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The fish depicted in the drawing is fugu (Latin Takifugu rubripes — a pufferfish), famous for the poison which can be found in its entrails (in particular, in its liver and ovaries), and spawn. The poison is tetrodotoxin, whose toxicity is many times stronger than the toxicity of cyanide. Because of the risk one takes while eating dishes made of fugu, this fish has a crowd of enthusiasts — those who gladly order fugu dishes prepared by qualified chefs, and artists who think about this fish as a motif in films and literature, an instrument of crime or suicide...

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Since the beginning of his artistic career, Andrzej Wajda has created sketches, with which he has recorded his observations, impressions and ideas. In this way, he has created a sketchbook of images for dramas and films, portraits of friends and strangers, as well as drawings from his travels to Japan that are part of the Manggha Museum collection. Among them, is Fugu — a statue of a poisonous fish from Tokyo.
The fish depicted in the drawing is fugu (Latin Takifugu rubripes — a pufferfish), famous for the poison which can be found in its entrails (in particular, in its liver and ovaries), and spawn. The poison is tetrodotoxin, whose toxicity is many times stronger than the toxicity of cyanide. Because of the risk one takes while eating dishes made of fugu, this fish has a crowd of enthusiasts — those who gladly order fugu dishes prepared by qualified chefs, and artists who think about this fish as a motif in films and literature, an instrument of crime or suicide... The most famous Japanese poetic piece connected with the fugu fish is the haiku written by Buson Yosa (1716–1783), who was a painter and poet, and who described his disappointment in love with the following words:

I cannot see her tonight
I have to give her up
So I will eat fugu.

In the drawing by Andrzej Wajda, the fish is depicted in a very concise way — its dark figure with slightly visible shapes of fins is carried by clear rough waves. The whole ensemble is placed on a plain pedestal. As the drawing is a mere sketch, it suggests that the picture constitutes only a hurried record of the view and its purpose is to bring to mind the memory of the sculpture. The same custom was typical of artists who used to travel in previous centuries. Such artists have been depicted in literature, e.g. as the Count — one of characters in Pan Tadeusz. At present, the fish statue will probably be found in many photographs taken by tourists.
Next to the drawing, Andrzej Wajda has placed two notes. One of them, placed at the right edge of the card, is a thought, which might have arisen after a few days of being in Japan:

Everything in pairs, just like Noah's ark.
But here it may be seen in a different way — like a homeland treasure
found on a desert island. More intensely.

The second note, written upside-down at the bottom edge of the page, evokes an association with a film which was to be made in 1992 — Pierścionek z orłem w koronie [A Ring with an Eagle Wearing a Crown]:

A Roman fantasy, Hubert Robert 1733–1808.
It would be good to think about a picture of a reverie
over the ruins of Warsaw”.

This drawing of a rather small size gives us an insight into the process of creation of the artist by trying to capture elusive moments, and even more elusive thoughts. Non-linear way of thinking is visible in the clash of the Fugu fish with a reminiscence of a ruined city. All of us could try to think about the train of thought joining those two images, and the result would probably be different from the one that came from Andrzej Wajda's mind.

Elaborated by Aleksandra Görlich (The Manggha Centre of Japanese Art and Technology), editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums, © all rights reserved

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“Fugu” — a drawing by Andrzej Wajda

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