The exhibition of paintings of Yoko Tada and Mirosław Sikorski at Manggha Museum fits within a series of expositions presenting contemporary Japanese and Polish art.
In over the 20 years of its operation the Polish visitors have already become familiar with the traditional art of Japan, and now continue to acquaint themselves various aspects of this art, invariably admiring and highly appreciating its beauty, precision, and the aura of mystery. A principal feature of contemporary art, also developing in Japan, is that it is highly diverse. As a rule, contemporary Japanese artists have a perfect knowledge of the directions and currents in latest art, in whose creation they have participated for years, contributing new solutions and techniques. What a Western recipient primarily seeks in their art is the Japanese distinctiveness, the spirit of Japanese artistic preferences: features that set the works of Japanese artists apart from those by their colleagues from other cultural realms already at the first glance.
Yoko Tada presents distinct images that beyond doubt follow the lavish tradition of European abstract painting. She boldly operates large areas of colour to create dynamic contrasting forms; at times she emphasises the material nature of the rivulets of paint streaking down the canvas. At the same time her paintings feature letters and digits, and at times fragments of texts, within the abstract space, not unlike the artists of the American pop art, e.g. Robert Rauschenberg. This is the element that makes the works of Yoko Tada strongly associated with the world of the contemporary metropolis. This intuition is further substantiated by the allusive titles of the paintings, notably The City, A Street, A Wall, Metro, and Movement. What we thus receive from the dynamic and as if broken space of the painting are visual signals of the surrounding reality falling into a unique tale permeated with emotions. The artist has managed to find the proper language of expression. As it is largely universal, it calls for no additional commentary in this aspect.
The artist places abstract forms not only on the rectangular canvases, but – highly unexpectedly – on Japanese byōbu folding screens, and such a clash of the traditional and the contemporary brings marvellous effects! The tendency to maintain a balance between all the elements of the painting dominant in Yoko Tada seems to be derived even more predominantly from the Japanese aesthetics, one would be tempted to say “from the spirit of Buddhism”. As far as her painting technique goes, this is the black she persistently uses in her paintings to balance other colours and forms. Yet what she does cannot be brought down to formal features only. Thus we see Yoko Tada a modern Japanese woman and a contemporary artist conscious of her expression and simultaneously a continuator of the long tradition of Japanese art.
I was born and grew up in Tokyo Shitamachi. As a child, I would often experience a sense of solitariness and nostalgia. However, I adapted quickly to my developing and changing surroundings. During that time, my mother disciplined her children so, in search of freedom and independence, I began to rebel against her. In other words: I looked for independence from my mother after I observed freedom in developing Japan. Those sentiments made me relate to the movements formed by young people at the time. I can say that the expression of my urban abstract art and its direction were shaped by those sentiments.
My paintings are my diary, images depicting an era and testimony to its existence. In actuality they are: explosions in recurrent terrorist attacks and killings that take place internationally, the Hanshin Earthquake in Japan, 9/11 in the USA, accidents at nuclear power plants, global warming and abrupt changes of weather. This reality is deepening the darkness and uncertainty experienced by today’s people. On the other hand, through ongoing expansion on the Internet, we are surrounded by encoded objects, information and images, and live a life interconnected with virtual reality. My works are made in this context and in this reality.
An opportunity has arisen to show my work at the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology. I can say that it is both a compilation of my activities as an artist to date and a new start.
The Clouds Series
If I were to be guided by common sense, clouds are a motif in painting which I should give a wide berth. This is due to the fact that most people respond to this natural phenomenon with a clear sentimental approach – completely groundless, in my view. From my perspective, it is primarily a large scale lab experiment under sterile conditions. What I am referring to is clean conditions of observation because, in its primary form, it is confined to contrasting two environments: air and vapour. It is this contrast that enables us to observe an extremely complex spectacle of infinite variability of the shapes and formations of clouds, performed under all imaginable lighting conditions. I think we can speak of a three-dimensional model here whose scale eludes all references that we use for ‘natural’ orientation in space. The shapes of clouds, as well as their stratified formations, can provide a lot of specific information about what is going on in the air at any given time: the strength and direction of the wind, the movement and intensity of thermal currents, ascending and descending air masses, the likely locations of turbulences, etc. It can thus be said that the shapes and configurations of clouds are a visualization of the physical properties of the air and the processes taking place in it, executed with the precision of a laboratory experiment. It can quite literally be said that, despite all the knowledge that we have managed to accumulate, the air remains to us the most enigmatic and unpredictable element. In sensually-perceived reality, it is the only invisible element, or rather, in the light of what I have just written above, visible only through the presence of such phenomena as atmospheric processes and clouds.
Mentioning one more experience pertaining to the air is in order here, although I am doing it with some reservations, namely my experience of the air in paragliding. While I can make only reserved statements on the significance of spending dozens of hours free-flying for my painting interpretations, I can say with full responsibility that it directly and ‘palpably’ influences my awareness of what the air and the space that it ‘models’ are. An awareness of how, despite its transparency and invisibility, the air can be the starting point for thinking about it in terms of a tool for imaging space.
Mirosław Sikorski is a painter and, sometimes, a drawer. Born in 1965, he attended the Lyceum of Plastic Arts in Kraków (1980–85), and studied at the Faculty of Painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków (1985–90), where he completed his diploma project in Prof. Jan Szancenbach’s studio, and obtained an additional diploma in printmaking under Prof. Stanisław Wejman. Employed at the Kraków AFA’s Faculty of Painting since 1996, until 2009 he was Prof. Jacek Waltoś’s didactic collaborator; and an adiunkt (assistant professor) from 2004; since 2010, he has run a studio for first-year students at the Faculty of Painting for the following degree programmes: Painting, Scenography, and Artistic Education in Visual Arts.
In the years 1987–2003, he took part in over a dozen shows by the no-longer-extant art group Trzy Oczy (Three Eyes). His works have been included in tens of collective exhibitions at home and abroad, in addition to more than a dozen solo shows.