Polish Realities in Glasgow at Third Eye Centre, Art Gallery and Museum Kelvingrove and Glasgow School of Art. Poland is in the news. Mrs Thatcher wore Solidarity on her sleeve there last week and was applauded. With curious syncronicity, the visit coincided with the launch of a vodka advertising campaign in this country which cleverly manipulates the trade union‘s distinctively vigorous red logo to spell out plays on words like Gdanskalot and Krakow. What these two events have in common is that they both capitalise on the charisma of Poland and its freedom fighter Solidarity.

Another event last week made this a triangle of coincidence. In Glasgow at least. There, in several venues around the city, a season of Polish art was opened to the dignatorial and curatorial sound of Polish and Glasgwegian speeches. To be expected. But perhaps there is the rub. With so much official clamour around the season, it is perhaps difficult to separate the art from its diplomatic function, the catch being of course, that the art would not be seen in Glasgow without massive support from the incumbant councils. But just as the six venues break up the exhibition physically, so too does the voice of Polish art here seem somehow difficult to read in these safe houses.

So, it is essential not to drown in preconceptions and the complex political and cultural issues, before taking on the challenge of the art itself. During the eighties, Poland has seen the rise and fall of Solidarity, the introduction of martial law and a change in the climate of art, with the international trend for painting blending with the strong, expressive image of Polish art as installation and performance.

Interestingly, it is an installation, D.0.M. by Piotr Kurka at the Art Gallery and Museum, which is one of the most striking works in the exhibition. Placed in such a public institution, this strange, intimate dwelling invites interpretation immediately. The museum hall where it has been sited was jostling as ever with visitors last weekend. Children were scuffing their feet in the leaves which lead to D.0.M. (Dom as in domestic is Polish for house) and the hands of a Glaswegian

graffiti addict had already added the words Dirty Old Man to the labelling. Even the position of the work evoked contrasts and connections. To one side, badgers play in a leafy set and to the other a large display reconstructs the Victorian dining room used for royals at the 1988 Great Exhibition. This accidental juxtaposition makes

more poetic, placing D.0.M. lantastically somewhere between natural and civilised nesting and between Poland and Scotland. A table balances vulnerably on a leg made of leaves, a little shed of shaded ferns hides quietly and comfort in an armchair makes a dog‘s head of his master’s foot. Nothing is quite what it seems and perhaps that is a starting

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point forthe rest of the Polish art in the season.

At Third Eye Centre, the organiser and main selector of the Polish Realities, eight artists, including Dwurnik, the most senior artist in the show, have been put together. In the main gallery, though the signatures are different the voice is the same. These paintings show people looking for ways outor ways in, or people disappearing. One peers info a bottle, anotherturns

M Jaroslaw Modzelewski, Third Eye Centre


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his back to go through a window, another, like Mr Pye, sprouts wings. Despite this angelic appropriation by Dwurnik, there is little to uplift here. Perhaps reflecting to Polish character, nothing is given away lightly. But despite strong disturbance by Modzelewski and Pawlak in particular, the overall sensation of this work seems dulled. A more clamourous exhibition would perhaps have been the answer.

Leon Tarasewicz, Glasgow School of Art

Better suited to the venue is the sculpture of Szewczyk who sharpen: his pencils into a language enigmatically dedicated to the drunkenness of Dylan Thomas, Malcolm Lowry and John Berryman. Sensual and with sharp wit, they appeal on both childlike and creatively sophisticated levels.

Four more artists have been located just up the hill from Third Eye at Glasgow School ofArt. Of these, it is the work of Tomasz Ciercierski which intrigues most. Like Szewczyk he has created a language of his own, his scribbles and marks at first random and blind but which quickly conjure landscape and weather in action with Cy Twombly-like verve. Islands and sea from an artist working inland must be linked with memory and imagination, but in Scotland they take on new meaning. It is impossible not to see the islands of the West Coast and boards of nesting birds in blue Deja Vu III which scans the view both from a distance and in a central panel in delightful detail. Sharing the gallery is Tarasewicz, another painter of landscape with a very different eye. His dense woods, simplified to black trunks, belong completely to Poland.

So there is art in this exhibition which makes direct contact and art which does not, with some remaining foreign and uninviting. In many ways that is a relief. For itwould be worrying if the artificial setting of a season, with all its official implications, could wrap the package perfectly. With any luck, Polish artists still have many facets in reserve. (Alice Bain)

Polish Realities at the Glasgow Print Studio, Compass Gallery and Glasgow Arts Centre will be reviewed next issue.


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