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Opalka 1965/ 1- ∞

On Februaruy 11 we would like to invite you to another meeting of„Beyond the Borders of Art" series.

Emigrant artists: escapees, outcasts, voluntary residents, citizens of the world…?
OPAŁKA 1965/ 1- ∞
Joanna M. Sosnowska (Polish Academy of Sciences - Institute of Arts in Warsaw)
11 February, 2015,5:30 pm| Infobox in Gdynia

Opałka authored one of the most original and radical artistic projects of the 20th century. His "counted paintings" – which contemplate time and transience of human life – have reached prices unseen in the realm of Polish art. Our next meeting within the "Beyond the Borders of Art" framework will focus on Roman Opałka – distinguished Polish painter, decades ago associated with France. Professor Joanna Sosnowska – art historian at the Polish Academy of Sciences' Institute of Arts - will offer deeper insight into his life and creative output.

This is the second time the Emigration Museum in Gdynia ventures "Beyond the Borders of Art" and extends an invitation to get acquainted with the silhouettes of distinguished, celebrated (but also less recognized) emigrant artists. The cycle of eight lectures will familiarize the participants with artistic fortunes of creators that voluntarily chose – or were forced to choose – a life away from Poland and will retrace their influence over the realm of art in Poland and in the world.

Similarly to the last edition of the vastly popular lectures series, the list of protagonists features artists of various times, styles, and medias. We have invited distinguished specialists from all over Poland to host the lectures, people with deep knowledge about their protagonists – art historians, exhibition curators, and authors of monograph publications. Each story will therefore, gain an additional, personal dimension and will become a unique journey following the footsteps of the creators. The lectures are addressed to a wide audience – they are open and non-academic in format and popularizational in character. The second edition of the cycle was inaugurated on October 22, 2014 by Hubert Bilewicz's lecture on Tamara Łempicka.

OPALKA 1965/ 1-

Back in the mid-1960s, Roman Opałka started a project which later proved to be both his magnum opus and one of the most original achievements in the art of the second half of the 20th century. A couple of sheets of paper filled with numbers – initially without any logic or deeper reflection – soon gave birth to a project that was later named OPALKA 1965/ 1-∞. The artist sensed its importance right away; even though initially its meaning was not fully palpable. It happened gradually – during its development, the project gained more formal and existential importance. It took several years more for the artist to establish a uniform format of his paintings (196 x 135cm) and to adopt a rule, according to which he would add an extra 1% of white into the black background tint of each subsequent work, thus resulting in him painting in white over a gradually lighter background. He called this procedure "striving for mental white". While painting, he started to speak the subsequent numbers he painted aloud (count). The rule of having his photograph taken after completing each painting was introduced quite early on. The photographs – always taken from the same en face perspective, wearing the same clothes and hairstyle – depict the passing of time in a more obvious and traditional way compared to the paintings, on which the progression of numbers was almost mystical in character. The artist soon realized that he was facing the endlessness – a progression of numbers has no end characteristic for existence. Roman Opałka's masterpiece is a very radical and, at the same time, tragic achievement in art. No one has ever showed what life is in a way that was so clear and understandable to all.

Joanna M. Sosnowska Ph.D. – art historian and professor at the Polish Academy of Sciences' Institute of Arts in Warsaw. Primarily focused on Polish art of the 19th and 20th century, art criticism, and methodology of art history. Lectured at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University, and University of Gdańsk. She has been coordinating the postgraduate art history program "Social and Political Perspective" in Collegium Civitas since 2007. Publications: Materiały do dziejów Instytutu Propagandy Sztuki (1930-1939) (IS PAN, Warsaw 1992), Polacy na Biennale Sztuki w Wenecji 1895-1999 (Warsaw 1999), Poza kanonem. Sztuka polskich artystek 1880-1939 (Warsaw 2003) oraz Ukryte w obrazach (Warsaw 2012). Editing: Towarzystwo Zachęty Sztuk Pięknych. Materiały z sesji (Warsaw 1993); Wystawa paryska 1925 roku. Materiały z sesji naukowej Instytutu Sztuki PAN, 16-17 listopada 2005 roku, (Warsaw 2007); Wystawa paryska 1937. Materiały z sesji naukowej Instytutu Sztuki PAN, 22-23 października 2007, (Warsaw 2009); Wystawa nowojorska 1939. Materiały z sesji naukowej Instytutu Sztuki PAN, 23-24 listopada 2009 (Warsaw 2012). Author of a series of articles inlcuded in collective works. Published (among others) in: „Biuletyn Historii Sztuki", „Twórczość", „Kresy", "Konteksty" "Rocznik Historii Sztuki".


From October 2014 to June 2015 the lectures will take place once a month between 5.30 pm and 7 pm at the Infobox in Gdynia.

1.Tamara Łempicka (1898-1980), Hubert Bilewicz Ph.D., University of Gdańsk, October 22

2.Wojciech Fangor (1922), Ewa Gorządek, Center of Contemporary Art in Warsaw, November 13

3.Jan Lebenstein (1930-1999), Magdalena Szafkowska, National Museum in Wrocław, December 10

4.Marek Żuławski (1908-1985), Sławomir Majoch, Nicolaus Copernicus University Museum in Toruń, January 14

5.Roman Opałka (1931-2011), Joanna Sosnowska Ph.D., Institute of Arts of Polish Academy of Science in Warsaw, February 11

6.Zbigniew Rybczyński (1949), Paweł Sitkiewicz Ph.D., University of Gdańsk, March 11

7.Piotr Uklański (1968), Łukasz Ronduda Ph.D.,Center of Contemporary Art in Warsaw, April 8

8.Krzysztof Bednarski (1953), professor Waldemar Baraniewski, Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, June 18

Here's what Hubert Bilewicz Ph.D. – the author of the concept and program of "Beyond the Borders of Art"– has to say about the series:

"Were emigrant artists those who had to migrate or those who wanted to? Perhaps they were those who could leave? The Emigration Museum in Gdynia launches the second edition of the lecture series devoted to Polish emigrant artists. The ambivalence of their statuses, conditions, and motivations is somewhat troublesome, yet it may propose a unique value to the narrative about the complicated and looped fates of Polish artists or artists in general. Some of them were destined to leave, others volunteered. Significantly, the question of Polish presence in contemporary art entails questions about the reach and the importance of Polish artists' participation in the international circuit of art, as well as questions about the character and the reach of the reception of Polish art. This is particularly valid for emigrant artists, whose lives and works were stretched between Poland and the world, artists curious of the world, yet – at the same time – torn with yearnings; those who assimilated with their new environments or were alienated from them; artists who remained abroad and those who repeatedly returned to their homeland; citizens of the world… The cosmopolitan or irrational formula of artistic life is closely connected to geopolitical or national implications, local experiences, and – lastly – individual fates. Although contemporary art is no longer limited by borders, the artistic life of the 20th century was defined by multiple borders indeed: national ones, environmental, generational, ideological, stylistical… Migrations also tended to give artistic life momentum, as mobility and freedom are both part of the creative formula."

Hubert Bilewicz – art historian, academic teacher, educator. Works at the Institute of Art History of the University of Gdańsk. Academically, primarily focused on researching the history of the so-called Sopot School, as well as the artistic environment of Gdynia after 1945. He is particularly interested in various implications of art – both artistic and non-artistic ones.

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