Wilhelm Sasnal at Tate Gallery
Tate gallery produces a number of short films about art and artists relating to Tate’s collection.
Wilhelm Sasnal is a painter, photographer and film-maker working in Kraków, Poland. Sasnal uses photographs as a starting point for his work, selecting images that he sees as open to interpretation. The artist talks to us about the privilege of being a painter and his belief that artists should have opinions.
Sasnal produces pencil drawings, ink drawings, photographs, videos and paintings. In his art he employs a variety of media and cultivates a non-uniform practice.
Sasnal is primarily a painter. He paints a wide variety of subjects: More or less banal everyday objects, portraits of historical figures, views of his home town Cracow, snapshots of friends and family members and very often existing images from the internet or mass media are his starting point. Other sources include Art Spiegelman’s 1973 graphic Holocaust novel Maus, and stills from Claude Lanzmann’s 1985 documentary Shoah as source material. Even if, over the years, one can make out a number of overarching themes, there are always new paintings that shift the emphases and connections once again. The same is true of his painting style. His approach is unpredictable and his methods range from graphic reduction and a pointedly two-dimensional, illustration-oriented style to seemingly autonomous gestures with brush and paint. Like Neo Rauch, however, Sasnal makes the grip of the Communist era on the post-Communist imagination his subject.
While painting is still at the centre of Sasnal’s work, he has also increasingly turned to photography and film in recent years. The video work The Band (2002) was made during a live performance of indie rock band Sonic Youth. A 2007 piece is a product many times removed from the 1961 Polish movie on which it is based – a fictionalized account of a historical event in which a railway worker accidentally sold industrial methyl alcohol as vodka, causing widespread illness, blindness and death. The 16-mm film projection Untitled (2007) is based on found-footage from the late 1970s of Elvis Presley. Swiniopas (Swineherd) (2008), his first ever feature-length film, is an adaptation of an 1842 Hans Christian Andersen fairytale of the same name yet radically deviates from the original. Shot in black and white, Sasnal’s version is set in bleak, rural Poland. It concerns a swineherd who smuggles letters back and forth between a farmer’s daughter and her lesbian lover. Also in 2008, Sasnal caused controversy in Scotland with his film The Other Church, which focused on the brutal murder of the Polish student Angelika Kluk in Glasgow.
In September 2011, Sasnal selected a playlist of music that inspires him in his work. „I always listen to music when I make art. I do about 30 minutes of work and then have a break between records. The link is that they are all very simple songs, classical in structure – from Elvis Presley to Slayer – and that’s what I like about them. Some of them ended up in my films.”
Source: Tate Gallery and Wikipedia