Krystyna Ziach
The Infinite Reflection of Everything in Everything, A Chamber of Mirrors (English) Part I
Ten Years of Photoworks by Krystyna Ziach on view at the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Sittard, by Mirelle Thijsen
Het Financieele Dagblad, 4 June, 1994, NL, newspaper
photo : Exhibition A Chamber of Mirrors, The Netherlands Photography Museum, Sittard, NL, 1994

Krystyna Ziach never renounced the education as a sculptress she received at the Academy of Fine Arts of Cracow, Poland. A feeling for space is apparent in al her photoworks. In the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Sittard, the Netherlands, the emphasis is therefore on her three-dimensional work. A Chamber of Mirrors is not an indiscriminate retrospective of ten years of photoworks from the period 1984 -1994, but rather a carefully thought-out exhibition with a leitmotif: the illusion of space. Even the use of colour is geared to creating unity. For the first time photographic objects from different stages in her artistic career are cautiously confronted with each other.
In a nineteenth-century town school in Sittard, the Nederlands Fotomuseum opened in October 1993. From the beginning director Coen Eggen assumed an ‘ambassador’s role’ aimed at an audience in the so-called Euregio, with Limburg as the centre of a number of large German, Belgian and Northern French cultural cities. Thanks to a broad ‘intercultural’ set-up and cooperation with nearby organizations such as the Folkwang Museum in Essen, the Ludwig Museum in Cologne and the Musée de la Photographie in Charleroi, the Nederlands Fotomuseum may acquire an interesting profile when set off against the exhibitions held at the Netherlands Photo Institute which opened a few months ago in Rotterdam. Until now the program has mainly consisted of solo exhibitions of photographers who are represented in the museum’s own collection. Apart from an entire floor of photographic ‘hardware’, it is the only collection in the Netherlands with a permanent exhibition space for contemporary photography by artists living and working in the Netherlands. The exhibition VER=HIER (FAR=HERE) offered a first introduction to 35 works from the museum’s own collection of contemporary Dutch photography. It showed that the collection is not bound to styles or trends, but allows the ‘intrinsic power of the separate image’ to prevail. The acquisition policy thus involves emotional values, kept more or less in check by limiting the choice to the genres of landscape and portraiture. In 1994 a third category has been carefully added: the still-life.
The work of the Polish artist residing in Amsterdam, Krystyna Ziach (1953), fulfils all of these criteria. Her work bought by the Nederlands Fotomuseum entitled Black Cross of Malevich, from the series Melancholia (1989/90), is in a sense representative of her complete body of work, because this, as well as all the subsequent works, has to do with the concepts of ‘polarity’ and ‘instability’. On the one hand Ziach is obsessed with proportions, order and perfection, on the other hand she is excessively attracted to irrational phenomena and intuitive inspirations. All her photoworks, which are created thematically, centre on the illusion of space as a philosophical issue. Her work may be called self-willed; it cannot be categorized under a certain trend or style. Ziach’s recent work most reminds us of some of the photographic installations of the British artist Helen Chadwick, even though there is a world of difference as far as content is concerned. Ziach talks about her ‘photo sculptures’ when commenting on the ten objects from her most recent series, A Garden of Illusion (1993), part of which was exhibited in Gallery RAM in Rotterdam last year. The series is all about the mystery of reflection and centres on ‘mimesis’, or the infinite reflection of everything in everything.


The mirror, a constantly recurring and dominant element in her work, refers to the introvert narcissistic character typical of the artist. In an iconological sense the mirror represents transience, it is a vanitas symbol. The mirror appears for the first time in the triangular photowork Infinity from the series Japan (1987/88). In this work a small sculpture of a Buddhist monk is multiplied and endlessly copied in a lying, similar mirror. Indeed, in the land of the rising sun the mirror is an essential part of culture and refers to the infinite imagination of the gods. It is a project full of symbolism created after a stay of several months in Japan, by which Ziach introduced colour photography in her work, as well as the first spatial objects. The project Japan has been on view in its entirety at Arti et Amicitiae in Amsterdam in 1989. Associating with the dualism typical of the melancholic character, the mirror in the subsequent project Melancholia (1989/90) rather refers to confusion. In this project mirrors are emphatically used to create confusion in a rational set-up. These are sometimes chaotic scenes, in which sculptural space is created in a more or less strained manner, yet everything remains compressed in the plane. A more tangible sculptural quality is created by the heavily executed, hand-made frames of the photo-graphs. The dark frameworks of tropical hardwood force the images into taut geometrical shapes, Ziach calls them ‘archetypical’ shapes. A third meaning to be attributed to the mirror fits into the tradition of the so-called trompe l’oeil; the illusion of space and infinity in art. In Space of Imagination, from the series Melancholia, the search for the imaginary space is presented in a special way. A woman, posing in an awkward foetal position, is cut off from all kinds of mathematical elements above her, by a horizontal line - the symbolic separation of the ‘imagination’. She stares at this setting of spatial drawings which seem to float in a cosmic universe. Even in her earliest work, the series Metamorphosis (1983-1986), Ziach already showed her fascination for the shapes and symbolism of mathematics and astronomy, seen as separate from their theoretical foundations. In Sittard a modest selection from this first black-and-white series is shown in order to create a more complete picture. In this work intimate performances concerning the relationship between painting and photography are embodied in a number of photographs. Among these early works Geometry I (1985) in a sense occupies a key position, because in this work Ziach already plays ingeniously with the illusory effect of space. The photograph is a prelude to the later Melancholia series. Geometry I shows how, within a painted setting, her body seems to be part of the supporting construction of an imaginary cube, her painted body forming a chameleonic whole with the background. For this occasion the photographs – which originally were of modest size – have been blown up to more than one meter by one meter. This violates the intimate nature the work, the series is hanging in a corridor of the museum, separate from the other work.
Translation: J.M. Keulers
Part II : on the next page