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Ziach Makes Photographs Like Sculpture, text by P. Depondt
De Volkskrant, 4 June, 1994, newspaper, NL
photo : Exhibition A Chamber of Mirrors, 1994, Nederlands Fotomuseum, Sittard, NL
She squeezes her body between circles and triangles like Leonardo da Vinci´s encircled homo universalis. Krystyna Ziach, a Polish artist residing in Amsterdam, follows in Da Vinci´s footsteps, as well as in those of other geniuses, Kazimir Malevich or Albrecht Dürer. Her ‘photo performances’ - in particular the staged black-and-white portraits of her early days - decidedly show this influence: the ambivalent longing for both mathematical order and structure and absolute emotion, which reminds us of that special vibration of the square in a geometric painting like Malevich’s Black Square.
A Chamber of Mirrors, the title of her exhibition at the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Sittard, refers to the frequent use of mirrors in the work. Apart from being a vanitas symbol, the mirror is also a theatrical attribute. Mirrors are elements to structuralize space, they take possession of it. But the mirror is also a mimetic element. “Imagine taking a mirror and carrying it with you everywhere”, says Socrates in Plato’s Republic. “You could quickly make a sun and all that is in the heavens, quickly an earth, yourself and the other living beings and moreover all things of an artistic and natural nature.”
Ziach uses antique mirrors and treats them with acid. That is why they do not have the impassiveness of an ordinary mirror, but rather a touch of nostalgia. Ziach’s photo sculptures are about personal memories, her autobiography. In one of the works she uses a photograph of dilapidated houses in the Jewish quarter of the Polish city of Cracow, the city where she studied sculpture and art history once. Undoubtedly her work is influenced by the theatre of Tadeusz Kantor, but perhaps also by the surreal settings of René Magritte’s paintings, with their opulent masses of clouds or their trompe-l’oeil curtains.
She made the Japan series after a long journey through that country, where she was impressed by the Noh and Kabuki theatre, aesthetics which largely determine the work as well. Even though the incident light is quite sharp in Het Domein, some of Ziach’s photo sculptures evoke the Japanese aesthetics which was so masterly described by Junichiro Tanizaki in his In Praise of Shadows: the minimal and the subtlety of shadow patterns. In Ziach’s work ‘dualities’ play a role. She combines sepia with blue, mirrored reality with reality, sensuality with rationality, the concrete with the abstract, corporality with geometry. Reality creeps in - in some photo’s one sees a mirror broken by accident during staging, or a foot or the leg of a tripod. Ziach does this on purpose. It is ironic, staging ought not to be perfect. She emphasizes that ‘she is not a designer’. This is what makes her work so moving; it is not form for form’s sake, nor smooth theatricality. She is a painter, she is a photographer and - during an intimate performance in her studio – she makes ‘sculptures’.
The photographs are sculptures, which is not surprising considering her initial education as a sculptor. In the context of the museum they constitute a magnificent Garden of Illusion.
Translation : Hanny Keulers