Stefan Słocki (1913-1990), a modest man with a bag and a dachshund named Bejbi. He did not make a great career during his lifetime, he had several exhibitions, mostly in Zielona Góra. He worked as an artist in “Zastal” – a rolling stock production plant. He painted factories, cement plants, shipyards and harbors. Sometimes army as well. There is something seductive about this picture of the Polish People’s Republic, the stabilization of the ’70s, the dynamic development of the country. A picture that one could actually believe in. When I go outside my gallery and see those office buildings climbing to the sky, I can almost believe in it too.
Owing it to the central perspective of Słocki’s industrial landscapes, it seems that the presented world is heading for a clearly defined purpose. People rarely appear in his paintings, and if they appear they are soldiers. Like in the works “Return from exercises” (Powrót z ćwiczeń) or “Partisans” (Partyzanci) in which they are treated as an ornament, without individual features. They are also heading in one direction, although they look tired. Another characteristic motif of Słocki’s works is the vignette, which he imposes on each of his painting compositions. This element, taken from photography, gives a certain documentary character to the artist’s works as if to make us believe in the “here and now” even more now, from the already distant history. Flat color, builds geometric forms of architecture. Whereas color laid flat, builds up the geometric forms of architecture.
There is something naive about it, but when we compare works from the 70s with earlier paintings that Słocki painted in the spirit of socialist realism, it turns out that the simplification and geometrization of form were part of the artist’s conscious program. Słocki was an educated artist, in the 1930s he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, where he most probably absorbed the strongly leftist atmosphere of the school at that time. He built his program to a certain extent based on these experiences. Henryk Berlewi, with whom Słocki had personally met at least once, during the avant-garde classic exhibition in Zielona Góra, was a significant figure for his work. The local critic gladly referred, on the occasions of Słocki’s exhibitions, to the concepts of mechano-facture, constructivism, op-art. Not too aptly, I suppose.
At the end of his life, in the late 1980s, Słocki began to paint rural landscapes. I know them only from the black and white reproductions: empty space, motionless nature, escaping the city, lake, a visit in Łagów. When I look at these paintings, I think about how much the world in which Słocki believed, capitulated. We do not show these works, we show only the earlier ones, on which everything goes according to the plan and one direction is in force – forward.
Stefan Slocki’s works are known by some five people in Poland. More than half of them live in Zielona Góra, one of which is my mother, the custodian of the Special Collections Department of the Voivodeship Library, from which I borrowed some of the works.
Works from collections:
Cyprian Norwid Voivodeship and City Public Library in Zielona Góra
Museum of Lubuskie Land in Zielona Góra
Polish Army Military Museum of Lubuskie Land in Drzonów