In 1954 Marian Szpakowski graduated the Academy of Fine Arts from the studio of professor Hanna Rudzka-Cybisowa. In the same year he came to Zielona Góra, initially for reconnaissance, to see how the “Regained Territories” were. Artists were encouraged to settle in new areas by the government, which offered scholarships and studios. Marian Szpakowski benefited from such a program. He moved to Zielona Góra where the artistic community was just beginning to shape.
Marian Szpakowski, not just artistically, but also organizationally influenced the activity of Zielona Góra’s artists. In the mid-50s most artists in the city explored the color or post-impressionist tendencies to a greater or lesser extent. Even Szpakowski couldn’t escape from it. Modernity – yes, still in a kind of landscape-portrait style, these paintings marked the beginning of exploration of synthetic forms and their geometrization.
Szpakowski’s art changes rapidly after the famous exhibition in Warsaw’s Arsenal – “Against the war against fascism”, which took place in 1955 and his trips to London, where he had a chance to experience the most important phenomena of the avant-garde world. The matter painting, geometric abstractions, experiments with the space – it all shaped Szpakowski for years. He brought his experience to Zielona Góra with the ambition to organize a big artistic event. He was not alone in his doings. New groups of artists coming to town, or returning after graduating, wanted something bigger to happen in Zielona Góra. For a period of time Marian Szpakowski managed to introduce the avant-garde spirit to the city through the establishment and promotion of plein airs and seminars of “Złote Grono” (1963-1981) which became the trademark of the city. At least until 1971. On the one hand the biennale of Zielona Góra reflected the most important changes taking place in the art of that time, on the other hand, it allowed artists and groups that had been marginalized or completely ignored in the mainstream of artistic development to show up in the general circulation of art.
“Złote Grono” and other symposia, brought with them the serious task of defining modernity, giving it an avant-garde face. An attempt was made to redefine the modernist categories. They were supposed to correspond to the future development of art, urbanism and the cultural civilization of man. Regardless of whether art was defined in the context of autonomous strategies to explore it, or as one of the factors in the whole interdisciplinary system, subject to political and social influence, people always tried to embrace the “here and now” while simultaneously designing the future. However, the more strongly they wanted to highlight the area of modernity through avant-garde means, the more the conservative reality inhibited this process.
The year 1971 revealed a clear rupture between the ambitions of an individual to create avant-garde in Zielona Góra and a real situation in which the status of the local environment was built by the conventional exhibitions. To break this, a symbolic “self-destruction” was necessary. And, in a sense it happened but, the local environment left alone after the departure of the avant-garde illuminators treated the suggestion of “self-destruction” too literally. Nevertheless, Marian Szpakowski remained faithful to the artistic attitude he adopted. The first “White relief” (presented at the exhibition) is also from 1971. It is this work that constitutes Szpakowski’s geometric abstractions. This minimalist and strongly synthesized gesture of leading a diagonal crack in the structure of the image is the most radical. A certain interpretation of this gesture is also the “White relief” made in 1979 (also presented at the exhibition). This time the artist multiplies the crack separating the image’s space into one which is white and empty, while dynamising the other part. Both “White reliefs” link the entire range of subsequent creative work of the artist in the 70s.
text: Konrad Schiller