Collection

Mikołaj Sobczak

The Smiths

2019, acrylic, canvas, 124.5 × 165 cm

Mikołaj Sobczak plays with the convention of classical historical painting, whose role we have come to think of stereotypically. He restores to this form the potential which seemed long ago to have lost any relevance for contemporary art. Sobczak employs an image from Artur Grottger’s 1863 painting The Beating of Scythes, and the motif of blacksmithing, to propose a narrative perversely suiting the current historical policy. He does this by presenting on canvas figures important for recent Polish history but marginalised due to their gender. Forging iron in the foreground are activists—drag queen Charlotte and Magdalena Farat—whose work is observed by their older colleagues from the Solidarity movement: Alina Pieńkowska, Ewa Ossowska, Henryka Krzywonos, Anna Walentynowicz, Joanna Duda-Gwiazda, and Magdalena Wyszkowska with a child. Here the forging of iron symbolises the never-ending battle for rights, visibility and acceptance, in public space and historical narratives.

b. 1989, Poznań

Painter, filmmaker, performance artist. A graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw (Studio of Spatial Activities) and winner of a scholarship to Universität der Künste in Berlin, since 2015 he has studied at Kunstakademie Münster. He cofounded the Polen Performance duo (with Justina Los) and often cooperates with the German artist Nicholas Grafia. In his work he raises issues of construction of the politics of memory, the fate of marginalised groups, and erasure of the history of minority groups from official narratives. He received the ING Polish Art Foundation Award at Warsaw Gallery Weekend 2019. He lives and works in Münster and Warsaw.

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