The Danish Cultural Institute in Poland is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2014. In that event some of the artists with whom we have collaborated will be highlighted. Many of these artists have been inspired by both the Polish and Danish culture and use that inspiration in their work. These artists include the visual artists Annette Merrild and Kasia Banas, who both strive to use their art as a looking glass into other cultures.
The Room Project, Triennale Exhibition, 2007. The Room Project, Copenhagen, 2004.
Photo:Annette Merrild. Photo:Annette Merrild.
The Room: Interpreting different cultures through their living arrangements
Annette Merrild is a Danish artist and photographer. She graduated at the Hochschüle fur Bildende Künste Hamburg with a PhD in 2004, and she has since exhibited her art in solo exhibitions in Turkey, Denmark, Estonia, Germany and Poland. Annette Merrild has become especially recognized for ‘The Room Project’. The exhibition of ‘The Room’ in Warsaw in 2010 was organized in collaboration with DCI in Poland and The Danish Art Council. In this project Annette Merrild explores the extent to which we can interpret different cultures through their living arrangements.
With the quote “Do you want to get to know the world? Then start with your neighbour” as a guideline, Annette Merrild started developing ‘The Room Project’ in 2004. ‘The Room’ consists of a series of photographs taken in different people’s living rooms, all belonging to the typical middleclass. The rooms are fairly similar in shapes and sizes, so the furniture and atmosphere will be the focal point in the photographs. Like a still-life.
The photographs were taken in several Western cities with the intention of comparing interior design across cultures to see whether it would fit the stereotypes you might have about the citizens of foreign cities and countries. In that sense ‘The Room Project’ is an artistic expression as well as an anthropological study.
The different locations included Copenhagen and Warsaw. Poland is an important country in the EU, she says, I wanted to get to know it and show it off in the project. By comparing living rooms in the two different cities Annette Merrild sheds light on how the two cultures are related in terms of interior design. The design gives an indication of the culture itself and we can learn about our neighbour through their private possessions.
In ‘The Room Project’, Merrild discovered that living rooms in both Copenhagen and Warsaw have something significant in common in terms of decoration. None of the places use the view – they focus on the room itself, she says, and explains this by saying that citizens in Denmark and Poland use a lot of time in their homes.
In Warsaw ‘The Room’ was exhibited at the Academy of Arts. When asked about the art exchange between Denmark and Poland, Merrild answers, that it is always beneficial if it is done for the sake of the art and if the art in question fits into the given circumstances – its audience. The art must be exhibited in the right locations in order to reach the right audience. She emphasizes that this can be a difficult task, but that the Danish Cultural Institute was great and did everything it could to ensure it.
Kasia Banas and Jens Fink-Jensen in Wroclaw.
Poetry as a signal from another culture
Another artist who is inspired by other cultures is the Polish painter Kasia Banas. DCI in Poland recently hosted exhibitions of the Polish artist. Kasia Banas graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław in 1997, and she has since gained much recognition for her paintings. She has won many prestigious awards, among others the Exhibition of the Year 2013 Award.
Kasia Banas is inspired by her artistic surroundings. I am treating poetry as a signal from another culture – coming from another artistic space – a frame of reference for a painting which becomes a visual response, a looking glass, and a complement, she explains. One of the artists who has inspired her work is the Danish poet, Henrik Nordbrandt. My personal discovery of Henrik Nordbrandt’s poetry was a moment of genuine revelation, she explains. When she first heard Nordbrandt’s poems she decided to share the stories with Poland, and made a painting exhibition with a collection of paintings inspired by Nordbrandt’s work. The exhibition opened in 2010 under the name ‘Light Years’. It was presented several places in both Poland and Denmark. This included the Danish Cultural Institute in Warsaw.
‘Light Years’ contained paintings inspired by the poems, ‘Light Years’ and ‘May Morning’. For this project I have chosen poems which are dearest to me, she says, I have been fascinated by the works of Nordbrandt for a long time because he describes his strongest and deepest emotions in a very suggestive way, as if painting a picture, Kasia Banas explains. The exhibition was accompanied by a selection of Nordbrandt’s poems translated into Polish for the first time.
Later Kasia Banas started working on a collection of paintings inspired by another Danish poet. This time it was Jens Fink-Jensen’s poetry that had caught her eyes. Banas’ Fink-Jensen paintings visualises her feelings when reading the poems by the Danish poet. It is obvious that it is not illustrations or visualisation of my poems but Kasia’s own interpretation and ”re-writing”, Jens Fink-Jensen says about Banas’ work.
To Fink-Jensen it was a great experience to get to know Banas' personal environment on a local gallery in Wrocław and at the event at the Danish Cultural Institute in Warsaw. The paintings show the transformation from one personal world to another, he explains. It is therefore interesting to see Kasia Banas' environment in comparison to Fink-Jensens environment.
In 2012 Banas presented the collection at an exhibition at Galeria Miejska in Wrocław and later at the Danish Cultural Institute in Warsaw. Jens Fink-Jensen made an appearance in Wrocław at the opening of the exhibition and his poetry was read aloud in both Danish and Polish. The poems that Kasia Banas based her paintings on included ‘I am stroking the wind’ and ‘Rebirth’. In 2014 yet another exhibition of Kasia Banas opened at the Danish Cultural Institute in Warsaw. This time it was in honour of Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark’s visit to Poland.
Since 2012 Kasia Banas has been working on a collection of paintings inspired by poems of the Polish poet Tomasz Różycki. This exhibition won the Polish ‘Exhibition of the Year 2013 Award’. In the future, I am going to seek more inspiration from the contemporary work of young Danish poets, she says. With this cross-cultural inspiration, Kasia Banas creates a frame of reference to other cultures as her paintings reflect the atmosphere in Nordbrandt’s and Fink-Jensen’s poems and give the viewer the feeling of looking at poetic stories about love and loss on a canvas.
“Light Years”, Henrik Nordbrandt
In the daytime, the sun casts your shadow
Into my life
At night, it’s the fall moon.
The first hurts more.
The second, however, wounds more deeply.
But it’s the light from extinguished stars
That casts the shadow
The one with light years behind it
Comes closest to you
To the essence of your slightest movement
Painting by Kasia Banas inspired by Henrik Nordbrandt’s
”Light Years”, 2009.
”I am stroking the wind”, Jens Fink-Jensen
Translated by John Mason
I am stroking the wind
because it is the closest
I can get to your cheek
I am planting a tree
something without us
Painting by Kasia Banas inspired by Jens Fink-Jensen’s
”I am stroking the wind”, 2012.
“Rebirth”, Jens Fink-Jensen
Translated by John Mason
I have hidden away in a desert
to forget the sea
but the wind sweeps in like the sea
eroding my security
small grains of pain
infiltrate my memory
how soon the next silence
the next reunion with light
I swim in waves of blackness
all night long they have hoarded the dark
unseen I drag myself ashore
and feel weightless as moonlight
in the shadows the sandcastles dissolve
and with them all failed beginnings
yesterday a child – last night a fish -
today I am some glyphs on the sand
Painting by Kasia Banas inspired by Jens Fink-Jensen’s “Rebirth”, 2012.
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