Monika Spruth and Philomene Magers are pleased to present the first solo exhibition of Zbigniew Rogalski at the gallery of Spruth Magers Projekte.
The exhibition consists of ten new pictures in oil on canvas that Rogalski (born 1974) has grouped together under the title of Letter. The word ‘Letter’ for him symbolises communication and interaction between people. In an extended meaning it refers to interpersonal relations of a more general nature, to friendship and relationship. The pictures in the exhibition touch on this theme more or less explicitly.
The pictures are very heterogeneous. Here, Rogalski is deliberately trying out the different possibilities of presentation. Broadly speaking, they can be broken down into the following topics: a portrait, some stellar constellations, close-ups of faces, landscapes and a flag.
There are three small-sized pictures (constellations) of stellar constellations. White colour on black ground depicts the Great Bear and the Small Bear and also a fictive stellar composition: Constellation (Two Trains). It is a seemingly harmless picture, yet the title points to a macabre interpretation of the zig-zagging line: Instinctively the viewer thinks of a rail accident in which the coaches of the train have piled into each other and appear from an aerial perspective to be folded together. Then there is a classical portrait, Untitled, a female half-figure depicted from the side with a towel wrapped around her head, creating a stylised turban.
Other pictures that serve as examples of his art are Closer (boy) and Closer (girl): Both of them are in larger format and show a face in a lying position, fragmented as if divided into facets. All of these so differently interpreted pictures deal with the subject of the visual angle. Rogalski’s constant point of departure is that there is no stable image of reality - that painting is an area of space parallel to reality, one in which the painter can play out ad infinitum the meanings of the visible world’s surface.
In pursuing this strategy, Rogalski finds himself in the tradition of Cezanne with his almost-scientific attempt to prove in his paintings that the world is based on geometric bodies, just as the Manierist movement experimented with new vantage points at a time when the invention of optical instruments shattered the mathematically calculated image of the world promoted by the Renaissance. Stellar constellations are visible and real images that all of us can make out in the sky. If, at the very least, we have identified the Great Bear, why shouldn’t there be Two Trains up there in the heavens as well?
In any case, stellar constellations are no more than images that are visible to a greater or lesser degree depending on weather conditions; they are never actually tangible. What’s more, for the lay-person astronomy is not so far removed from astrology. Might the constellation of the Two Trains be pointing to a stroke of fate predicted by the stars?
Rogalski makes use of the associative power of certain images, the double meaning of things, applying them to the stories he tells. His pictures are visual plots that live off the pictorial simplicity and narrative density he paints. The portrait of the woman with the turban against a black background depicts an intimate moment, like that of having just taken a shower or a bath. However, the turban is very dominant, and Rogalski himself feels challenged by the picture to ask the question: What do we (Europeans) actually feel when we see a turban?
Closer (boy) and Closer (girl) form a couple. The pictures are deceptively similar, the titles differentiated by gender. Yet the images do not support this. Here, the look is one of intimacy. When one comes so close to a face that the eyes cannot fix on it anymore, it becomes blurred. In such a case, the distinction between male and female is no longer possible. All that counts is the beloved one (lying) opposite who does not become clearer the closer one gets but rather dissolves into nothingness.
All the pictures (except for the one entitled Flag, a sort of cross between the Polish and German national flags) have been painted in black, white and shades of grey. The depiction is for the most part reduced to its essentials. Frequently it takes the title to explain what is to be seen - or rather, what might be seen: Car in the night shows two white dots in a black monochrome setting - the headlights beaming in the darkness.
The interplay of representation, title and associations of the viewer, which could also be regarded as prescient pictures, brings forth a multitude of narrative moments. The pictures do not tell a story, no more than they offer snapshots. Instead, they create places for stories. The routes to these Topoi are as manifold as the angles the viewer may wish to take. Zbigniew Rogalski was born to 24.07.1974 in Dabrowa, Bialystok (Poland). 1999 he graduated from the academy of arts in Poznan. He lives and works in Warsaw. Rogalski belongs to the most interesting newcomers of the Polish art scene.
Spruth Magers Projekte
Ludwigstr. 7 - Munich
Opening hours: Tu-F: 11am-2pm; 3pm-6pm, Sat: 11am-2pm and by appointment