Krystyna Ziach
Year Title  
2001 Aqua Obscura
1993 a Garden of Illusion
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2017 "Up Memory Lane"
2016 "Up Memory Lane (Part I)"
2007 Kaleidoscope
1992 Different People
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2006 Infinity & Archê/Krystyna Ziach
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1993 A memory of rain ...


In the fall of 2012 works by Krystyna Ziach have been included in the collection of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam as part of the museum’s plan to broaden the collection with modern art from the XXth and XXIst centuries.

In line with the character of the existing collection, the museum wishes to broaden its scope with art from the XXth and XXIst centuries and in this way to start off a dialogue between old and modern art.

Krystyna Ziach is the first Polish artist of whom works have been included in the modern art collection of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.

After studying at the Art Lyceum of Krakow (1968-1973), Krystyna Ziach continued her education from 1973-1979, also in Krakow, with sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts and simultaneously, history of art focusing on modern art at the Jagiellonian University under prof. M. Porebski.

The sculptures she made for her final project were shown at the Zacheta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw, in the context of the exhibition “The Best Work of Graduates from the Academies of Fine Arts in Poland in 1979”.

After finishing both studies Krystyna Ziach left for the Netherlands in 1979, where she completed her art education in Enschede at the Academy of Fine Arts (AKI) in 1982, specializing in photography, video and graphic art.

As of 1983 she has been living and working in Amsterdam as a visual artist in the fields of autonomous photography and photo and video installation.

The works of Krystyna Ziach included in the Rijksmuseum collection are from two series: Geometry I and Baroque from the series “Metamorphosis” (1983-1985) and Inner Eye I and Inner Eye II from the series “Inner Eye” (2004-2010).

In connection with Ziach’s 1994 exhibition “A Chamber of Mirrors”, Reinhold Misselbeck, curator of photography and new media of the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, wrote:

”/…/ With the series “Metamorphosis” (1983-1985) art critics considered Krystyna Ziach for the first time as an early representative of ‘staged photography’ and ‘photo performance’. /…/ For Krystyna Ziach photography is the medium which helps her to integrate different aspects of her work: the concept, painting, performance, and later on also sculpture and spatial arrangements, together make up a new totality.”

The photos from the series “Inner Eye” (2004-2010), have a conceptual character and are inspired by the work of the Surrealists. In the images the emphasis is on what is concealed, not on what the camera reveals.

“/.../ These images are of all time, by appealing to our personal imagination they inevitably create an interaction between the universal and the individual. /.../ Images seeming to offer themselves in a mediating role between spirit and matter, nature and culture, the conscious and the subconcious, between dream and reality.” (Text fragments from the book “Infinity & Archê/ Krystyna Ziach” 2006, written by Florent Bex, Honorary Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art MuHKA in Antwerp.)

From 1984 onwards Krystyna Ziach has exhibited in Europe, the US and Japan.

With the series “Metamorphosis” she participated in 1986 in “The Second International Portfolio of Artists’ Photography” in the Litget Gallery in Budapest, Hungary; in 1987 she showed this black-and-white series at the ZPAF Gallery in Krakow and at Gallery Graphic Station in Tokyo, Japan. In 1988 she had her solo exhibition “Japan” in Arti et Amicitiae Amsterdam, followed in 1989 by the exhibition “Géographies Humaines” at the Musée de la Photographie in Charleroi, Belgium.

She further showed her work a.o. at the Camden Arts Centre (“Outer Space” 1992) and the Whitechapel Art Gallery (“Worlds in a Box” 1995) in London, at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston Texas (“Tradition and the Unpredictable” 1994) and at the Photography Museum in Sittard, the Netherlands (“A Chamber of Mirrors/ Ten Years of Photoworks by Krystyna Ziach” 1994).

The solo exhibition “Archê” followed in 1996 at the Netherlands Photo Museum in Rotterdam and in the same year she participated in “Container ’96, Art Across Oceans” in Copenhagen, Cultural Capital of Europe in 1996. In 1998 she presented her video installation “Blue Core” at the 18th Netherlands Film Festival in Utrecht. In 2000 she showed the exhibition “Aqua Obscura” at the Natural History Museum Rotterdam and participated with her work in the exhibition “Cos-Play” in Arti et Amicitiae in Amsterdam.

In the period 2002-2007 she took part in the annual exhibition “Grosse Kunstausstellung NRW” at the Museum Kunst Palast in Düsseldorf and in 2004 in the exhibition “Hypegallery” at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.

In 2008 her solo show “Infinity & Inner Eye” was included in “Photoquai-1ère Biennale des Images du Monde” in Paris and in 2009 she participated in the exhibition “Water-Currents” at the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography in Thessaloniki, Greece. In 2010 she showed her work at the Centre of Visual Arts Rotterdam, in 2011 in Arti et Amicitiae Amsterdam and in 2012 at the Foundation of Visual Arts Amsterdam.

Works of Krystyna Ziach are included in the collections of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Museum Kunst Palast Düsseldorf, Museum of Contemporary Art MuHKA Antwerp, Maison Européenne de la Photographie Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France Paris, Musée de la Photographie Charleroi, Ludwig Museum Cologne and Museum of Fine Arts Houston Texas and in several private collections.

Her work has been published in several personal catalogues such as: “Japan”, “Melancholy” and “A Garden of Illusion”; catalogues a.o: “Outer Space” and “Worlds in a Box”, The South Bank Centre, London, “Container ’96, Art Across Oceans”, Copenhagen Cultural Capital of Europe, “Grosse Kunstausstellung NRW”, Düsseldorf, “Photoquai, 1ère Biennale des Images du Monde”, Paris; magazines a.o: “Camera International”, Paris, “Connaissance des Arts”, Paris; newspapers a.o: “The Guardian” and “The Financial Times”, UK, “Westdeutsche Zeitung”, Germany, “De Volkskrant”, “Het Financieele Dagblad” and “Trouw”, the Netherlands; books a.o: “Photography as Visual Communication”, the Netherlands, “L.F. Gruber-A Photographic Homage”, Germany, “Le Portrait Photographique depuis 1960”, Paris.

In 2006 the book “Infinity & Archê /Krystyna Ziach” with texts of Florent Bex and Janneke Wesseling was published at Thieme Art in the Netherlands.

Translation: Hanny Keulers

In AQUA OBSCURA (2000-2001) the flowing, clear, transparent water has been replaced by the stagnant water of a pond, polluted by floating seeds, waiting for a new life and photographic images from the past. It seems a pool of oblivion where images of loved ones are doomed to disappear.They are the waters of death, yet, for a short while a place of memory. Krystyna Ziach offers us images which again and again withdraw from rational explanations. They do not offer unambiguous, not established answers,but ask to be interpreted over and over. They are images of all times, which create an unavoidable interaction between the universal and individual, by appealing to our personal imagination. Images which refer to the inscrutable and inexplicable, to suppressed desires, to man’s eternal search for existential meaning of life in his daily emotional experience of the world. Images which seem to offer themselves as a mediator between spirit and matter, nature and culture, consciousness and subconciousness, between dream and reality. Simultaneously recognisable and surprising they remind us of the ephemeral brevity and inescapable transcience. However,the wonder is unaffected and active in the silent vulnerability, and the melancholically poetic.

"The symbolic imagery of Krystyna Ziach“, by Florent Bex, Honorary Director Museum of Contemporary Art MuHKA, Antwerp, Belgium (from the book "Infinity & Archê/Krystyna Ziach", 2006, Thieme Art, NL) Translation Brigiet Scurr.

AQUA OBSCURA (2000-2001) Water, algae, duckweed, and a divers number of photographic images are central to all the works. Ziach takes photos of a water surface covered with an endless dotted pattern of algae and duckweed. Enlarged to a large format they acquire an outlandish, almost abstract structure. In a number of works from the Aqua Obscura series portraits can be seen in this algae and duckweed covered surface of the water. Because of having been taken out of their own context and placed in strange, other one, these portraits lose their personality and identity. In a number of other works from this series, portrait photos and body shots are pulled into whirlpools that suggest constant movement. Because of this, the documentary character of the faded and curled up photos becomes unclear and a confusing, almost anonymous image comes into being. Furthermore, in these photos the focus is on the fragility of the human body and it’s emotions. The representational point of view is undercut in these works and the image becomes more universal of charakter. Translation Mirjam Hoekman.

A GARDEN OF ILLUSION (1992-1993) by Iris Dik (1993) “Suppose that you could take a mirror and carry it wherever you go. You could create a sun instantly and all that is in the sky; you could make the earth, yourself and all the other living beings instantly, but above all, you could instantly produce all things of an artistic and natural kind”. In this manner, Socrates had formulated it in Plato’s Republic in order to support his assumption that we don’t have to be an artist in order to simulate the world. It seems as if Krystyna Ziach has taken Plato’s thoughtways to heart /..../ read more What is striking in her new photo series “A Garden of Illusion”, is the absence of the expressive and pictorial elements that primarily characterized her photos up until now. Also, one notices in a most salient fashion the absence of the photographer herself as a model and a most important protagonist. Instead of this: ten enlarged detail¬¬s of simple images printed in sepia and blue tints are shown. The photos are set in three dimensional frames of geometric forms. In the photos, next to the photos, or on the floor are placed mirrors of different shapes. While Ziach’s earlier photography referred especially to painting and offered a perspective on an illusionary space within the flat square, now the sculptural conquest of the expositional space itself is at stake. In order to achieve this she has made grateful use of Plato’s panacea: the mirror. She uses it not only as a mimetic, but also as a spatially structuring element. This development in her work comes as no surprise, given the fact, that she was originally educated as a sculptress. All photos are printed in a monochromic fashion, five in blue and five in sepia, by which Ziach wants to indicate a distinction between dream and reality. By this distinction she has perhaps unintentionally unified two traditional significations of the mirror in one work of art .Originally, the mirror was a symbol of the pure truth of the divine, simultaneously used as an emblem of Maria and the angels. Later it became an attribute of one of the seven sins, the Vanitas (vanity).In the hands of the goddess Venus, as portrayed in the paintings of Rubens and Titian, it symbolized desire.” A Garden of Illusion” is an artificial garden in which heaven and earth, the spiritual and sensual, mirror each other infinitely. In his recitation, which was entiteld “The Nightmare”, Jorge Luis Borges gave a narration about two of his most terrible anxiety-dreams, whereby he finds himself respectively in a labyrinth and in a chamber of mirrors. In the first dream he stands in the beginning of an labyrinth. In vain, he tries to catch a glimpse of a Minotaur in the center through the cracks in the wall. But although he will walk endlessly, he will never find the Minotaur’s shelter. In the continuation of this dream of confusion and endlessness the second situation occurs whereby Borges is enclosed in a chamber of infinite mirrors. Also, it is thus a sort of labyrinth, but then one in which he can see everything, but can’t take a step.The writer is confronted there with himself as if he was masked. He fears that when the mask is taken off, his true character will be revealed or a terrible illness will break out. “ A Garden of Illusion" by Krystyna Ziach is less frightening, because the spectator is not imprisoned in it, but free to mirror or to situate themselve in her massive dark brown frames in an innumerable quantity of variations. Whether one allows oneself to be seduced like Narcissus (by his ideal mirror ego) or whether one should search for one’s true essence is not prescribe by the artist. The continuous transforming spaces “behind the mirror” that loomed up during the stroll through the expositions hall, are related to the Trompe l’oeuil effects from the painted decors of the earlier photo series of Krystyna Ziach. Geometric forms, like the triangle, the circle and the square, cut through each other, and there originate ongoing relationships between the distinctive photographic images. The photos which Ziach used for this installation are enlarged details of exposures that she dug up out of her archive. She combined these exposures with photos that she made especially for the current installation and to which her personal memories are attached: the edge of a sidewalk with a puddle of rain in Paris, a crack in the wall, a honeycomb-like structure on a frosted glass door and a group of dilapidated houses in the Jewish section of Krakow. Ziach’s photos are abstracted exposures following the technique of blown up close up that were also fashionable in the 1920’s in the work of photographers such as Paul Strand and Albert Renger-Patsch. With this technique these photographers tried to prove that they could invoke the intrinsic beauty of the most trivial every day objects. Recently, in the exhibition “ Minimal Relics” it was possible to see a number of contemporary variants of such an approach in photography. One could in this exhibition, for instance, enjoy the aesthetic of a snowball or the traces of human presence in abandoned industrial buildings. The photos of Krystyna Ziach possess a similar minimal appearance. However, nothwithstanding the aesthetic final touch, she doesn’t seem to be predominantly concerned with the presentation of the form for its own sake. She tries to conjure up a new meaning within a poetic collage technique, that reminds one of surrealism, given the way she selects and combines her images and gives among other things-through color and form- a symbolic surplus value to it. The surrealistic atmosphere is reinforced by the images she uses such as a curtain, a Margrittian sky with clouds ,and other organic motifs, such as columns of smoke, cell structures and plant forms, in which we can project any of our inner fantasies. Some photos have an unvarnished eroticism, such as the work “Illumination” and the portraits of a woman who is a state of ecstasy. However , compared with the absurdism or irony to which surrealism was bound, Ziach’s approach is more serious. Her photo series can be read as metaphysical journey toward the meaning of existence; the titles of her different photos, such as : “ A Sense of Time”, “ Plato’s Cave”, “Breathing” and “Illumination” testify to it. In a certain sense,“A Garden of Illusion “is also akin to a kind of alchemist work place. Just like the alchemist, Ziach seems to be in search of a connection between the microcosmos and the macrocosmos. In the impressive, entitled “ Plato’s Cave’, the smoke seems to rise up literally from a mirror on the floor, by which simultaneously an association is awakened with the rites of purification.The four elements, fire, earth, air and water, return several times. As was said above, most of the photos refer to natural materials and forms. Analogous to the manner in which these natural laws, so too has Ziach sorted and framed them out separately. Instead of using procedures such as heating and cooling, Ziach seemed to employ the mirror as an instrument to transform and mix the images (in search of the stone of wisdom?) to an amalgam that exceeds the autobiographical. On one of the mirror one can perceive a fine grain dust. Did Ziach succeed in penetrating through to the essence? Did she find the Prima Materia ? Or is the stroll through her “ Garden of Illusion “ merely a dream, as witnessed by the blue haze that hangs over the powder. Translation: Elliott Eisenberg.