Mirosław Bałka is a Polish sculptor who addresses both personal and collective histories in his sculptures, video works, and installations. These recall both his personal, Catholic upbringing in post-war Poland and the collective experiences and laments of Polish communities, drawing attention to a broader theme of existence, particularly its fragility and precariousness.Read More
The human figure is a central aspect to Bałka’s work, usually present indirectly through sounds, smells and visual indicators that evoke certain moods and deep feelings. He confronts the viewer with the realities of twentieth century Europe, asking uncomfortable questions instead of providing reassuring conclusions.
Bałka’s works often make use of unconventional and seemingly everyday materials, including steel, salt, hair, soap, wood, and ash to take on new significance in the context of the human narrative, both personal and collective.
Being a post-war Polish artist, Bałka was invariably surrounded by the repercussions of the Holocaust. His wider themes of human existence, highlight the vulnerability of life, as well as our own capability to abruptly end it. This is perhaps strongest in a 2008 installation called 190 x 90 x 4973, which was a simple wooden walkway made from plywood and scaffolding, placed at the entrance to the gallery. The viewer had no choice but to walk through it – a grim, stark reference to a narrow path at the Treblinka concentration camp that prisoners were forced to walk down before being exterminated. The emotional impact of the piece becomes clearer as more time is given considering the feeling of an organised, external, yet unknown, force that appears to take away the viewer’s sense of freewill.
Bałka has exhibited his works across the world, beginning after graduating from the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts in 1985. He has had solo exhibitions at The Renaissance Society, Chicago, 1992; Tate Gallery, London, 1995; White Cube, London, 2000 and 2008, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London, 2009; and the Dvir Gallery in Tel Aviv, Israel, 2015. His work is also in the permanent collections of the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C., MOMA, New York, Dvir Gallery, Tel Aviv, The Art Institute, Chicago, Tate Modern, London, and the Centre of Contemporary Art in Warsaw, Poland.
Mirosław Bałka lives and works in Otwock and Warsaw, Poland.
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