16/10/2022 – 22/01/2023,
Mikołaj Sobczak. Leibeigene, Kunsthalle Münster
Across painting, performance, drawing and ceramics, Mikołaj Sobczak explores political topics and historical politics, with a particular focus on the perspectives and lives of marginalized subjects. Kunsthalle Münster is showing the first solo exhibition of the Polish artist in a German institution, thus presenting the manifold facets of Sobczak’s artistic work. The exhibition encourages us to engage with the construction of history in times of political radicalization.
In his works Mikołaj Sobczak raises questions on a new collective identity and memory culture. Reverting to historical events but also fictional narratives such as fairy tales, legends and myths, he expands the narrative patterns of traditional, canonized or even instrumentalized history with notions of emancipation. As an artist, he sees the urgent need to tell own stories and to interrogate prevalent narration through permanent reformulation. He is unwilling to leave the grand narratives to populists trying to legitimize their narratives with an allegedly true view of history—with the aim of fuelling existing fears: “The community of imagination is one of the most effective weapons of propaganda. I therefore believe that it is our duty to disarm it, to defuse fear.” (Mikołaj Sobczak)
In his paintings he plays with the convention of the classical history painting. His paintings are informed with theatricality, staging figuration in dense tableaus often based on the compositions of iconic paintings of the pasts—including, for example, works by Théodore Géricault (1791–1824) or Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863)—which he confronts with motifs from popular culture. With his almost academic approach, he uses a conservative painting style to represent people who play no role in precisely this conservatism. His focus is primarily on marginalized personalities who have been excluded from the historical record. Materializing stories that have been erased from memory, he confronts us with traumas of the past and enables us to deal with them.
Sobczak’s central concern is to create contemporary history paintings with depictions of prominent protagonists from LGBTQI+ activism, queer and emancipatory countercultural milieus and resistance movements, in imaginative company of provocatively fantastical characters and creatures representing a genuine vision of a transnational utopia. These novel visionary communities are, at the same time, mirrored in the distorted images of an underworld of regressive and ambiguous political narratives depicted in mannerist and hellish settings.
Mikołaj Sobczak (born 1989 in Poznań, Poland) works as an artist with video, painting and ceramics, often including performative actions, for which he regularly collaborates with the artist Nicholas Grafia. His works deal with political issues and historical politics, especially with regard to the perspectives and lives of marginalized subjects. After studying at the Academy of Fine Arts Warsaw (2011–2016) and a scholarship at the Berlin University of the Arts (2014–2015), he graduated as a master student of Aernout Mik from the Kunstakademie Münster in 2019. Since 2021 he has been an artist-in-residence at the Rijksakadmie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam. His works have been shown in solo and group exhibitions at numerous institutions: Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (2017); Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw (2018); Dortmunder Kunstverein (2019); Museum Ludwig, Cologne (2019); Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf (2019); Maison Populaire, Paris (2020); Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw (2020); VII Moscow International Biennale for Young Art (2020); steirischer Herbst, Graz (2021); MUDAM, Luxembourg (2021) and the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2021). In 2021 he was awarded the most important prize for art in Poland – Paszport Polityki. In 2022, Galeria Bielska BWA, Bielsko-Biala will present a solo exhibition of the artist’s work. Sobczak lives and works in Warsaw and Amsterdam.
The exhibition is supported by:
The programme of the Kunsthalle Münster ist supported by the Friends of the Kunsthalle Münster.