Kansas anymore

Bartek Węgrzyn


In his work, Bartłomiej Węgrzyn investigates tensions between the real and the imagined world, long-present in culture. A paraphrase of a quotation from The Wizard of Oz used in the title can therefore be considered a figure of a quest for ‘parallel worlds’. On the other hand, the idiomatic phrase “you are not in Kansas anymore” refers to our lived experiences of finding ourselves in a new environment, where we can get a sense of discomfort. Do then Węgrzyn’s objects, distinguished by their precise execution, pure and sterile, carry a capacity to trigger in us a state of insecurity?

Undoubtedly, their presence would have surprised neither gallery visitors, nor characters who found themselves “on the other side of the mirror”, since he produces them using materials available in everyday life, with a particular preference for plastic. The works echo with child-like wonders at the colourful world of advertisements, a fascination with the cinematic world of the Matrix or subsequent discoveries of qualities of materials the artist had been discovering, as he honed his sculpting skills. Węgrzyn’s object can be associated, albeit with an ironic distance resulting from a passage of time, with the world of Vision’s futurological exhibitions that at the turn of the 1960s reflected the unswerving belief in progress and development of modern technologies, which were to transform human surroundings into a polymer paradise.

The suggested interpretative tropes for the artist’s work, however, have the nature of free associations, as he himself is eager to play with them, drawing the audience’s attention primarily to the rudiments of a contemporary sculptor’s craft. He seems to share Donald Judd’s conviction that “Material, space, and colour are the main aspects of visual art.” [1] Does the traditional opposition of artificial versus natural materials still make sense? Might Jean Baudrillard have been right when he wrote at the apogee of the era of plastic that “the manufacture of synthetics means that materials lose their symbolic naturalness and become polymorphous, so achieving a higher degree of abstractness which makes possible a universal play of associations among materials, and hence too a transcendence of the formal antithesis between natural and artificial materials.”?[2] Węgrzyn is also intensely interested in the question of exhibition of his works: suspended, located in a gallery space, or approached almost flatly, painting-like, affixed to walls. Colour is as significant to him, but it seems that the significance is not symbolic or emotional, but rather a formal one. He is particularly interested in effects achieved both by the use of transparent materials, mirrors and of mat surfaces. Reflection, emission, permeability, multiplication – terms familiar from a physics lesson – acquire a novel quality under Węgrzyn’s interpretation. He is also far from being indifferent to the visual potential of contemporary design, but avoiding an exploration of strictly utilitarian properties of objects that inspire him. In spite of the interest, he is averse to the use of pre-fabricated elements, emphasising the persisting manual aspect of his work, which results in a creation of unique pieces in plastic.

Bartłomiej Węgrzyn’s work, originating in the Modernist tradition, is a successful attempt at refreshing the language of abstraction, leading to an elaboration of his idiomatic, original solutions.

curator: Agnieszka Jankowska-Marzec

coordinator: Aleksander Celusta

graphic identification: Renata Motyka

[1] Artforum International. Vol. 32 (1994), p. 38.

[2] J.Baudrillard, The System of Objects, trans. James Benedict, London, Verso, 1996, p. 38-39.