Saturday, 14 November 2009

Wilhelm Sasnal

Tarnów Train Station, 2006
Oil on canvas 100 x 140cm
Hayward Gallery, London
14 October 2007

I thought the selection of Sasnal paintings picked for the ‘The Painting of Modern Life’ exhibition at the Hayward was excellent and I especially liked the three shown in the downstairs gallery; this view of Tarnów train station, Gas Station 1 and Gas Station 2.

It was at Tarnów station on Monday, 28th August 1939, that a German saboteur left two suitcases packed with explosives in the luggage hall. The bomb exploding killing twenty people and is probably one of the first actions of World War II.

The catalogue suggests that the image depicts African immigrants and guest workers arriving looking for work and draws parallels with the human cargo carried on Polish railways during the second world war[1] . Whichever association Sasnal intended the image has an inherent melancholia that evokes a deep sadness.

It looks like the painting was completed in one session, wet-in–wet. There is a variety of brush marks with thin blended areas complementing thicker passages. What looks like some kind of brutalist sculpture in the foreground, is actually some bushes. These are painted upside down and the paint is allowed to run. The figures in the foreground are against a background of swirling grey brush marks that seem to ooze from the window! A small area of watery sunshine relieves the monotony of the sky behind the station building.

This painting (as is the case with most of Sasnal’s work) is an excellent example of how the removal and abstraction of information through the process of painting has added to melancholic aura of the image.

He works primarily from photographs and whilst the contemporary view of Tarnów station that I have shown isn’t the one that Sasnal used, it does show just how much he has simplified the detail. I find it odd that he missed out the main portico altogether.

The catalogue suggests that this resistance to detailing is tailored to the ‘leaching of individuality’ as capitalism gains more of a foothold but also notes that the effect is to open up the image ‘to new potential meanings as viewers fill in the blank spaces’[2] . I certainly agree with the latter premise, especially as I am conscious that I have a tendency to include too much detail in my own work.

[1 ]Herbert, Martin Rehearsing Doubt ‘The Painting of Modern Life’ Catalogue Hayward Publications 2007 p44
[2] ibid.

©blackdog 2009

No comments:

Post a Comment