Stanisław Koba - Contemporary Art from Cracow, Poland (2007)

Mariusz Salwinski
artdesigncafé - art | 30 October 2011
This text was previously published in the exhibition catalogue Otwarta pracownia— Offenes Atelier, Zeitgenössische Kunst aus Krakau ("Open studio: Contemporary Art in Cracow" in English) (16 September - 4 November 2007) at the Kunsthalle Erfurt, Germany.

Stanisław Koba, the Slav

The first scenes in early Christian catacomb fresco painting in Rome are set apart from one another, each one having its own symbolic content. They are art sequences, hand-drawn, brief and remarkably steeped in meaning. That is it— the art of the symbol, of the clearly defined image. Precisely these words sum up Stanisław Koba’s artistic credo. In his few works, such as the Wooden pictures series from the 1990’s, including Apple, Tower, Castle or Rebelling Angels [in] 2005, it is impossible to escape from their overpowering, "original" Slavic magic.

In his art Stanisław Koba pursues the visualization of Slavic religious myths from the original peasant population, thus creating a link to the pan-Slavic idea. What does this Slavic ethnology actually lie in? It is illustrated in the use of organic materials such as wood, straw and linen, employed by Koba not only as a means of style but also as a way to make a particular statement in the picture. The artist himself talks of his works as having their own life, their own soul. For the beholder, who grew up with the Polish culture, approaching such a work signifies an inner, emotional journey into his or her own past, childhood, things familiar The "ancient Slavic moments" (in Stanisław Koba’s art) are reinforced by the manner in which Koba / he works the surface of his picture. The paintings, works or objects are rarely painted but tend to be roughly textured, carved or finished with a sparing coat of paint. This crude treatment of his work suggests to the beholder a certain "olde worldiness", a long-standing dialogue and an examination of various kinds of art. The iconographical content, i.e. its fundamental message is restricted to an obvious, succinct and virtually naïve symbol: Little zigzagging horse (Little horse drawn with zigzagging lines), Kicked dog, A baby bird fell from the nest (2004). Thus any superfluous narrative components are banished from the picture, e.g. the Gesture series (2005): gesture of the soldier, the footballer, the Christian, the painter.

The emblem-like form of the prototype as the fundamental, the essential element in the picture results in his latest works from Stanisław Koba’s approach of overdimensionally transferring the "design", the photo, the computer print or the film sequence to the canvas, with a border around it, and filling it out with fleshy, fat black paint and leaving the unworked background free. At this point the following pictures should be noted: Children of the Leningrad Blockade, Canal, Boxer Klitshko. Koba’s "tribal art" has undergone a long journey to achieve the statement it makes today. For one thing his art refers to the narrative ambivalence of the pictorial sign. For another, it sensitizes us to the daily flood of rushed, reduced and hackneyed images, dished up by the media on a variety of occasions without our ever knowing about the complex social, historical-political and artistic background.

Mariusz Salwiński

Click to see a catalogue introduction to Open studio: Contemporary Art in Cracow.