Artist biography

Polish sculptor. He has said of his sculpture that it is informed by an aesthetic of ‘the ill-defined amateur snapshot of the 50s and 60s, essentially grey'. He made his first important sculpture as part of the graduation requirements for the Warsaw Academy. In this representation of a young boy standing by a table on a raised platform, Balka rehearsed the themes of nostalgia and remembrance that he was to explore in his subsequent work. He featured it as the centre of a performance, in which he used the ritual of confirmation to suggest rites of passage, or graduation. In the mid 1980s he staged a number of ‘active openings' that suggest the influence of Joseph Beuys in the use of simple material props. In the late 1980s he developed his figurative sculpture in a number of works that evoke mythical figures and broadened his repertoire of symbolic materials to include ashes, different types of wood and neon. In 1990, with the exhibition Good God (Warsaw, Gal. Dziekanka), he moved from figuration to simple non-figurative forms that retained elements of human physiology in their dimensions, and often in their appearance as semi-functional objects such as beds or coffins. The persistence of personal narrative associations could be seen as an assertion of the individual against the collectivisation of life in Poland under martial law, while the use of ordinary industrial materials suggests a protest against the influx of western consumer capitalism into Eastern Europe.

Bibliography
Good God (exh. cat. by J. Kiliszek, Warsaw, Gal. Dziekanka, 1990)
Possible Worlds (exh. cat., London, ICA and London, Serpentine Gal., 1990–91)
Miroslaw Balka (exh. cat., Eindhoven, Stedel. Van Abbemus., 1994)

JOHN-PAUL STONARD
10 December 2000

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