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Exhibition "Is searching a waste of time? Janusz Akermann – painting and graphics"

Is searching a waste of time? The exhibition of Janusz Akermann is open from the 26th of January 2017 until the 26th of March 2017.
Akermann’s art originates from the tradition of expressionism, returning in the changing scenes of the 20th century. Its sources are rooted in the expressionist movement dating back to the beginning of the past century, cumulated in the work of the German art groups Die Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter, and the Polish Bunt. The traditions of German Expressionism and French Fauvism from the late 1970s served as reference for German painters associated in the art group Neue Wilde, who originated the European style of Neo-expressionism (New Expression). These new trends penetrated Polish art in the early 1980s, reaching their peak in 1986-1987.
Painting and graphic art of Akermann appeared during emergence of the New Expression in Poland. Classifying the work of the Gdańsk artist in Polish art, it was frequently assigned to Neo-expressionism. It was related to this style thanks to strong formal expression, suggestive colors, figurativeness, narration, and emotionality. However, the work of each of the Polish “new wild” artists had its individual expression. As opposed to the majority of “expressionists,” Akermann was involved simultaneously in graphic art, in which he developed his distinct, recognizable style.
Therefore, Akermann’s graphic art, focusing on colorful linocut, blends into the Polish graphic art of the last decades of the mid-20th century and the first two decades of the present century. An attempt to respond to the condition of letterpress printing techniques in contemporary Polish graphic art was an exhibition and scientific session Multitude in Unity. Polish Woodcut after 1900 (2009). The graphic artists themselves continued the issue and discussion in the graphic art community, preparing conference organized by the Gdańsk Academy of Fine Arts (2014), entitled Linocut in the 21st century… and what next?.
The postwar domination of woodcut was gradually taken over by linocut, which starting from the 1960s has become the leading technique of letterpress printing. Two outstanding artists were involved in linocut at that time. Their work revealed varying formal issues and techniques – perfect and delicate images by Józef Gielniak and synthetic in form prints by Stanisław Fijałkowski. They open a group of magnificent artists specializing in linocut, present in all graphic art communities. It’s hard to mention all artists, but as an example we can give the extremely different linocut works made by Ewa Śliwińska and Teresa Jakubowska.
A different topic, which I want to highlight is the linocut developed simultaneously with Akermann’s linocut by the same generation of graphic artists. We need to distinguish in particular the black-and-white works made by Sławomir Grabowy, Jerzy Jędrysiak, Andrzej Załecki, Joanna Piech-Kalarus, and Krzysztof Wawrzyniak. In the same time, we can notice emergence of point linocut, initiated by Gielniak and continued by, among others, graphic artists from the Lublin group, including Stanisław Bałdyga, Grzegorz D. Mazurek and Krzysztof Szymanowicz. In the group of artists of younger generation, the black-and-white version of linocut prevails, seen in varying prints made by Marta Bożyk, Tomasz Barczyk and Agata Gertchen.
The esthetics of black and white has not dominated linocut. Color linocut was less popular, but it appeared starting from the 1970s in the works by Andrzej Basaj, Janina Kraupe-Świderska, Jan Baczyński, and later – Dariusz Kaca, Magdalena Hanysz-Stefańska, and younger graphic artists – Małgorzata Warlikowska and Aleksandra Prusinowska. Linocut combined with other techniques appeared in graphic artworks made by Ryszard Gieryszewski, Jerzy Grabowski, Marek Jaromski, Bogdan Miga and Marek Basiul. 
The exhibition hosted by the Bydgoszcz Regional Museum presents paintings and graphic artworks by Janusz Akermann in retrospect, which in accordance with our concept is supposed to give an answer to our question in the title: Is searching a waste of time? Selection of these two fields of artistic activity is justified by the fact that the artist has been involved in both painting and graphic art since the beginning of his artistic career. Coexisting, they complete and inspire each other. Only their juxtaposition reveals their interaction. Seemingly cohesive art of Akermann uncovers similarity of topics, formal-stylistic solutions, and at the same time the multitude of possibilities and experiments in various fields.
Out of the extensive oeuvre of the artists, consisting of 350 paintings and about 1,850 linocut prints (including various color versions from one matrix), we have selected more than 30 oil paintings and over 40 linocuts. In the graphic work of the artist we have not included his episode with digital art, despite the fact that it constituted an interesting link in the chain of his artistic searches. Some linocuts are accompanied by matrixes, and their presence is not only for educational purposes, but also to highlight a very important stage in the work of the Gdańsk graphic artist, which is preparation of the matrix. In the same time, inclusion of linocut boards to the exhibition signals the current trend of the changing role of the matrix in contemporary art.
The artworks on display reflect more than thirty years of artistic work. The most important works (1981) date from the period of studies in the Gdańsk Higher School of Visual Arts (presently the Academy of Fine Arts, ASP), and the most recent from 2015. The works of art selected from the artist’s studio have been completed by artworks loaned by national collections, including the National Museum in Gdańsk, the Museum of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, and the Museum of the Lubusz Land in Zielona Góra.
Barbara Chojnacka
Exhibition opens:
Galeria Sztuki Nowoczesnej, ul. Mennica 8 (Street), Wyspa Młyńska
26.01. - 26.03.2017

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Designed: Jimpenny / Programmed: FreshData