Central Europe Review: politics, society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 2, No 5
7 January 2000

Cultural news from Poland C U L T U R E   R O U N D - U P:
Poland's Week in Culture

Wojtek Kosc

This edition of the Polish Culture Roundup is exceptionally devoted to a single, but giant, figure in Polish (and not only that) cultural life: Leon Tarasewicz. Apart from a piece on him and his art, there are two short news items on film.

In this week's overview of cultural events in Poland we have:

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Hans Kloss

Who is Hans Kloss? There is no real need for an answer for anyone interested in Polish film. A near cult figure from the Communist-era TV series, a hero captain of the Polish army disguised in an Abwehra outfit and wreaking havoc among German occupying forces in Warsaw. The times in which the series was made must have demanded some historic misgivings in the scenario. So in 2000, Władysław Pasikowski, director of the (in)famous Psy (Dogs) is going to shoot the cinema version of the Hans Kloss adventures. This time without any ideological aberrations. The screenplay is finished and shooting is to begin in May this year. The most electrifying detail - the cast - is being kept secret however.

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The Września Film Festival

Września (western Poland) hosted a film festival devoted to productions dealing with rural and small town themes in film and documentary. Audience saw films by Jerzy Stuhr, Urszula Urbaniak or Krzysztof Krauze, director of the famed Dług (Debt), and documentaries by Pawel Lozinski and Ewa Borzęcka. Screenwriter Stanislaw Różewicz received an award for lifetime achievement.

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Leon Tarasewicz

Leon Tarasewicz lives in a village Walily near Białystok. And that might just as well end this article. His place is where he takes his inspiration from and he leaves it when he has to. His paintings reflect nature around him. His nature is not the one that inspires kitschy mountain landscapes, though. He paints raw surroundings of his village and their seasonal changes, giving account of his admiration to it. His art is also influenced by trips abroad: America and Scandinavia. But his birthplace remains the focal point.

Tarasewicz was born in 1957 in Walily and debuted in 1984. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Initially, his paintings were black and white, but after a time he began to include color, which in turn developed into using strong colors and their combinations put on canvas thick layers creating highly texturous works.

Tarasewicz international success began in 1985, when he exhibited his paintings in Stockholm. Since then his works were shown in New York at Thorp and Brandt's, England (the Ikon Gallery), Tel Aviv (the Tel Aviv Museum of Art), Venice (the Galleria del Cavallino). Art lovers can see his painting in Sweden, the US, South Korea and Greece. The artist's paintings vary from giant work done in acryl straight on the gallery walls (as in 1995 exhibitions in Białystok, Katowice and Poznań) and large oil paintings to small pictures. They all have one thing in common, though: they depict nature in its raw beauty. Tarasewicz's paintings do not reflect as it is however, with its all details - that would be mere "landscapism." He rather extracts dominating aspects which acquire form of strikingly repetitive, nearly identical shapes.

Confronted with such paintings, the beholders have the impression of facing nature's very essence, its core. Tarasewicz paints tree trunks, plowed fields, birds, flowered meadows. They are all depicted in the simplest, almost symbolic way. There is no horizon, what only augments impression of seeing something limitless and eternal, yet close to everyone who ever saw a forest or a field. Tarasewicz himself denies such interpretations. In an interview for the Polityka weekly he even said they irritated him: "I understand that it is difficult to write on nonfigurative painting and, creates a need for simplest ideology. I live in a village so I surely paint fields. It all is certainly in me: my youth, my religion, the village. [...] But I've experienced other cultures as well. I completed my studies, traveled, visited museum, analyzed other painters' works and all that is inside me and my paintings as well. In other words, they represent metropolitan quality, more complex than those simple interpretations."

All paintings are titleless: "Let's leave words where they're most needed," he says, suggesting that paintings should speak for themselves. Last year, however, they became a good spokesman for the artist himself, who receive most prestigious Polish award that a painter can earn, the Jan Cybis Award founded by the Union of Polish Visual Artists.

The other side of Leon Tarasewicz, is his emphasizing his Belarusan origins. He actively takes part in local Belarusan life. He writes lyrics for R F Braha, a Belarusan hard-core band. He once jokingly said the only Western language he speaks is... Polish. It may be true when he gives interviews. Otherwise, he speaks a universal language of his works.

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Compiled by Wojtek Kosc





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