Portfolio rubrieken
Over het werkFluid Time / Krystyna Ziach 2021-2022Krystyna Ziach’s Spaces of Sculptural Imagination, text by Christian Gattinoni, chief editor of lacritique.org 2015Space of Imagination / Krystyna Ziach, book, text by Hans Rooseboom, curator of photography at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, 2014Krystyna Ziach, Marged Disciplines, text by Hans Rooseboom, curator of photography at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, 2014Dark Street Revisited, 2013Work of Krystyna Ziach in collection of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, 2012Ephemeral Library 2010-2018Into the Void 2010-2017Inner Eye / Krystyna Ziach, by Joanne Dijkman, 2008Infinity & Archê/ Krystyna Ziach, book texts by Flor Bex, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Muhka Antwerp, 2006The Elements of Existence / Krystyna Ziach - ARCHÊ, by Cees Strauss, 1996Archê - The Ambivalence of Water and Fire / Krystyna Ziach, by Mirelle Thijsen, 1996Krystyna Ziach - Where Emotion Meets Reason, by Cees Straus, 1994A Chamber of Mirrors, text by Reinhold Misselbeck, curator of photography & new media of the Ludwig Museum, Cologne, 1994A Garden of Illusion / Krystyna Ziach, 1993, text by Iris DikOuter Space / Krystyna Ziach, text by Alexandra Noble, curator of the South Bank Centre in London,1991Melancholy / Krystyna Ziach - Drama Between Ratio and Emotion, text by Mirelle Thijsen, 1990Japan / Krystyna Ziach, by Huib Dalitz, a former director of the Foundation of Visual Arts Amsterdam, 1988Krystyna Ziach / Metamorphosis, text by Gabriel Bauret, Camera International, 1986, Paris
Archê - The Ambivalence of Water and Fire, by Mirelle Thijsen, 1996
Mirelle Thijsen is art historian and art critic for the Dutch newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad
This article has been written at the occasion of the exhibition Archê / Krystyna Ziach, which was held at The Netherlands Photography Institute in Rotterdam in 1996

Archê is the prefix of the Greek word "archetype", which literally means origin. It is also the title of a recent Gesamtwerk created by the Polish artist Krystyna Ziach, who was born in 1953 and currently lives in Amsterdam.This universal concept refers to the leitmotif "water", which implicitly is present in it. Essentially, the seven photo objects that comprise Ziach's work are concerned with the flux of time, with transience. Water can in this context be conceived as a metaphor for the passage of time
The Liquid Element
Thales (640 B.C. to 546 B.C.) was the first Greek philosopher to make the elementary statement that "everything is water". In his conception, water is the Archê i.e. the origin of all things, which meant that it is the primary material from which all things are made. Certainly for that period, Thales revolutionary statement was an attempt to understand nature for the first time on purely natural scientific grounds. In this context, one should certainly not conceive of water as it is expressed in sensorial perception, but rather it should be comprehended within the general category of "liquid element". When it is understood in this fashion, it appears to possess organic, cosmological and substantial characteristic. In many myths of Genesis, water is understood to be the primal ocean. It is a source of all life that in fact emerges from it. However, it also has the qualities of dissolution and drowning. "Subterranean" water sometimes is associated with the chaos of pre-historic times. Even though water was thought to be one of the elementary symbols, it nevertheless remains ambivalent in its meaning; it has both the quality of creation and fertility while it also represents destruction. In Christian iconography water especially plays a purifying role. It washes away the stains of sin through baptism and initiation rites. Many old cultures knew the phenomenon of natural baths, which not only served as an hygienic practice, but also had the meaning of symbolic purification. For many centuries, a healing effect has been attributed to thermic and mineral (subterranean) baths. In the depth psychological literature, water is understood to be the fundamental symbol of all unconscious energy- it is therefore conceived to be quite dangerous e.g. in dreams, when the imagery is present of water roaring by or when boundaries are burst by flooding. Depth psychologists believe that water creatures can be seen as the embodiment of certain living "entities", which emerge from a deeper unconscious layer of the personality and which mainly have a female shape. These female forms are often associated with concepts such as fertility, offspring and marriage. Water is an archetype. It is recognized as such by its three well known physical states: vapor, water and ice. At the same time, it evokes many cliché images which are drenched within our already image ridden culture.

Water as a source of inspiration is not foreign to the work of Krystyna Ziach. In her last project, The Garden of Illusion (1993), water(vapor) played the role of an important element of expression. Evaporable vapor (water) or thin smoke (fire) constitute the symbolic transformation of the material into the spiritual. In fact, this transformation is the axis around which her work revolved since the project Japan (1987/1988).
In Archê Krystyna Ziach restores water to its Prima Materia and produces in this manner a more esoteric dimension to her work. In her prior series, she used sand, pigment and minerals for it. One can discover different layers in this project. Ziach chose two starting points which were concerned with the theme of "water": flowing and inert water. Flowing water is associated with purification and unconscious energy. This positive force resonates in three of her photo works. In its most exuberant form, flowing water is expressed here in an almost three meter high and narrow representation of a water fall. Its uncontrollable en downward stream is a symbol for the dynamic, enduring influence of the times. Ziach entitled this work "Archê”, because she believed it was a key work. Water purifies the skin, but it also harms it, through a slow, practically imperceptable process of erosion. The self-portrait in The Fountain of Time that shows in an almost serene manner a part of the face, namely, the closed eyes under a stream of water, refers to this process of erosion. Indeed, it speaks volumes, that in the project Archê there does not exist a portrayal of slow, streaming rivers and calm brooks, which usually represent the easy and secure life.

Troubled Waters
Inert water, in contrast to flowing water, smells: it sews the seeds of death and decay. It nearly has a morbid characteristic and also refers to a disturbance in a natural equilibrium and to changeability. Ziach devotes three works to this idea. They are all photo works with a suggestive depth: the mysterious attraction of static, dark water is manifested in it. In The Spiral of Memory, one witnesses whirlpools. Their inward spiral movement announces change. It signifies flux, unrest, chaos and disturbance. Rolled up photos with images of human body parts tumble around in the whirlpool; they are hauled away in the movement of water. The phenomenon of algae is a central part of all three photo works. It is one of the few organisms that can survive in troubled waters and overgrow, or literally suffocate, every other form of life within it. On the other hand, algae also has, in the biological sense, a purifying function. One could also characterize it as being a positive element in an environment which for the most part is in a process of disintegration. Ziach photographed the water surface which was covered with an infinite, dotted pattern of algae cultures. These cultures, when blown up into a larger size, obtain a kinky almost abstract structure. Aqua Obscura shows a puddle in which a series of photo negatives are floating around with portraits of one and the same person. They are half concealed between the algae, as human residues. The method of portraying photos within photos has the affect of memories in multiplied form. These photos are partially distorted and blurred by an amber-yellow glass plate, which is erected centrally in front of the photo panel. In this small glass panel, that dramatically recedes from the photo, water bubbles are flowing around, just as they do when entrapped within a frozen water surface. Once again, an "external" expressive element is used, an added layer, which creates confusion and gives expression to an unstable (natural) equilibrium. In this manner, Krystyna Ziach offers again and again ample space for different ways of perceiving. The glass returns in two out of three of the algae works as a symbol of rhytmic repetition. With this methodic choice, she shows that she can play in a visible way with gravity. Initially, Ziach used mirrors to create confusion in a predominantly rational formation. The mirrors were used in the series Melancholy (1989/1990) and in The Garden of Illusion. Ziach is continually concerned with the idea of the surreal force of reflection. In an iconological sense, the mirror is the symbol for transience, it is also a symbol of Vanitas. In Archê, the symbolic and spatial affect of the mirror is omitted for the first time and is perhaps substituted by water and the special glass.

The living element fire, which consumes, warms and illuminates, can also bring about death and decay and has a similar ambivalent symbolic meaning as does water. Fire can extinguish, but it can also have the quality of the purifying flame which can "burn out" evil, pain, sin, illness, distress and suffering. Fire then has the meaning of a symbol of life energy. Ziach complements these two conflicting elements by uniting them literally in the installation Quinta Essentia. The title indirectly refers to an ever recurring symbol that takes place in several cultures in the form of a hexagram. It is a six pointed star composed of two triangles that overlap each other. In general, it is assumed that this figure consists of the composition of the "watery" element (which is female and pointing downwards) and the "fire" element (which is masculine and pointing upwards). Joined together, both triangles represent an harmonic duality. Alchemistic reflections went as far as to subsume all four primal elements (water, fire, earth and air) under the symbol of the hexagram. Today the symbol rather reminds us of the star of David of Israel. Given the fact that water and fire cannot be mixed, the alchemist assumed that a fifth element was neccesary: the Quinta essentia (absolute life energy) which must dwell within the center of the figure. Ziach links up with this idea in the water object that has been named after it. In this robust, spatial object, which stands on a socle , water is present in the form of an element of experience. The course of the water is physically represented in space, it is tangible and audible in its downward movement .Water trickles vertically downwards in an undulating, filmic layer, literally spilling over the photographic surface. On top of it, the capricious, inevitable and ever rising direction of fire is portrayed, as if it were burning sulphur. It is the ultimate connection of two impossibly unified elements, of two absolute extremes. The pulsating affect of a pump cares for the continual circulation of water and with that the passing of time. The object is entirely composed of oxydite metal. The chemical process of corrosion is once again a metaphor for transience.

Water and time erode even the hardest metal. The rusted brown steel of the massive frame and soccle refer directly to the ruthless influence of the jaws of time. The heavily oxydated, obstinate metal can be associated with the "red planet" Mars. This planet is warm, dry, sharp and cruel. It stands for unanticipated accidents, confusion and agressive sexuality. The person who is dominated by the planet Mars is characterized by the "martial". The weather beaten metal also returns in the form of a Trompe l'oeil in The Fountain of Time. On top of this image lies the skin of a plate of corroded steel, which is the counterpoint to the earlier mentioned face of the artist, that had water streaming‘ over it. The colors of the photos are adjusted. A rust brown sepia taint determines the harmonic feeling of transience in all of the photo works. The added color has something earthy about it; in a more conveyable meaning it refers to flesh like, unvarnished eroticism. The fascination in art for the apparent incommensurability of these two primal elements is not new. Already Yves Klein attempted in 1961 with Water and Fire Fountains to tame these two primal elements and tried to forge a synthesis between them in his fire painting. He had his models shake off water drops from their wet bodies on a piece of card board, thereby creating a certain pattern, and afterwards exposed the card board to fire. The body prints appeared as flowing shadows of color in the fire, because the wet spots survived longer in it.

The Energy of Darkness portrays on a photo enlargement the dead horn structure of head hairs. The water drops on the exactly combed long hair tails reminds one of dew. During the time of Plinius, this condensed liquid was thought to be "a heavenly gift for the eyes, sores and intestines".The alchemists also collected heavenly dew in cloth. On the other hand, beautiful hair in many cultures still refers to temptation and seduction, but as it passes through the years it loses its power. Ziach continually joins two halves of an image together, as if it could co-exist under the same roof. The downward direction of the growing hair marks out the depth dimension in the right half of the image. From up high, we look down upon inert water that is covered with a blanket of algae. Both organic structures-algae and hairs-partake in unbridled growth; in a certain sense they represent chaos, unless someone intervenes. In the old Chinese literature, the "source" is associated with eroticism. A spatial object on the ground takes up this theme in a subtle way. The object, which is entitled The Embrace, consists of two sloping figures in the form of an open book on which a female and male back straddle each other.
The third dimension in the project "Archê” is concerned with water as a bodily liquid. In the form of sweat it oozes out of the pores and it covers the surfaces of the skin of the man and the woman. It is a kind of secretion that refers to fear, aggression, physical exercise and sexual excitement.
Up until this point, the concepts "polarity" and "lability" are central to the entire work of Krystyna Ziach. However, in contrast to the monumental presentation of earlier projects, Ziach in Archê puts less value on the things themselves. The framework is not accentuated and the objects are less sculptural. Ziach is now more concerned with the suggestion of depth as an experience within the photographic image itself. Archê is rather based on intuition and her personal mentality than on the art historic and mythological references that were explicitly present in her earlier work.
The autobiographical component slowly becomes more visible in her oeuvre. Her soul finally comes to the fore.
Krystyna Ziach Curriculum Vitae
Solo exhibition Archê, 1995-1996, Installation
The Netherlands Photography Institute, 1996, Rotterdam, NL, curated by Frits Gierstberg
Krystyna Ziach Curriculum Vitae (2)
Solo exhibition Archê, 1995-1996, Installation
The Netherlands Photography Institute, 1996, Rotterdam, NL, curated by Frits Gierstberg
Krystyna Ziach Curriculum Vitae (3)
Solo exhibition Archê, 1995-1996, Installation
The Netherlands Photography Institute, 1996, Rotterdam, NL, curated by Frits Gierstberg
Krystyna Ziach Curriculum Vitae (4)
Solo exhibition Archê, 1995-1996, Installation
The Netherlands Photography Institute, 1996, Rotterdam, NL, curated by Frits Gierstberg