Laboratory Gallery

Koloryt (Local Flavor), environment, sculpture

A graduate of the Faculty of Painting of the Academy of Arts (ASP) in Warsaw, Teodor Sobczak pursues photography and stage design, creates sculptures and installations.
The work Koloryt (Local Flavor), currently being introduced at the Centre for Contemporary Art, originated as a graduation project accepted by the school in 1997 and recognized with an Ewa Tomaszewska award. In Koloryt, Sobczak follows the tradition of genre art, which is somewhat marginal to the interests of contemporary artists. Employing a blunt, direct language, Teodor describes scenes from urban life. Realistically constructed, life-sized figures representing female street traders, bar regulars or passers-by are set in an illusionistic environment, a street fragment arranged in the gallery's room. Teodor's art is immersed in the specificity of everyday life, and the local flavor of the work's title signifies plebeian lushness found in ordinary events. In its character, Koloryt resembles most closely the literary and film poetics of Small Realism, so magnificently developed in Czech culture in the novels of Hrabal or in the cinema of Menzel and Forman.

The blurring of the distance between the artist and his or her audience belongs to the canon of Small Realism. In the case of Teodor's work, the use of the form of environment, by its very nature forceful and capable of drawing the observer deeply into the work of art, intensifies even more the narrative's full-blooded directness, proper to this type of poetics.

At the same time, a tension exists between the genre subject-matter of Koloryt and its form, a tension which infuses Sobczak's work with energy and life. A low subject matter receives an astonishingly monumental treatment. Teodor employs tools that seem to belong to an order foreign to the genre art: The roots of the strategy adopted in Koloryt are found most readily in the aesthetics of the Baroque period, brimming with stage-design effects.
Art appears here as a sensually captivating theater, as a world which, through its illusionistic and phantasmagoric qualities, emerges as a competitor to reality. Just as baroque, narrative sculpture groups or the interior of a church of the Catholic Counterreformation, Koloryt aims to stun and bewitch its audience, to carry us head and soul over into the created world. Relentlessly pressing on the observer, it makes us forget everything existing beyond the work itself, even the fact that we are in a gallery, for it has overgrown the entire space, including the walls, floor, and ceiling of the room. Everything is artificial; we lose our bearings to become absorbed by Koloryt. Involuntarily, the observer turns into a participant in the events the artist has arranged: We push through the crowd of figures in the street, we witness a fight in a dark corner. In a bar, the observer may join a man seated at a table -- the second chair is empty and intended for the viewer.

At this juncture we come to the paradox that Sobczak has built into his Koloryt. True, he constructs an illusionistic environment, he corners and seduces the observer. But, simultaneously, the artist exposes the artificiality of the setting he has created. When we look more closely at the figures, or elements of the street landscape where we have been transported by the artist, even at the sky above that street, we discover that all of this has been made from fragments of billboards. A characteristic raster used in printing large-sized posters covers everything. The ambiguity of this concurrence is two-fold. Billboards do form an integral part of the street, everyday reality. In this sense, the material employed represents a comment, a meta-language in which the genre subject-matter finds its exposition. On the other hand, Teodor creates in fact a mediated world, using as raw material the poster, which had already been utilized for some other representation. What is taking place here is a unique recycling of the world represented: one artificial reality is cut into pieces so that another reality can be created from it.

Thus, in his Koloryt Sobczak keeps piling up ambiguities, blending different languages to profitably exploit the resulting tensions. The low genre subject matter acquires a sumptuous, baroque form. A small, closed, artificial reality invites us to believe in it, while simultaneously manifesting its conventional nature. Sobczak draws us into a labyrinth of conventions and levels of representation. This procedure incorporates a diagnosis of the nature of our time, a time when experience of the real world is increasingly replaced by experience of its reproductions and representations. The mediated universe, projected on screens and monitors and fixed in photographs, keeps expanding. Colorful posters veil the streets. For Teodor Sobczak, the recycled stuff of this mediated universe becomes raw material for creating yet another representation. In this gesture Sobczak succeeded, I believe, in capturing the local flavor of our Represented World.

curator: Stach Szablowski

The Centre for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle
Al.Ujazdowskie 6, 00-461 Warsaw, Poland
tel: (48 22) 628 12 71-3, (48 22) 628 76 83 ; fax: (48 22) 628 95 50