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Tadeusz Kantor - Avant-garde genius in Edinburgh


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Tadeusz Kantor - Avant-garde genius in Edinburgh

Emilia Stankiewicz

Celebrating the centenary of Tadeusz Kantor’s birth, the Polish Cultural Institute in London and the Polish Institute Berlin are delighted to bring a new perspective to Kantor’s complex theatrical, cinematic and visual oeuvre with a new exhibition Tadeusz Kantor: Inbetween Structures to Edinburgh’s Summerhall. Focusing on the early phase of Kantor’s artistic career (1954-1965), the show includes the long lost film Attention.... Painting! as well as Kantor’s numerous drawings, gouaches, paintings, collages, photographs, and written manifestoes, highlighting the profundity of his early art.


Tadeusz Kantor (1915-1990) is best known as an outstanding and highly original figure of 20th century theatre, as well as the creator of his own theatre group and of productions imbued with poetry derived from his own complex Galician origin. 
He is also known for being one of the most important figures of the Krakow art scene and arguably the most prominent representative of the informel art movement in Poland.  Kantor is also credited with inventing and naming the medium of emballage (from French ‘emballer’ – ‘to wrap’), a practice of wrapping up various objects, which defined his art works following the Informel period. 


It is crucial to understand that Kantor’s visual works were equally important to him as his theatrical productions. All of his works are explorations of intense artistic processes that were leading in different directions and structures. Choosing the actual form of a work was never random but very carefully decided.” –Dr. Marc Glöde, the curator of the exhibition.


The central element of the exhibition is Kantor’s contribution to the rarely shown and long lost film Attention.... Painting! (1957). It was the winner of the experimental film prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1958. The film depicts Tadeusz Kantor in the act of painting, clearly showing how, at the time, he took inspiration from the works of Jackson Pollock. Interestingly, while acknowledging Hans Namuth’s film on Pollock, the film takes a very different path to the consideration of the painting process. Kantor does not want to focus on the artist as the central player but the process of painting as the key element of creation. Therefore, Kantor himself is not visible in the film and the painting itself becomes the protagonist.


With Attention.... Painting! at the centre of this exhibition, a cosmos of relations begins to unfold, with drawings, gouaches, paintings, collages, manifests and photography demonstrating parallel dynamics and complexity of aesthetic forms. In the drawings we find aspects of cinematic storyboards as well as allusions to the tradition of automatic drawing. In Kantor’s informel and emballage collages and paintings the inclusion of objects on paper or canvas challenges the idea of the two dimensional form and the distinction between painting and sculpture/relief. The use of photography adds another interesting aspect as Kantor uses the medium not only to document an exhibition, but also explores it further by adding a layer of drawing on the top. Finally, the form of the written statement or manifesto reveals Kantor’s role as a critical thinker, continuously contributing to the international art discourse of his time. 


This wide artistic oeuvre displayed as part of Tadeusz Kantor: Inbetween Structures reveals the complexity of Kantor’s ideas about art and forges a new perspective on his playful approach to bridging the gaps between art forms as well as working creatively in-between these fields and the structures of art. His capacity of moving through existing categories and forms is quite unparalleled to other artistic practices of the time. The exhibition Tadeusz Kantor: Inbetween Structures will not only foster a fresh look at one of the masters of modern Polish art but will also raise an understanding of the unmatched creative and open atmosphere that existed in post-war Poland.


Tadeusz Kantor: Inbetween Structures is curated by Dr. Marc Glöde. It will be presented at Summerhall as part of its Allegories and Existence series of exhibitions, part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe (5 August – 4 September 2015). It will then travel to the Polish Institute Berlin for Berlin Art Week (10 September – 15 November 2015). The project has been initiated by the Polish Institute Berlin and is co-produced by the Polish Cultural Institute in London in partnership with Cricoteka, National Museum in Krakow, Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw and Krakow Festival Office and

5 August – 4 September, 10am-7pm (except 5th and 6th August – 11am-6pm).                              Lower Church Galleries, Summerhall, 1 Summerhall, Edinburgh, EH9 1PL