Metaphorically and seasonally, the exhibition 1000 Hands suits the climate of the pre-​spring thaw, illuminating a land­scape of exhaustion and approaching, intuitively sensed change. In Polish literature this metaphor car­ries a political dimen­sion. In the works shown together here by Rafał Buj­now­ski (1974–), Peter Puklus (1980–) and Zofia Rydet (1911–1997), what is vital is the very process of trans­for­mation, and the accom­panying ambivalence, the tem­perature of inter­per­sonal relations and the poten­tial of the human hands from the title. All the works result from some type of manual manipulation, whether the process of repain­ting, cut­ting out, assem­bly, com­position, or documen­tation of natural hand gestures. This wor­king, studio nature of the pieces sug­gests an impor­tant mes­sage on open­ness, readiness for change, proces­sing and reuse of old con­cepts, sym­bols or objects in a new order.


The photomon­tages by Zofia Rydet from the series Phan­toms, Man­nequins and Threat (1975–1979) present a barren land­scape with stone attics and unmoving, plastic bodies. This is an echo of war­time reminiscen­ces and fears associated with new global catastrophes, but also a depic­tion of destroyed social relations. In her works, in line with the title of the overall series, Rydet is guided by feelings and imagination, and the emotional charac­ter of the works she created main­tains their relevance.


Cold moon­light also falls from the pain­tings by Rafał Buj­now­ski. His Moons (2011/2017) con­ceal an added mystery. Their cosmic, coarse textures are the rem­nants of dried-​up paint; several years ear­lier, before they were repain­ted, the artist used these canvases as palet­tes. A return to artefacts discar­ded in the studio is a manifestation of faith in the produc­tive, regenerative power of art, charac­teristic of the artist’s creative economy.


Bujnowski’s excep­tional male nude from the series The Last Day of Summer (2018) presents an ambiguous moment of vacil­lation. The towel hung over the shoul­der is an attribute of beach leisure. The black profile of the figure suspends the ability to take any easy reading of the figure’s identity—the colour of the figure’s skin. Seemin­gly inciden­tally, this pain­terly game of hues and lights implies an exploration of equality. The paint reveals a political poten­tial that is obvious but rarely exploited in painting.


At the centre of the exhibition we present one of Peter Puklus’s latest works, A Thousand Polish Hands (2018). In the summer of last year, at the invitation of the Sput­nik col­lec­tive, the Hun­garian artist travel­led around Poland photographing the hands of con­tem­porary Poles. The catalogue of gestures, com­prising a thousand frames, serves as a kind of creation documen­tary. A loose inspiration for the work was a series of photographs by Janina Mierzecka, Wor­king Hands, realized in the 1930s as an exten­sion of der­matological research by her hus­band. In an entirely dif­ferent historical and social con­text, Puklus takes up again the theme of a “por­trait of hands” and observes through them the con­dition of the con­tem­porary, post-​transformation society. This intimist per­spec­tive plays with political slogans for hands—“working hands,” “clean hands”—and reveals a mun­dane, equivocal micro-​cosmos of social interac­tions, from hel­ples­sness to pleasure, from violence to sensitivity.

2019 exhibitions

Rafał Bujnowski, Peter Puklus, Zofia Rydet
1000 HANDS