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Mala Gallery
8, Zamkowy Sq., Warsaw (Old Town)
May 6-31, 2003



Janusz Lesniak: „Mystery”


Janusz Lesniak: „Mystery”
Mala Gallery, Warsaw, May 2003


PHOTOGRAPHS of Janusz Lesniak come into being where the two most popular categories of photography merge: self-portrait and landscape photography. The main subject of these pictures is nature. And this nature dominates here in fragments of gardens adjacent to homes, of parks and undefined brushwoods. Fragments of buildings, walls of houses, ivy-clad windows, a door to veranda are rarely seen here. These pictures are apparently bucolic, taken in full sunlight, with clearly marked perspective. But in these carefully chosen frames there is also some anxiety present which does not allow us to feast upon beauty of nature. This anxiety, some discordance, is introduced by the fact that here and there emerges silhouette of the artist himself in the shape of his shadow. On some photographs it appears in more visible, dominating way but in case of some others it is necessary to strain one's eyes to find it - like it was a kind of a puzzle. Sometimes an outline of the shadow is easily recognizable, sometimes it merges with background being only a supplementary accent of the picture. There are photographs on which figure of the photographer releasing the shutter is clearly seen but there are also other pictures where only penetrating and watchful eye can find an outline of the photographer's silhouette or only its fragment.

Thus Janusz Lesniak proposes participation in a kind of a game. He wants us to join him in contemplating the landscape, he introduces us to this world, he is apparently saying: look, after all I am here, am not I? So it may be assumed that his photographs distinctly and once again emphasize immanent features of the photographic medium - passing of time, play between light and shadow - either registered in the direct form on the pictures or in this metaphysical form accompanying our whole lives. It is also an attempt to reflect upon invariability of duration, upon this what sometimes cannot be expressed with words and "existence of what can only be assumed". Photography, sometimes very transparent, can draw us significantly closer to this reflection.

Marek Grygiel


Janusz Lesniak: „Mystery”
Mala Gallery, Warsaw, May 2003



Janusz Lesniak
Has been photographing since he was 14 years old. He was to work as movie cameraman, he is a freelance photographer. The first "lesniak-style" photograph - Warnemunde 1964. His works are in many collections, including the Museum of Modern Art. In New York.

Polaroids from Gwozdziec

These photographs were taken in Gwozdziec, not further than a half hour walk from Dunajec River that is quite wide in this place and from ruins of the Melsztyn castle. I took them in summertime in a big garden with a white woodden house in the middle and walnut trees, two century old thujas, an apple orchard, dozen or so lime trees several score years old and similiar number of hornbeams around.

We saw this garden for the first time on a day in June, when thousands of bees hummed amidst blossom of high trees. Going up southern mountain-side and breathing in intensive fragrances of summer we knew already that this is our place. If you were born in a town and spent your whole life there adjusting every day your own rhythm to that of town then finding yourself for a longer time in such a place is a real shock.

Suddenly we realised that there really are four seasons, that there is air everywhere around, not a single star is missing above and the loudest sounds are these of thunder-storm or a siren on the top of nearby fire-station.

Slowly some things and matters existence of which we could only assume began to reveal their faces. Sometimes only a short moment were needed for that though it used to happen very rarely. Many of these things and matters still remained an uncovered mystery.

Morning sun and intensity of omnipresent vegetation brought about indefinite tension which heightened even more when I took my camera. When coming back home after three or four hours of photographing I was completly wet with dew water nevertheless I did not feel that. Afternoon sun tempered emotions of the day. Tranquility I felt then meant discovering that here the next day comes to completion and I am a part of it. Just like my camera and the pictures being taken then. When the darkness was coming and no picture could be made I kept on walking for some time, waiting for something unknown up to the moment I was sure that I am not alone...

Late in spring I received films to make "Lesniak-style" photographs for the Polaroid collection. I did not expect then that in a moment, possibly for the last time, I would be taking part in a mystery. The material I was holding in my hand produces not only an unique positive print but also a negative. Thus after each exposure I had to process negative and print, separate them, to secure surface of the positive and to fix and wash the negative film. All that had to be done under the open sky and in constantly changing lighting conditions. Putting my head under sheet of black fabric - a groundglass cover of my Linhof and going to nad fro between the camera and a laboratory that happened to be a portable table with trays containing chemical baths, a stop watch and some other things I suddenly experienced feeling I never known before. It was like going back to the past era of photography with photographers taking with them not only big, cumbersome view cameras and woodden tripods but also makeshift photographic laboratories. After coming to their destination they were pitching light-tight tents to start taking pictures right after covering glass plates with wet emulsion.

Some days ago I found at the bottom of a refrigerator in which I store unexposed films a few dark blue, flat boxes with lettering on them: 665 Professional Positive/Negative Instant Pack Film...

Janusz Lesniak, April 2003


Janusz Lesniak: „Mystery”
Mala Gallery, Warsaw, May 2003



Mala Gallery, May 6th, 2003. Guests to opening of Janusz Lesniak's exhibition. Photo by Krzysztof Wojciechowski.




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21 - 05 - 2003