A THING OF BEAUTY IS A JOY FOR EVER...

This short quotation from John Keats’ Endymion today refers maybe not so much to beauty itself, which in 20th and 21st century art is not a superior value - its place is taken rather by internal articulation, expression, or looking for internal truth, asking questions and trying to find answers. So it is rather true things, works of searching art that are the timeless and eternal value. They try to make us aware of the problems that mankind has to face, help us find our place in the universe, to show us historical continuity but also great homogeneity of human civilization, despite the existing diversity of cultures.   

Works of art, although timeless, have their space and time – the values so important in the original exhibition creation of Janusza Plota.

Today I would like to tell you about the achievements of Janusz Plota as exhibition curator, for it seems that for quite a long time now he has been focused not only on creating his own works of art (in various media – remaining faithful to his primary vocation – painting – he creates from painting modules and other items various spatial actions – objects, installations; he is also an artist of happening, performance and environnements).  Looking at Plota’s exhibition creations (individual or, which is more and more often the case  – realized in cooperation with other artists – such as the one presented today in Maritime Museum), I would like to classify them as a part of a certain trend oscillating between installation and  environnements. Janusz Plota’s realizations include, inter alia: Transit Art Show in EL gallery, referring to the ancient Truso settlement in Elbląg, transit object in Arche Gallery in Gdańsk, Documentation 1000 installation – connected with the millennium of the city of Gdańsk, combining two civilizations in Gdańsk over the span of one thousand years; Osiek column from the plein-air workshop in w Osiek – the last one created jointly with other artists (Shyqri Gjurkaj). In 2005 in the exhibition realization - Space of Memory – in the text to the exhibition the artist writes about blurred highways of culture that for us, the people of today – artists and audience alike – are natural ways to the ancient world, to, in a sense, travel in time and space. 

Most exhibitions of Janusz Plota have all the characteristics of installations, as they actually are homogenous works of visual art built in space, consisting, like typical installations,  of many elements (in the case of Janusz’s realizations, constructed rather for that very purpose either by himself or in cooperation with other artists) together creating a significant and meaningful whole.  And meanings arise both from mutual relations of the elements of the same installation and its relation with the spatial, intellectual, historical or social context – thus referring to the form and content of the environment and entering into active relations with the given space. Referring to the external environment – the artist’s installations create, also in this case, a certain equivalent of reality, with its paradoxes and complications, the meaning ones included. In perception of these realizations one can risk certain similarities with environnements art. Environnements, however, always create a space of their own, introducing a slightly ambiguous relations between  illusion and real space, introducing commotion into sculpture, architecture or painting by  the use of artificial lights or mirrors (just like in the works presented here, mirrors become a symbolic element of playing with the audience, making it a co-participant of artists intentions).  Such artistic activities often refer to technology or definition of places, presented in an artistic way, however. (Here there are references to the multicultural character of Gdańsk as a place). 

Expositions of Janusza Plota can also be perceived as a kind of realization of in situ art, which originated in the 1970s and whose works were created directly and with reference to the place in which they were exhibited, though remaining in close relation with the place and emphasizing its special character. The art of the place was connected also with the development of international artistic manifestations, for which migrations of artists constituted an important assumption. It correlates significantly with Janusz Plota’s artistic idea developed at the beginning of the 1990s – the idea of Transit Art, which emphasizes trans-border character of contemporary art, not infrequent in the history of art either.

In our perception of the exhibition we have to remember, however, that the artists invited to join the exhibition, though creating in various cultures, refer to the indicated problem by using the archetypes existing in our intellectual and emotional tradition since the beginning of human civilization. 

We, people, are undoubtedly obsessively addicted to the places and times in which we live. We cannot exist without them,  we cannot exist outside time, outside our own subculture (just like artists cannot create totally independently of their times) but historical multi-layer character of places, accumulation of diversified cultures and spaces continuing through the existence of human civilization, our memory of them, making use of the common heritage enables our travels in time and space but it first and above all proves that art, and culture for that matter – is the value as Keats puts it–  a joy forever – existing outside time and space. 

Magdalena Olszewska

Art. historian. Curator at the National Museum in Gdansk.