Polish painter and film-maker Wilhelm Sasnal is renowned for his incongruous and quietly unsettling portrayal of our collective surroundings and history. Drawing on found images from newspapers and magazines, the Internet, billboards or his personal surroundings, Sasnal’s paintings act as an archive to the mass of sprawling images that flood contemporary society. By applying a concise, photorealist approach to this eclectic subject matter, he captures stolen moments in time–his unusual cropping and graphic approach to light and colour suggest a camera’s gaze, imbuing the canvases with a filmic quality.
There is a persistent preoccupation in Sasnal’s work to stay engaged with the world we live in, and perhaps more importantly, to connect the present with the past. At once curiously personal and coolly detached, Sasnal subjectively and intimately interprets the topical. Sasnal has long worked in film alongside his painting, viewing it as a complementary practice and welcoming the alternative challenges that it brings. Film’s affinity with reality, and therefore its ability to provoke, also appeals to the artist.
'Painting is a natural activity, it’s primal,' Sasnal has commented. 'I think images aren’t important because of the numbers that surround us. But painting has a chance. There is always painting, like there’s song. I don’t think it needs speculation as to whether it is alive or dead… With film I am not only looking for the story but also for the language, how to depict a certain state of being.'
The Fondation Beyeler's room of ten paintings by Wilhelm Sasnal forms a homecoming of sorts—a group exhibition at the Kunsthalle Basel in 2002 was the Polish-born and Krakow-based artist's first major show. In the same year, the Warsaw-based Foksal Gallery Foundation, which was then co-directed by Adam Szymczyk, Documenta 14's artistic...