Krystyna Ziach
The Elements of Existence / Krystyna Ziach - ARCHÊ (English)
Nederlands Foto Instituut Rotterdam, by Cees Strauss,
TROUW, NL, 25 January, 1996, newspaper

Foreign artists make valuable and therefore unequivocal contributions to the Dutch cultural climate. If only for this reason many of them ought to be asked to come and work in this country, instead of being turned away as persona non grata, which is what typically happens to them for want of sufficient means. Krystyna Ziach is one of those artists whose presence in this country ought to be nurtured. As an artist who works with techniques related to photography she has, since her arrival in 1979, evolved into an interesting representative of the post-war generation. Born in 1953, Ziach works in a way which is indicative of a rather more ‘timeless’ age. This has nothing to do with a lack of maturity, but with an attitude that allows for a philosophical approach. She is always working with the characteristics that make art art, with the things that define life. In her most recent work, which she exhibits under the title Archê (prefix of the word ‘archetype’ which refers to origin, beginning of life, in the Nederlands Foto Instituut, she again examines the conditions which can be set on life. Those conditions have everything to do with the four elements, concepts which Ziach uses as metaphors. When one chooses the four elements -water, fire, air, earth- as subject of one’s work, one soon arrives at the fountainhead of life. Indeed, water is a condition for life (as is air) and can always and everywhere be found in many forms. For Ziach the elements represent a much larger whole. This means that the metaphor works like a compression engine: it starts off the energy which then can soar. One has, as it were, to start up Ziach’s images in order to be able to interpret their meaning. In her early work Ziach made single photographs, which were mostly about images constructed in the studio in which she herself appeared as a painter. After a journey to Japan she came to realize that she could incorporate her photography in installations, three -dimensional sculptures, which by their design went far beyond the mere photographic reproduction. The exhibition Archê shows to what extent she has integrated photography in the ‘overall picture’. In three-dimensional shapes Ziach tells an elaborate story in which even the arrangement of the whole has become important. Nothing has arrived at its place by chance, there is a narrative from beginning to end. Indeed, the space of the Foto Instituut is too small and scarcely allows for a dramatic arrangement. The finale of the exhibition, a sculpture of water streaming over fire, could have been an unexpected apocalypse, yet it does not surprise us because we can see it immediately at entry. Water, fire and air -the latter element as inextricable part of the former two elements - have never been shown so openly in Ziach’s work as in this exhibition. They were present in the Japan project created at the end of the eighties and in the project The Garden of Illusion, which contained images of clouds and cloudy skies. Though air is the most intangible element, in Ziach’s work water is also a subject one cannot get a grip on. It literally washes over her images, or is as such recalled in the form of watery - coloured glass laying a permanent translucency over the photographed image. It is remarkable that in these images Ziach does not yet conceive water as a mirror. Narcissism is foreign to her, even though, as a ‘self-image’, she is her own model. The more often she herself will appear in her work -a consideration to which attention is given by an increasing autobiographical aspect - the more the interest in the ‘self-image’ will increase. After a period of keeping distant from herself - the Japan project as well as The Garden of Illusion were very ethereal- Ziach indeed has a greater need for incorporating her personal experiences in her work and, in doing so, for centring on her self-image. As regards personal sensitiveness, it was absent in the Japan project, which was as difficult to interpret as the culture of the country where the project originated. Archê is more basic, as it returns to the roots of existence. It would seem that Ziach has taken the step to where one can again smell the earth, the way one can smell the rusty iron in today’s exhibition.
Translation : Hanny Keulers