Bogdan Konopka’s photographs are stills from passing situations. The artist seeks out testimonies of passing time, turning the camera’s eye towards architecture, monuments, or landscapes. He extracts romantic beauty from them and forces the viewer to reflect on history. Abandoned, forgotten places (attics, churches, streets and corridors, and even video game parlours) remind us of a solidary path human takes through life. The title „Leçons de Ténèbres” („Lessons of Darkness”) refers to the musical composition of François Couperin – the song accompanied the devotion of the Dark Dawn, celebrated before dawn, consisting in ritual extinguishing of candles. This music sets Konopka’s duration of developing a negative in complete darkness. It is also a metaphor for work in a darkroom, which the artist treats as a form of ritual – the moment when the „image is born”.
About the artist
Bogdan Konopka (born in 1953 in Dynów, died on 19 May 2019 in Paris) began his career in the 1970s. From the 90s, his preferred medium was the contact technique. One of the most important representatives of the „elementary photography” trend (1982-86). From 1988, he lived and worked in Paris, where he worked with the Françoise Paviot gallery for over 20 years. In 2000, he became the last artist admitted to the ZPAF in the 20th century. One of the main creators of the „elementary photography” trend (1982-1985) at the Foto-Medium-Art gallery in Wrocław. In 2003, at the Pompidou Centre in Paris, his individual exhibition ‚Paris, the invisible city’ (Paris, La ville invisible) took place. Konopka’s works can be found in many other collections, including: Fonds National; Art Contemporain in Paris, Musée de L’Elysée in Lausanne, Art Museum in Łódź, and the National Museum in Wrocław. In his work he preferred silver photography, preferably of large format. He was primarily interested in the possibilities of documenting individual aspects of spiritual experiences. Nominated for the Niépce Award twice in a row (1994/1995), Winner of the Grand Prix de la Ville de Vevey in the European Photography Competition of 1998. In 2017, he was awarded the Bronze Medal for Merit to Culture Gloria Artis by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.
Leçons de Ténèbres
The vision of the world emerging from black and white photographs taken with a large-format camera and displayed in the form of contact prints is one of sensitivity to historical change. Konopka observes history on a micro scale. Fragments of insignificant architecture, neglected streets, deserted flat interiors, houses and temples, sculptures on which time has taken its toll, shots of motifs both trivial and photogenic.
Fragment of the essay by Adam Mazur entiled „The Taste of Imperfection”, found in the ‚Leçons de Ténèbres’ album.
Each of Bogdan Konopka’s photographs is a story of light. To see these small images copied using the contact method – from a negative placed directly on paper – we need to get close to them. Yes, to immerse ourselves in them, like in narrow dark tunnels in which you see very little, or perhaps only that which is important.
Working with an 8 × 10 inch camera requires complete focus and patience. Such a large negative is usually developed individually, which means that the photographer’s attention is focused from beginning to end, from the moment the frame is selected, to work on the print in one image. Time and attention is devoted to every single photograph. We begin to think about the need to create them. Lessons in the dark let the photographer’s mind light up.
Fragment of Mateusz Palek’s essay „The Last Candle”, included in the „Leçons de Ténèbres” album.
Place: Dom Towarowy Jedynak Gdańska Street 15 (entrance from Dworcowa Street), 3rd floor
Monday – Saturday – 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
Sunday – 10.00 am – 4.00 pm
Entrance for festival pass ovner (cost of festival pass 10PLN)