Flower Smugglers is an exhibition about a pursuit of beauty and new ways of seeing subjects as old as art itself, i.e. the nude and still-life. The exhibition is inspired by an award-winning series of photographs and a book by Diana Tamane (Latvia) about the artist’s mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. The eponymous smuggler is Tamane’s grandmother caught while illegally crossing the border.
The woman wanted to lay flowers on the family grave, which, as a result of the collapse of the USSR and geopolitical changes, was left on the other side of the border with Russia. Tamane photographs flowers and family relationships using the conventions of amateur and vernacular photography. She tells a story of the relationships between women and generations of a family in an unconventional and contemporary way. Błażej Pindor is the second artist at the exhibition who takes up the theme of still-life, as old as photography itself. Known for his passion for photographs of modernist architecture, in his Shells [Skorupy] series the artist takes up the subject of modernist Polish ceramics collected and sold by his wife, transforming it into an image, a kind of tableau, applying the aesthetics of glyphs and the post-internet.
Rejecting photographic orthodoxy, Pindor boldly uses colour and manipulates the image to create beautiful, artistic and in his own way decorative images. Violeta Bubelyte’s black-and-white nudes are also beautiful yet carnal. The star of Lithuanian photography has been consistently photographing herself since the early 1980s, staging simple and moving images. Bubelyte is a classic of contemporary art, compared to the likes of Francesca Woodman or Cindy Sherman. The exhibition in Sopot shows the latest photographs from Bubelyte’s autobiographical series. The artist softens the image, manipulates and multiplies her own figure, and introduces an element of literary metaphor by giving individual photographs meaningful titles.
The presentation of present-day coming to terms with the tradition of modernist photography, with the nude and still-life, culminates with the latest series by Artur Żmijewski, an artist ranked among the classics of Polish critical art. The black-and-white photographs refer directly to the experiments of 19th-century classics Muybridge and Marey, presenting the non-normative body in an unusual way. Multiple exposures render the portrait of a young woman almost abstract. Captured in a single image, the successive phases of the body’s movement energise the photographs. The modernist photographic procedure used to represent the body paradoxically brings the image closer to the ideal of classical beauty, constituting a kind of academic study. The Flower Smugglers of the title are a group of artists who use photography as a tool useful in their search for beauty. Photography continues to be effective in establishing and visualising relationships with reality, with objects and with people.