Over ten years ago, a premiere of Bogdan Konopka’s exhibition took place at Centre Pompidou. Back then, the group of photographs were shown under the title Paris, Unvisible City – Paris La Ville Invisible. Today, at Leica 6×7 Gallery Warsaw we invite visitors to discover new stories of the similar kind, registered with the same tool, which is 8×10 inch camera. The photographs tell stories about Paris, Nice, Arles and Verzy forest. They are narratives of places, spaces and objects. Leit motive of them all is love for light and deep understanding of the fragility of photography medium.
“Each photograph by Bogdan Konopka is like a tale on the light. It is produced using the contact method – from the negative put directly on the paper. In order to well-perceive these small pictures, one needs to get as close as possible. As a result, the viewer immerses him or herself in them, like in narrow, dark tunnels in which you can see little, or rather only what is important. They are like photo-fragments, time gaps that we are falling into” – says Mateusz Palka, in his essay about „Leçons de Ténèbres” (the essay will be included in the photobook on Bogdan Konopka. Premiere will take place during the show opening).
The title “Lessons of darkness” has been inspired by music composition by François Couperin, which traditionally was a part of celebrations of Dark Matis, an event before Easter. The main part was a performance of candles extinguishing. This specific music set the time of print development for Konopka. It is also a metaphor for working in the darkroom. For the artist, it is a ritual – the moment in which “the picture is born”.
Darkness is an inseparable companion of light: “In fact, photography in its elementary sense does not mean operating with light, but the shadow; the shadow which defines light. There is one more shadow that complements photography: the shadow of its author and their time. The photographer directs images from darkness into light. And it is there that we learn whether images in “Lessons on Darkness” may become works of art. Sometimes it happens so…” – says Bogdan Konopka.
All of the frames at „Leçons de Ténèbres” were made during past ten years. From theme point of view there two kinds of stories here: pictures made at atelier (with use of only day-light) showing still lifes (flowers), and secondly average, a bit worn objects (perhaps it is a distant echo of art povera movement). Making photographs is a metaphysical process. The artist examines a composition set on a black background with care while waiting for the perfect moment of a perfect light that will discover the secret of an object. Only when he is ready to “catch” it on photo negative.
There is one more theme to discover: city spaces that are subjective portfolio of non-tourist places: “Fragments of insignificant architecture, seedy streets, neglected flat interiors, houses and temples, time-scarred sculptures that together look like a catalogue of motifs equally trivial and photogenic. There is a vision of perfection and consistency of being inside of this art, revealed by the imperfection of appearing. The photographer’s gaze is a momentary brainwave and a flash and at the same time.” – summed up an art critic Adam Mazur. He also points out similarities between Konopka’s documents and pictures of non-existing Paris by Eugène Atget.
The exhibition is accompanied by an album of the same title, containing black and white photographs of Bogdan Konopka and essays by Adam Mazur and Tomasz Palka.
Bogdan Konopka was born in 1953 in Dynów. Since 1988 he has been living and working in Paris, where he has been represented by Françoise Paviot Gallery for over 20 years. In 2000, he became the last artist in the 20th century admitted to the Union of Polish Art Photographers. He is one of the main creators of the “elementary photography” trend (1982-1985) founded at the Foto-Medium-Art gallery in Wrocław, Poland.
Bogdan Konopka, „Leçons de Ténèbres”
Opening: 8.06 (Friday), 7 PM
On display: 9.06.2017 – 21.07.2018
Curator: Rafał Łochowski
Author’s meeting: 11.06.2018 (Monday). 6 PM, moderation: Paweł Żak
Guided tour: 30.06.2018 (Saturday), 6 PM
Leica 6×7 Gallery Warsaw, Mysia 3, 2nd floor
Opening hours: Monday-Saturday 10AM-8PM, Working Sundays 12AM-6PM