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Gallery of Non-professional Art

The only permanent exhibition of self-taught art in Poland, presenting this phenomenon. Non-professional art, understood as a form of human creative activity pursued without adequate education in the field, enjoys unfaltering interest around the globe.

It is a varied and multi-layered phenomenon. Amateur art, which relates to the models of academic art, is different from naive art, which is on the verge of a childlike manner of depicting reality. Artists who use art consistently and consciously to communicate their emotions are called ‘intuitive’ or ‘outsider’ ones, while a more primeval type of art, based on a powerful creative imperative is termed ‘bitter art’, that is, art brut. This disctinction, however, is purely arbitrary, as the differences between the presented types of amateur art are not sharp and the lines between them are blurred. 

The exhibition presenting non-professional art in Upper Silesia, a region where creation was connected with the artist’s life and direct experience in a specific way, is an epic story about the existence here, with all its positive and negative experiences. The metaphor of a mine was used in the structure of the exhibition, in order to make its message more vivid, as a mine combines the three areas of existence significant for Polish tradition: the Silesian triad of God, work and family. A coal mine shaft with the head frame combines three spheres: the underground (the aspect of work, myths and legends) the surface (landscape, family, social life) and the sky (the realm of religion, tales, legends, extraterrestrial and imagined worlds). Therefore, a mine – an unquestionable symbol of Silesia – combines the elements of daily life and customs with spiritual and transcendental aspects. The symbolic used also has another significance: Muzeum Śląskie is now established on the site of the former Katowice coalmine. 

As the only Polish institution, Muzeum Śląskie in Katowice was mentioned in the publication On the map. Exploring European Outsider Art presenting the prominent European museums and galleries in possession of the most interesting collections of intuitive art. Works by the most notable representatives of Polish naive art, art brut, outsider art and amateur art are to be found in its collection.

Exhibits

B. Krawczuk, Skarbnik Sculpting St. Barbara
Miners sought the agency and delivery of their patron saint – St. Barbara, but her image was also used as a comment on the current political and social situation. In Bronisław Krawczuk’s painting, the body of the saint, resembling a mine slag heap, is composed of the figues of thousands of nameless miners – it is a rock in which Skarbnik (the Treasurer – an underground demon inhabiting mines) carves a monument to miners’ insurgent efforts.

E. Sówka, My Summerhouse
The idyllic atmosphere of a garden in bloom is marred by the dead body of the miners’ patron saint, which lies in an exposed coal mine drift located just under the ground. A coal transporter, which used to carry sztomple (wooden girders) not a long time ago, serves as a bier. Dead St. Barbara becomes a symbol of the fall of mining and closure of the mines. It is also a point where the story of social degradation starts, caused by the restructuring of the extractve industry.  

Teofil Ociepka, Great Jungle
The idyllic atmosphere of  Eden brings to mind the moment of creation. It is both longing for God and the desire to experience the absolute, but also a need to create one’s own worlds, in which imagination is the only limit.

Jan Nowak, Silesian Landscape – the Panorama
The exhibition of works by Gwarek 58 group, whose members were miners of Katowice coal mine, supplements the main story line. It is a special honour connected with the context of the place and the symbolic return to the site of the coalmine in which they used to work for many years. Gwarek 58 group distinguished itself greatly from among the groups active in Silesia: it was an informal circle of artistically gifted miners, who worked independently, without an instructor to run their meetings. Almost all the members chose linocut as their main means of expresson, although some of them also painted and carved in coal. Franciszek Kurzeja left behind a rich legacy, but it is Jan Nowak who can be said to have gained renown, even fame – his works are to be found in major museums and private collections. 

Maria Wnęk, Biography
Art brut is a severe type of art, unspoiled by any ‘cultural overload,’ often created in loneliness and social isolation resulting from disability, disease or addiction. The departure from the traditional forms or art and aesthetics does not stem from a conscious rejection of the heritage of culture. Such artists do not imitate ‘official’art, as it is outsie the scope of their awareness. Only their inner world and intuition are their inspiration.

Exhibition curator: Sonia Wilk