This autumn a Polish artist Zofia Kulik was invited to display one of her oldest projects, Instead of Sculpture (1968-71), in her first solo UK show at Glasgow Sculpture Studios. And rather unconventionally, the exhibition does not involve three-dimensional sculpture in its traditional understanding.
Kulik is one of the key artists in the development of the contemporary art scene in Poland. Since an early age, Zofia participated in multiple sculpture workshops and lectures in cultural institutions of Warsaw, which affected her decision to undertake studies in the prestigious Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. It was there she received a traditional training in sculpture. However, at the same time she was exposed to the humanistic teachings of her professors and creative colleagues, what made her expand her horizons in search for new possibilities in sculpture.
Instead of Sculpture is Kulik’s diploma work featuring around 500 elements. During university years, she was inseparable from her camera and documented her work on photographs, which make up for the installation. Visitors to Glasgow Sculpture Studios are invited to experience Instead of Sculpture in an alternative form to the original slideshow. The room is empty except for an immense rectangle with laid out photographs arranged into five mini-stories, each focusing on a different aspect of Kulik’s creative process.
As the exhibition’s title suggests, the artist turned away from the traditional three-dimensional approach to sculpture in order to find an alternative. In her case, it was photography that helped her conceptualize artistic theories elaborated in her thesis. She wrote: “What is film? Space in time. What is sculpture? Space in time. What’s the difference? Film is sculpture but in a linear form.” For Kulik, this form is nothing more than a sequence of profiles of a solid. She also refers to her “sequences” as an ‘open form’ because of their continuity. Moses is a work dedicated to Kulik’s exercises with a copy of Michelangelo’s sculpture – she photographed stages of making a rug copy of the statue. This particular copy was also used in later activities of the KwieKulik duo (her husband’s and hers) along with their son Dobromierz. When she wasn’t focused on life models and sculpture, Kulik worked en plein air, examining the relationship between sculpture and urban surroundings.
The exhibition at the Glasgow Sculpture Studios is definitely a great sensory experience and was warmly welcomed by the audience during the preview. The only time when Instead of Sculpture was exhibited was in 2014 at Zak Branicka Gallery in Berlin, however selected fragments alone were presented to the public. Finally, after 45 years, all the sequences see the light of day in unison. They are a must-see for anyone who is in search for roots of contemporary currents in sculpture.
Instead of Sculpture, Zofia Kulik, 1 October – 3 December,
Glasgow Sculpture Studios, 2 Dawson Rd, Glasgow G4 9SS.