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- Author Maurycy Gomulicki
- Date of production 2013
- Dimensions height: 93 cm, length: 168 cm, width: 327 cm
- Author's designation none
- ID no. BS/1025
- Availability in stock
- Acquired date 2013
- Object copyright Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art
- Digital images copyright CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Attribution – NonCommercial – NoDerivatives 4.0
- Digitalisation RDW MIC, Virtual Małopolska project
In traditional culture, serpents represent a threatening and powerful symbol of the primal cosmic forces; they are representatives of chaos and death. They were often also the object of worship: for ancient Egyptians they symbolized the power of wielding life and death, decorating the crown of the pharaohs; the Greeks considered them to be the embodiment of the chthonic gods, and because of their annual skin moulting, they added them as an attribute to Asclepios, as a symbol of life, health, and rebirth. The Romans bred snakes in their homes, seeing them as the guardians of their home and family; The Aztecs made a feathered serpent — Quetzalcoatl — a co-creator of the world, the god of wind and earth. The primal cult of serpents also flourished in regions closer to us: for example, in the Krakowiak tribe from the right bank of the Wisła. The Judeo-Christian culture judged serpents rather negatively: in the story of Adam and Eve, they became cursed creatures; the Old Testament God sent them as a punishment to the Israelites, and then, through Moses, sent a serpent to their rescue, but one made of copper.more
In traditional culture, serpents represent a threatening and powerful symbol of the primal cosmic forces; they are representatives of chaos and death. They were often also the object of worship: for ancient Egyptians they symbolized the power of wielding life and death, decorating the crown of the pharaohs; the Greeks considered them to be the embodiment of the chthonic gods, and because of their annual skin moulting, they added them as an attribute to Asclepios, as a symbol of life, health, and rebirth. The Romans bred snakes in their homes, seeing them as the guardians of their home and family; The Aztecs made a feathered serpent — Quetzalcoatl — a co-creator of the world, the god of wind and earth. The primal cult of serpents also flourished in regions closer to us: for example, in the Krakowiak tribe from the right bank of the Wisła. The Judeo-Christian culture judged serpents rather negatively: in the story of Adam and Eve, they became cursed creatures; the Old Testament God sent them as a punishment to the Israelites, and then, through Moses, sent a serpent to their rescue, but one made of copper. In that serpent, Christians saw the embodiment of evil power — Satan — and identified his followers with it. They also considered it a symbol of sin, corruption, deception, and slander: this is illustrated by the seventh circle of hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy, written for thieves bitten by monstrous snakes and villains turned into reptiles.
The Beast by Maurycy Gomulicki, has become a contemporary interpretation of these ambiguous connotations. However, the form and colour scheme of the object is definitely different from the form of the snakes recorded in the history of art. It is far from the dynamic serpent tangles of the famous ancient Laocoon Group or their pictorial interpretation in El Greco’s painting, Laocoon (1610–1614); neither does it resemble the dramatically writhing, terrifying snakes growing out of Medusa’s head on the canvas of Caravaggio from the Uffizi Gallery, Medusa’s Head (1596), or a gigantic body killing a man on one of the landscapes by Nicolas Poussin, Landscape with a Man killed by a Snake (1648). Gomulicki’s snake also differs from the decorative serpentine shapes gracefully entwining around the tree, under which the figures of Adam and Eve were placed in Romanesque and Gothic portals or tympanums. Nor does it have much in common with the supple silhouettes from the paintings of Lucas Cranach the Elder (inter alia: Adam and Eve, circa 1510, the National Museum in Warsaw; Adam and Eve, 1531, Gemäldegalerie in Dresden, Adam and Eve, 1533, Staatlichen Museum in Berlin).
The fluorescently yellow Beast definitely stands out against the background of the serpents’ imaginarium, captured by the artistic tradition. It makes us think of exotic, tropical climates. Its rounded shapes suggest primeval, phallic contexts, referring to the fertility rituals associated with the earth. Gomulicki’s serpent is sinful and sensual, and, at the same time, devoid of the horror traditionally attributed to it. However, it is not deprived of a certain bite: its bright colour scheme and unpretentious situation at ground level attacks the conservative Kraków and its noble city space, favouring monumental sculptures. It slides in between compositions on pedestals commemorating Grottger, Matejko, Jadwiga and Jagiełło, and Lilla Weneda in the Kraków Planty, placed somewhat casually asking a question about the purpose and form of contemporary monuments.
Elaborated by Anna Lebensztejn (Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art),
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.
Kraków is one of the oldest and undoubtedly most attractive cities in Poland for tourists. However, it sinks in sepia, ad infinitum, celebrating its past, and, at times, falls into the trap of being old-fashioned. At times, even I do not know from where it is further to Brazil: from the greys of Warsaw or from the bronzes of Kraków? It just so happens that both our cities have their historical “mascots” — a kind of bestiary: Warsaw enjoys its own, politely busty, once two-tailed mermaid, and Kraków a dragon. However, the Wawel mascaron seems relatively under-exploited in terms of its sensory potential. We have a jagged metal creature which entertains passers-by, scaring them with a safe gas flame, bursting out of its entrails with clock-like regularity: we have one or another conventional souvenir and charming books by Pagaczewski. But where are the rainbow scales glistening in the sun, where is the supple body of the reptile? I am asking you this as a man thirsty for ostentatious manifestations of beauty. Maybe only Wawrzeniecki (Matejko’s pupil) took up the challenge by painting the para-erotic “sacrifices for the dragon” [ofiary smokowi], but this is history as well, and, in addition, it has faded a great deal. With such a context, I allowed myself a small tropical contraband. Because I have a weakness for synthetic forms, I decided to make a serpent. The symbolic, sexual context was not irrelevant here. For years, I have been fascinated with the minimalist Polish small-size sculpture from the turn of the 1950s and 1960s. As we all know, the most important porcelain factories are in Silesia and in the Świętokrzyskie region: Ćmielów, Chodzież and Wawel are names known to all collectors. Last year, I had the satisfaction of fulfilling my next dream and producing a series of porcelain adders referring to the IWP tradition. I made miniatures, but the time to scale them up has come; I hope that my beast, writhing in Planty and glowing with the lemon pigment, will wake sinful thoughts. Especially that the next winter of the century is already behind us.
Maurycy Gomulicki, Mexico City, 11.04.2013
Maurycy Gomulicki (born 1969) is a graphic designer and photographer; the author of objects, installations, and short film forms; a collector and an anthropologist of popular culture. He is a graduate of the Graphic Department at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw (1992), he also studied at the Universitat de Barcelona (1992–1993), at the Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti in Milan (1994), and at Centro Multimedia del Centro Nacional de las Artes in Mexico (1997–1998). He is the author of individual exhibitions, inter alia, Pink Not Dead! (Garash Galeria, Mexico City / Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, 2006), Bibliofilia [Bibliophilia] (MOCAK, Kraków, 2011), Kwiat paproci [Fern flower] (Arsenał, Białystok, 2011), Sanktuarium [Sanctuary] (Królikarnia, Warsaw, 2011), Spectrum (Cité Administrative, Brussels, 2011) and Diamonds Are Forever (Arsenał, Poznań / National Library, Warsaw, 2011), Nightflight is Venus (LETO Gallery, Warsaw, 2017). He has also taken part in many group exhibitions, including: Nowe terytorium ekspresji [New territory of expression] (Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, 1997), ABC DF—Palabras de la ciudad (Bellas Artes, Mexico City, 2002), Uroki władzy [Charms of power] ( (BWA Arsenał, Poznań, 2009), Oh No! Not Sex and Death Again. Ikonografia cielesności [Oh No! Not Sex and Death Again. Iconography of corporeality] (The State Gallery of Art, Sopot, 2010), Trzy róże [Three roses] (Lublin Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts, Lublin, 2011), Zbiory wspólne [Common collections] (Arsenał Gallery, Białystok, 2014). He has created a number of objects in public space, inter alia: Światłotrysk [Lightspurt] (Warsaw, 2009), Color Cube (Wrocław, 2010), Obelisk (Poznań 2010), Widmo [Spectrum] (Brussels, 2011), Fantom [Phantom] (Lublin, 2011), Totem (Open’er, Gdynia, 2012), Melancholia [Melancholy] (Tarnów, 2013), Muchomory [Toadstools] (Kraków 2014), El-Iksir (Elbląg, 2014), Ślizg [Skid] (Warsaw, 2015), Fryga (Szczecin, 2015), Living Sugar (Poznań, 2016) and Kalina [Guelder-rose] (Warsaw, 2016). He lives and works in Warsaw and also in the capital of Mexico.