Recorded delivery: postcards from artists document life under lockdown
Warsaw’s Academy of Fine Arts (ASP) has been inundated with postcards as part of a project it has launched to document the effects of isolation on artists during the COVID lockdown.
It sent out an appeal to students, alumni, artists both Polish and foreign to participate in the ‘Postcard From Home’ project. The artists could create either a digital copy in the size of a postcard or send in a postcard they had designed.
“Despite the pandemic, the freeze of cultural events and activities and despite mobility restrictions, we encourage you to meet because we are here, we support each other and we want to react,” went the appeal.
Now ASP has been flooded with entries from around the globe, creating a vibrant archive of artist emotions during the pandemic that will serve as a reminder for future generations.
“In this new reality we wanted to encourage reflection and artistic activities in relation to the situation, as well as mutual support for one another,” Professor Paweł Nowak, the director of the Salon Academy Gallery and the initiator of the project, told TFN. “The initial idea was, and is, to organise an exhibition at the Salon Academy gallery. We do not have a specific date yet, due to the situation associated with the pandemic but of course, it will also depend on finances. All of the works need to be printed correctly and still, entries are coming in.
“I want to collate all of the entries at the end to create a record of this unique situation,” he continued. “I think so much work directly results from reflection on the existing situation. I think we've collected wonderful material that talks about everything that concerns us all around the world.”
The entry from Kasia Zielska, 29, from Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki, had a very sombre origin.
“My work ‘We Won't Meet Today’ commemorates my friend and artist Łukasz Rudnicki, who died during a pandemic,” she told TFN. “In the work, I present the Art Gallery ‘Wystawa’, which he ran for years. Over the past two years I have had my studio in this place, I often met Łukasz here. Just before his death, the municipality of Warsaw decided to close the gallery. For me, this is a picture about a huge loss, about living in silence but also hope. Outside the gallery window, there is a reproduction of a painting by Maria Wąsowska, whose mood reminds me of Łukasz's works. I wanted to show death as something that in a sense gives freedom and is something we can't fully comprehend. The title ‘We won't meet today’ is a direct reference to one of Łukasz Rudnicki's works.”
International alumni such as Jacek J. Kolasiński, who attended ASP and has worked for the Florida International University for the last 16 years, where he is now the Executive Director, have submitted postcards. Kolasiński’s ‘Deep Breath’ entry depicts people in hazmat suits on a colourful background, and is a break from his normal work that is usually marked by a historical theme.
Roman Duszek, 85, who attended ASP between 1953 and 1959 and has been Professor Emeritus for Missouri State University since 1988 submitted several entries including one named ‘Intensive Care Unit’ which had the message, ‘Get better soon’ written on the reverse.
Weronika Alberska, a 25-year-old from Warsaw, was in the final stages of her diploma when the crisis took hold. During the lockdown she has lost her job, art space and also had to move out of the apartment she was renting, causing great personal upheaval for her. The postcard she submitted reflected on the one thing that helped comfort her during the turbulent time.
"The presence of my dog and our walks together were of great consolation during the lockdown,” she said. “The inspiration for the postcard was the idea that the presence of a living being could never be replaced by an artificial object. On the other hand, I wanted to emphasize that sometimes it is better to not to have animals if we cannot give them the love and the conditions they deserve.”
Sylwia Wirska, also from Warsaw, addressed her postcard to a dinosaur and told TFN that she wanted to use words more than imagery to express herself in this work of art. She has found the lockdown a useful time for reflection and self-evaluation.
“I am just another millennial, being locked down with all the useless clothes made me focus less on possession and more on people,” she explained. “Voices of people who used to be too far because of distance or disability became louder and taught me how to be more humane. Now I am working on a series of paintings that aim to bring value to others, I call the series: ‘Act like God is watching you’.”