Polish painters: urban folk

Flower Charm

Flower Charm

One of the most interesting phenomena of traditional architectural art in Poland is the painted facades and interiors of houses in the village of Zalipie in the south-east of the country. The attention of tourists and connoisseurs of folk traditions is attracted by amazing floral ornaments. But traditional crafts here live a modern life. The village of Zalipie is located in the commune of Olesno, 68 km south of Krakow. Thanks to its amazing painted huts, it is often called an open-air museum. Some houses really became museums, like the house of the local artist Felicia Tsurilova. After the death of the artist, her house was bought from her relatives. It housed a branch of the Tarnow Regional Museum. In 2013, the village celebrated 110 years since the birth of Tsurilova and held the 50th annual competition “Painted House” (“Malowana chata”) – the oldest folk art competition in Poland. The task of the competition, first held in 1948, is to promote Polish folk art. In the cultural center “House of Artists” (“Dom Malarek”), classes and meetings are held to popularize the traditional culture of Zalipya.

Previously, in the villages food was cooked in a stove, and smoke came out through a hole in the ceiling. To hide the blackening holes in the ceiling and walls, women drew patterns around them. This is how the famous Zlipsky floral ornament was born, which became a recognizable element of the local interior. Many houses in Zalipye today are painted with bright colors, although initially the ornament included geometric patterns with dots, curlicues, curved lines and circles. Traditionally, brushes were made of horsehair or leather, and villagers used them until recently.

Floral motifs are typical of Polish folk arts and crafts. Flowers can be seen on hand-woven traditional clothing of the inhabitants of the Polish mountains – the gural. Applied art plays a huge role in the life of rural communities. They create incredibly beautiful and interesting cultural objects, clothes and costumes, sculptures and paintings, roadside chapels and painted crosses, handicrafts, fabrics, embroidery, ceramics, as well as religious rites and carnival traditions – differing from each other in different regions.

Illegal city decor

It may seem strange to some people to switch from the old woman’s favorite hobby to illegal street art, but the work of two Polish artists, NeSpoon and Olek, make us take a fresh look at this area of art, where men usually dominate. The work was based on such typically female activities as knitting and weaving lace. NeSpoon adorns the urban landscape of many cities with traditional Polish lace (Polish koronka), calling it “urban jewelry”. Thanks to the street art of this Warsaw artist, decorative patterns characteristic of lace weaving appear in public space – in pedestrian crossings, on city squares, beaches and parks. With lace stencils created by NeSpoon, abandoned buildings turn into aesthetic objects.

Agatha Oleksyak, another Polish street artist and New York performance artist, known as Olek, uses her crochet work to decorate public spaces. For Olek, knitting is an alternative to other artistic means. According to the artist, her knitwear is a metaphor for the interconnections of mankind through new layers of history and culture. Although her work is often associated with “yarn bombing” (English yarn bombing) – a new popular form of street art that originated in the USA – Olek prefers to consider her work as gallery art, contrasting it with amateur practice: “Many have aunts or grandmothers who paint […] Do you want to see their work in galleries? No. The street is a continuation of the gallery. Not Everyone Deserves the Right to Exhibit ”(from Graffiti’s Cozy, Feminine Side on The New York Times)

Lacy Polish mountains

The village of Konyakuv in the Beskydy Mountains has become famous all over the world for its lace. Konyakow caught the eye of the public in 2006 after a local company decided to turn traditional lace into sexy lingerie. Newspapers were full of headlines such as “Knitted thongs from grandmother”, and heated debates arose between conservative connoisseurs of traditional crafts and modernization of folk art.

The company from Konyakuva knits custom-made lace underwear (along with the famous debut lace thong): bras, panties, women’s boxer shorts, tops, swimwear and other accessories, such as gloves and belts. Everything is made manually from cotton threads, and the source of inspiration is the Hural motifs. In 2005, the collection was exhibited at the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt, Germany, in the program “Days of Polish Culture”, in the category “new tradition”. Nature reserves, forests and excellent ski slopes attract many tourists to Konyakow. The peak of popularity came at the beginning of the twentieth century, when the local lace – pillowcases, blouses and, of course, tablecloths – was acquired by aristocrats both in Poland and abroad. Koniaków, the underwear manufacturer, is returning worldwide fame to this brand. In spite of conservative stereotypes, Polish folk art vividly and creatively combines tradition with innovation. Regional artists and artisans do not cease to inspire with their skill, and the younger generation of artists reflects the complex psychological and cultural processes in Poland in their work.