Miroslaw Balka was born in Poland in 1958. He grew up in Otwock, a small town outside Warsaw. His work draws on memories of his Catholic upbringing and his childhood home, which he now uses as a studio. He lives in Warsaw.
Stepping into an installation by Miroslaw Balka is like entering a darkened room in which objects become recognisable only gradually as our eyes adjust. Similarly, in the process of deciphering Balka’s subtle vocabulary, seemingly abstract elements become identifiable.
Balka transforms humble substances into symbols of human existence. A piece of old linoleum contains vestiges of the lives of those who have walked upon it; the harsh smell of soap might evoke memories of the school washroom. He uses materials with a strong personal significance, and scales his structures to his physical dimensions as a symbol of the body and the traces it leaves behind. A vertical cylinder might represent life; a bed or a vessel lined with ash act as metaphors for death.
In Dawn, the room is encircled at a height of 250 cm by a steel bar. This ‘horizon’ line is defined by the extent of the artist’s reach. Two 190 cm cylinders stand next to each other, the height and breadth of Balka’s body. At the bottom of each lies a scattering of salt, a residue perhaps of sweat or tears. Another form sits directly below the two hooks marking the beginning and end of the horizon, reminiscent of the receptacle for holy water at the entrance to a church, or of the scores cut in a tree to channel resin into a container. A pair of holes might represent eyes. A tin can lies ready to collect something - possibly tears. It is as if the horizon acts as a conduit for the memories or associations, both personal and collective, evoked by the pieces in the room.