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Art is a channel of communication between the past, the present and the future. It helps us to deal with the basic matters of all human life and related to our existence. By showing what is most important, art predicts what our future lives will bring. From Caravaggio to Warhol, Yayoi Kusama, Joseph Beuys and Pawe Kowalewski – artists often direct the future by seeing patterns before they are formed and put into their work so that these works can explode later, at a later time, like a ticking time bomb with a hidden message.
According to Google, 93 million selfies are taken on its Android devices every day, and in one survey, 18-24-year-olds reported that every third photo taken is a selfie. So it’s worth noting that Caravaggio’s “Daffodils”, made using classic shades of brown and red from Baroque paintings, is a very accurate visual prediction of the contemporary world – obsessed with his own image. Over 400 years after its creation, over a hundred million selfies are uploaded to Instagram alone every day. Half a century ago, Andy Warhol said, “In the future, everyone will be famous all over the world for 15 minutes,” predicting the fleeting rapid fame that has become the mass culture of today’s celebrities. In 1977, Warhol created a “selfie with a skull,” which can be seen as a continuation of Caravaggio’s prophecy about selfie culture. The professional pop art series features his careless self-portraits with a skull. These images reflect the strong connection between self-image and annihilation.
Japanese sculptor, painter, writer, political activist, and performance pioneer – Yayoi Kusama predicted the internet’s anticipation with her work more than 25 years before its launch in 1990. The internet connects while creating a sense of unity. A work from 1965 titled “Mirror Room of Infinity – Fallie’s Field” also foretells the way mirrors and reflective surfaces will increasingly be used in the art world. Using mirrors, the artist transformed the intense repetition of her earlier paintings and works on paper into a perceptual experience. After the advent of the iPhone monitoring how mirrors work to engage a wider audience, galleries are slowly beginning to introduce them into their spaces.
In the 1970s Josef Beuys, a German conceptual artist, art theorist, educator, activist, social reformer and politician, and shaman, pioneered the theory of social sculpture. The idea was that everyone had the potential to be an artist, based on the idea that everything in the world could be approached creatively, meaning that anything could be art. As part of this concept, Boyce predicted the democratic impact of social media on accessibility and the opening of new opportunities in the art world. Since its inception, social media, particularly Instagram, has expanded the availability of art. Allowing you to break out of previous restrictions and establish direct contact with recipients. They also heralded the next era for digital creators and NFT.
In December 2021, a painting by artist Bowie Kolowski titled “Why Is There Something Instead of Nothing?” , which was completely destroyed in a flood in the 1990s, was converted to digital NFT and auctioned at the first such auction in Poland for more than 550,000 PLN. The metaphysical challenges found in theology, philosophy, religion and cosmology, and contained in its title, that is, the question posed by the author in 1986 – “Why is there anything at all?” Also other works by Kowalewski, Legends of Polish Art a Scene from the 1980s and founder of Gruppa, a rebel with the title of Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts, turned out to be disturbingly prophetic. And when he created it, he was told he was exaggerating. Europeans only “take upon themselves” new “evil meanings”. Kowalski was often concerned with the recurrence of history and cautioned against a recurrence of events that were already hailed as unlikely in our day.
Twenty years ago, he said in an interview: “When we think about the history of the twentieth century, it strikes us: Oh God! How did it happen that all the ‘doctrines’ arose and no one reacted? Life went on. People were walking, drinking beer, going to the beach. Just somewhere in the background, on the wall, looming in The horizon is a small picture of Adolf Hitler. Again., something like this happened. She gives birth, and we are indifferent, we smile. Because it is good. We wonder what we will do next. Nothing at all. “ Today his words have become a grim reality.
In 1984, Bowie Kowalski painted Mon Cheri Bolshevik, which depicts a Soviet special forces soldier with a passionate red mouth and cold, still eyes. In his work, the artist referred to the text of the Polish philosopher and historian Marianne Zdzichowski, born in 1861, who commented with astonishment on the joy and admiration of Parisians for the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917-1920. In Parisian bistros, the toast was literally elevated to “Mon Cheri Bolscheviq”. After the fall of communism, Pawe Kowalewski’s critical activism continued in the form of later works, which were the artist’s satirical commentary on recent political and social events. At the festivity of the famous and important exhibition “Warsaw – Moscow 1900 – 2000” in Zachta – National Art Museum, the artist distributed postcards from “Mon Cheri Bolscheviq 2005”. The Russians looked at him as if he was crazy, because he unknowingly handed a postcard with Putin to the Minister of Culture and Arts of the Russian Federation.
“Mon Cheri Bolsheviq 2005” is a reinterpretation of the famous painting by Paweł Kowalewski from 1984. In the new version, the soldier with the red star turns into Vladimir Putin, who painted his lips like his predecessor. This is a satirical comment on Russian seduction, communism first, then Putin’s imperial Russia. And the image of the leader is amazing with empty and cold eyes – although now it is clear that in 2005 no one wanted to believe that the Russian president would turn into the Hitler of the XXI century.
“Simulator of Holism” is a project “enclosed” in a huge darkroom where the viewer, after starting a multimedia presentation, comes face-to-face with the dark heritage of twentieth century history. The installation refers to simulations of various types of human behavior known to all such as: simulating flight, frost or weightlessness.. Images of destruction, death and all the evils that happen in the world every day reach us through the same channels and in the same way as any other informational message. The question – how do we interact with them? Straight to the frightening system. With an experience of a few minutes, which we pass by in solitude in a closed cabin, the artist wants to awaken awareness of the unintended, but nonetheless, universal participation. The model that, contrary to appearances, the husband still shapes modern society. The exhibition focused on an interactive installation accompanied by light boxes from the series Not Allowed!
One of the works shows the “Europeans Only” panel, part of the exhibition at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg in 2007. The preserved sign comes from the apartheid station of Pretoria and, along with the entire museum, is a kind of souvenir, a record of the era of totalitarian ideology based on Racism, but also a warning of the danger of its return. The painting in the photo was taken to perpetuate this warning. It is also worth noting the series of disappearing pictures that the artist created, as well as a picture of the artist’s mother, who participated in the Warsaw Uprising. They are painted with a special paint that will fade over time, turning the images into abstract shades. It is a comment on the human tendency to forget, disrespect or even disdain history, which the artist sees as very dangerous.
Kowalewski said several years ago: “Contempt for history makes us braver to do more and more stupid things […] I had such a Cassander believe that when a generation is gone that remembers the war, it will begin again.”
On the other hand, the ‘Golden Boy’ is the stark and boisterous face of Vladimir Putin, covered in 24-karat gold, which was created in 2017 and is now taking on a new, more sinister dimension. The statue is a commentary on the many figures of dictators whose only ideology is money, and on their massive, gold-covered egos. Putin has become the best example of an absolute ruler: cruel and greedy, not paying attention to any rules and ordering others how to live – a character constantly returning from ancient history, it seems. The faces of the dictators are ubiquitous stamps on reality, they force themselves on the manipulated media, the public sphere and the private lives of citizens, and of course in culture. They shout orders, wage wars, and place themselves on a golden pedestal. Putin’s sculpted face, twisted with an unbridled scream, is not the face of a statue of a venerable ruler, it is a revealing of his interior.
Kowalewski’s work has been shown, among others, at MuseumJerke in Germany, Artist’s House in Tel Aviv, Tretiakowska Gallery in Moscow, IsyBrachot Gallery in Brussels, NSDOK in Munich, Dorotheum in Vienna, Sotheby’s in London, Zachęta – National Gallery of Art. His works are in the largest Polish collections, incl. The National Museum in Warsaw, the National Museum in Krakow, Zachota – National Art Museum, the Jerke Museum, as well as the ING Polish Art Foundation and the Starak Family Foundation.
In May last year one of the most important Polish art critics, the long-time director of Warsaw Zaczya and the initiator of the creation and construction of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Anda Rothenberg, in her text for Kowalski’s exhibition at the “WINDA” exhibition of contemporary art, wrote: He painted “Ugly”, like the whole of Gruppa, and, as before, several decades ago, Andrzej Wróblewski, who decided that final things could not be drawn well. (…) Beautiful painting is easier. And, of course, it is better understood by the public. But is it necessary for an artist who wants to irritate the viewer?
Currently, in the MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow you can see the exhibition “Politics in Art”. The comprehensive exhibition consists of six thematic sections, featuring works by Polish and foreign artists of different generations – commentary on different political regimes and events. See two notable works by Paweł Kowalewski – “GOLDEN BOY – PUTIN” and “Europeans Only”. The exhibition raises a question about the current relationship between these two interconnected worlds – politics and art, which once served to reinforce power, and now serve to control and undermine it.
Once upon a time, artists supported the power of political systems with their talent. Today they closely and critically monitor politicians and actively participate in opposition activities. Similar questions accompany the art of Paweł Kowalewski, who in the 1980s, together with Gruppa, was part of the artistic opposition, a creative rebellion against systemic oppression and imposed rules; Today he continues to produce internationally acclaimed works that ask important and often visionary and prophetic questions. As Baweck Kowalski claims: “True art must be rebellious! “