8.

GLAHA:18574, Adam and Eve, Zulawski, Marek, 1959, colour lithograph, print, inks on thick white wove paper

Humanity is often considered anew by 20th-century artists and is reflected in another work in the Hunterian collections: ‘Adam and Eve’ by Marek Żuławski. Żuławski was born in  1908 in Rome, spent his childhood in Zakopane in the Polish mountains, studied in Warsaw and Paris, and in 1937 moved permanently to London where he died in 1985.

Commenting on the French post-war paintings in his memoirs, he wrote: “A man stripped of the dignity he had during the Renaissance or Classicism of the Enlightenment, ceased to be the subject of the painting. If he does appear, it does in a non-individual form, deprived of its distinctive features, automatic or tortured.” For Żuławski however, as noted by Stanisław Frenkiel the most importatn was “[…] the dignity of man as a social being, a struggling and loving man, an oppressed and persecuted man, whose archetype and incarnation is Christ who combines the divine and human nature”.[11]

9.

Yet, another artist born in Poland and displaced by World War II whose work can be found in the Hunterian collections is  Janina (Janka) Małkowska. Małkowska was born in Warsaw in 1912, trained in Warsaw and Vienna and was just starting her artistic career when the war broke out. After the war, she joined her husband who was sent to the Polish settlement in Inveraray.  She settled in Scotland and lived here until her death in 1997. A long-time member of Glasgow Print Studios Małkowska remained faithful to the wood carving technique which she claimed she self-taught during the war. She started creating woodcuts when hiding (and supporting the resistance movement) in the Polish mountains. She later recalled that she carved  her first woodcuts with a knife and printed them using a spoon to press the image onto the paper as there were no other tools available.

GLAHA:53376, “50 Years After”, Malkowska, Janka; 1912-1997, 1989 – 1997, woodcut, print, printed in black/brown on cream Arches paper

GLAHA:53379, “Elleni”, Malkowska, Janka; 1912-1997, 1989 – 1997, woodcut, print, printed in brown and blue-green on cream paper

GLAHA:53378, “Old Town”, Malkowska, Janka; 1912-1997, 1989 – 1997, woodcut, print, printed in black on dark grey paper

Of the five works in the Hunterian authored by Małkowska two are portraits (including one self-portrait), one depicts an urban landscape and two have  complex cultural references.

GLAHA:53377, “Prima Vera”, Malkowska, Janka; 1912-1997, 1989 – 1997, woodcut, print, printed in black on brown laid paper

“Prima Vera” means ‘spring’ in Italian and the artwork references the famous ‘Spring’ by Botticelli as well as potentially one of Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’. However, Prima Vera depicted by Małkowska  carved in wood and wearing a wreath resembling a bird’s nest with a bird in it, positioned against the backdrop of the sun or full moon, also evokes  traditional folk art and references Slavic folk stories. Additionally, the date of its creation – year 1989 – brings to mind the story of the fall of communism in central Europe – ‘Storia della primavera europea’ –  as the Italian translation of the ‘The Magic Lantern: The Revolution of ’89 Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Prague and Berlin’ by Garton Ash Timothy suggest.

GLAHA:50824, “Petrushka’s Ghost”, Malkowska, Janka; 1912-1997, 1982, woodcut, print, ink on paper

Petrushka’s Ghost, on the other hand, refers to a Russian folk story – a  story of a puppet that is more human than the evil magician who brought it to life.  The story of his tragic love has been adapted by Igor Stravinski into a ballet. Stravinski, a composer of Russian origins, Polish heritage and complex migratory history was meant to work on the ‘Rite of Spring’ for Sergei Diaghilev when he started playing with the theme of the Russian folktale. Encouraged by Diaghilev he developed it into a ballet entitled ‘Petrushka’. The role of  Petrushka was given to Vaslav Nijinsky yet another fascinating artist with a complex biography and Polish roots.  Małkowska’s work magnificently captures the dance movements through which the  the humanity of the puppet at once rejected and tragically embodied in his clunky moves is expressed.

 

10.

GLAHA:17569, ‘From the Inside’, Opalka, Roman, 1969, etching, print, ink on paper

The Hunterian also holds in its collection an etching by Roman Opałka, Polish painter and etcher, who was born in Abbeville (France) in 1931 and died in Rome in 2011. He was most commonly known as the ‘painter who counts’ for in his most famous cycle „Opałka 1965 /1 – ∞” he created paintings consisting of consecutive numbers. He himself said that he wanted to be a ‘painter-hourglass’ noting that ‘klepsydra’ (hourglass in Polish) also means ‘obituary’ and this was a life-long project depicting the world and/in the passage of time.

The work in the Hunterian collection is part of the cycle ‘Describing the World’ the last one Opałka created before focusing exclusively on the ‘counting’ cycle. As such the cycle expresses ideas leading to the creation of the monumental work of a lifetime – the cycle „Opałka 1965 /1 – ∞”. ‘Describing the World’ cycle had biblical connotations and included works such as ‘Adam and Eve’, for which the artist received an award at the World Graphic Biennale in Bradford, UK in 1858 and ‘Tower of Babel’ from 1968. Whilst the work at the Hunterian is titled ‘Earth’ the title of the later version of the same print from the 70s consists of the handwritten citation from the Bible “E faro si che la tua progenie sara come la polvere della terra” which translates to English as “And I will make your offspring be like the dust of the earth”. It is followed in the Bible by the words “…so that if anyone can count the dust of the earth, your offspring can also be counted.”

The diversity of works in the Hunterian collection enables reflection that goes beyond one work or one artist. Migrations become a thread connecting the works of artists who sometimes knew each other personally sometimes were separated by time or geographical distance. What does their work tell us about migration? One thing that characterises the knowledge created in the encounters with visual art is that the meaning is not conveyed by the artwork but created in the encounter with it. Marshall points out that art is the primary mode of expression and language can only add some precision once the main work is done.[1]  As such an artwork is an allegorical object [2] that holds multiple meanings. The stories arising from this encounter can often differ as they depend on the meaning brought to the encounter by the viewer, evoke emotions that may or may not be understood at first sight. When dealing with difficult subjects we cannot afford to tell just one story, we need a plurality of perspectives which enable and are enabled by the rich sensory and intellectual experience of being with artworks and thinking with artworks.