Wilhelm Sasnal

Wilhelm Sasnal

Anka in Tokyo
Olio su tela / oil on canvas
35 x 50 cm
Collection Broere Foundation


The work of Wilhelm Sasnal expresses a particular aesthetic approach and a particular vision of reality. Often the artist focuses on brief flashes or private details captured during his travels or in moments of daily life, often caught on his cell phone and later transposed into painting. These works, however, shun sentimentality of any kind. In accordance with the relationship between abstraction and realism characteristic of Sasnal’s entire oeuvre, his works seek “a distance” from the subjects they portray. The artist seems to be in search of an “idea of the image”, of the essence of what remains when a lived experience becomes memory. The work Kacper illustrates this approach. The poetic vision of a slender figure bathed in light derives from the snapshot of a moment of life shared by the painter and his son. The concealment of the face keeps the subject from being recognized, almost transforming the painting into an archetype of collective memory.

In the wake of an entire generation of Polish artists who opposed traditional techniques and academic structure, a central feature of Sasnal’s work is not the perfection of the execution or the choice of representative subjects, but rather an exaltation of phenomena from daily life expressed with rapid and immediate painting, capable of expressing a contemporary perception and feeling. In an era characterized by an inundation of photographic images, his work is an expression of the enduring power of painting, which lies mainly in the ability to slow down the observation, to draw the viewer’s attention to subjects which at first glance seem totally ordinary. Sasnal’s painting compels us to reflect on an idea of beauty that is entrusted to the act of viewing, to the observer’s ability to elevate an ordinary moment of daily life to a higher level, whether along a collective or a totally individual perspective.

Sharpening one’s senses, listening for half-tones, nuances and moments we are normally not able to or do not want to give our attention. In the work of an artist, this means seeking a new way of looking at reality and finding a language, a shape or a design with which to express his or her perceptions. This translates in practice to getting closer to reality, but also in creating something new that goes beyond it: framing what is real and building a new reality in order to propose an approach to life, a search for meaning.

Wilhelm Sasnal (1972, Tarnów, Poland; lives and works in Krakow) is a contemporary artist whose work calls attention to the value of the painted image through a heterogeneous approach to themes, subjects and styles in painting. Recently, he has also been working more directly in film, having completed several feature films such as It Looks Pretty from a Distance (2011, co-directed with his wife, Anna Sasnal), Fallout (2010), Swineherd (2008) in addition to a number of shorts over the past few years. He studied architecture at Crakow Politechnic, and then went on to study painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. Recent solo exhibitions were held at: (2012) Haus der Kunst, Munich; (2011) Whitechapel Art Gallery, London; Sadie Coles HQ, London; Kurimanzutto, Mexico City, Mexico; Anton Kern Gallery, New York; Johnen Galerie, Berlin; (2009) CAC, Centro de Arte Contemporàneo, Málaga, Spain; Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen K21, Düsseldorf, Germany; Hauser & Wirth, Zürich, Switzerland. Notable collective shows in which he appeared recently include: (2012) About:Blank, Kunsthalle Münster, Münster, Germany; Image Counter Image, Haus der Kunst, Munich; I Wish This Was a Song. Music in Contemporary Art, The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo, Norway; A House of Leaves, The David Roberts Art Foundation, London; Rearview Mirror: New Art from Central & Eastern Europe, Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada; (2011) Hirschfaktor. “Die Kunst des Zitierens”, ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany; Painting Between the Lines, CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco; The Second Strike, Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art, Israel; MMK 1991–2011. 20 Years of Presence, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, Germany; Space. About a Dream, Kunsthalle Wien, Wien, Austria.

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