Contemporary Folk Art

During recent years, we have been witnessing the emergence of contemporary art developed in rural areas, out of the urban context. After graduation, artists born in rural areas frequently return to regions of their childhood, engaging in artistic activities, often as not managing the rural context in a variety of ways. In their work, they emphasise their ties to a specific village community in attempts to animate its cultural life (Daniel Rycharski), or blend their art with the rhythm of nature, in itself fundamental to setting the pace of rural life (Krzysztof Maniak).

They are fascinated with village grassroot creativity (Robert Kuśmirowski) which undermines the stereotype of Polish rurality as backward and immune to development. They make use of organic material available in the countryside while referring to their specific metaphysics (Iza Tarasewicz). They critically reshape conservative visions of the place and role of women (Michał Łagowski) in societies.

Such expressions which can well be referred to as “contemporary folk art” are a repercussion of recent debates focusing on the Polish society’s rural pedigree. Following controversies triggered by realisations demystifying the past and bucolic images of the Polish countryside ("It Looks Pretty from a Distance" by Anka and Wilhelm Sasnal, or Artur Żmijewski’s "Pole in the Closet"), pieces we have shown at the exhibition show the present and real challenges of modernising Polish rurality – a campaign artists have become part of. Rejecting patronising and elitist avant-garde art strategies, “modern folk art” attempts to develop a contemporary formula of rustic art creation. Artists emphasise their ties to land, to nature, to specific communities, and to the rhythm of natural seasons – in that sense their work forms an alternative to creators closer to so-called new national art. Modern folk art is an artistic reaction to the character of Polish modernity; never accepted in its pure form, it is absorbed only in tandem with tradition, ethnicity, and homeliness.