Wilhelm Sasnal
The Band

Past Exhibition 30 Oct – 23 Dec 2004 Zürich


The Polish artist Wilhelm Sasnal (b. 1972) has gained a reputation for his usually small-sized paintings drawn from media images. His first comprehensive solo show at the Kunsthalle Zurich and the Westfälischer Kunstverein Münster, along with his participation in important survey exhibitions at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris and the Kunsthalle Basel, won international acclaim and introduced the artist to a wider audience.
In his first show at Hauser & Wirth, Wilhelm Sasnal will present video works and an installation as well as new paintings.

The image world of Wilhelm Sasnal’s paintings is marked by the lack of any hierarchical order among their thematic juxtapositions. Events of political importance, such as the sinking of a Russian submarine or the meeting of two heads of states, stand alongside the incidents of personal everyday experience and motifs from art and cultural history. The sources from which the artist works – he describes himself as being extremely susceptible to images – are found in a variety of places: billboards, newspapers and magazines, biology textbooks or the first-hand observation of his surroundings in Tarnow, where he lives and works. This overpowering wealth of themes is accompanied by constant breaks in the use of stylistic effects. Independently of the subject depicted, Sasnal quotes the main styles of painting of the second half of the 20th century in his paintings, delivering a tour de force that spans everything from Tachism to Geometric Abstraction and Photorealism to Pop Art and back.
While the subjects of his early works remain clearly identifiable and can be traced back to their original media contexts, his more recent work tends to deny such immediate classification. The flat, billboard-like depiction of objects is increasingly disturbed and obliterated by thick streaks of paint and blurs.

Wilhelm Sasnal recognises and embraces the mass of visual information that floods our life-world. Following his own personal stream of perception in his works, he constructs his own subjective world of images. But he does not criticise the media by utilising the image material of mass communication. Rather, his art becomes an attempt to assure himself of his own perception and to appropriate reality in all its dimensions via the medium of painting.

While painting is still at the centre of Wilhelm Sasnal’s work, he has also increasingly turned to photography and film in recent years. The video work ‘The Band’, 2002, was made during a live performance of indie rock band Sonic Youth. Standing in the middle of the crowd, Sasnal and three of his friends each filmed one band member simultaneously. Projected onto the octagonal column of the gallery room, the four Super-8 films are put back together to make a single band again out of four individual musicians. But as Sasnal plays the concert film without sound, and with the viewer never being able to catch all four image tracks simultaneously, the event can only be experienced in fragments. The blanks must be filled in by the viewer activating his or her own memories and associations.

Sasnal’s involvement with underground music has repeatedly played a role in the creation of his works. Record covers, portraits of musicians or excerpts from music videos have served as starting points for his paintings. It is no surprise, then, that the works on view at the Hauser & Wirth gallery revolve around the artist’s musical preferences. Thus, ‘Untitled (Sweat)’, 2002, shows the sweat stains left by the artist on his T-shirt after a rock concert. And in the installation ‘Untitled’, 2003, Sasnal used two loudspeakers that had been among his personal furniture for fifteen years to build an intimate monument. Such works are particularly revealing of Sasnal’s subjective approach to art. They clearly make reference to moments of reality, but at the same time their self-centredness is so intensified as to become hermetic, thus cutting off the ties that connected them to real events.

About the artist

Polish painter and film-maker Wilhelm Sasnal is renowned for his incongruous and quietly unsettling portrayal of our collective surroundings and history. Drawing on found images from newspapers and magazines, the Internet, billboards or his personal surroundings, Sasnal’s paintings act as an archive…

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