Nachtruhe is about the duty of being quiet. It is about the night, about sleeping and dreaming. The exhibition consists of three parts. The first sculpture to guide us on this nocturnal walk is a stellar constellation, made of steel and soap, hanging down from the ceiling. The windows of the gallery are covered to keep the light out; a low murmuring of running water is heard in the background. On the floor lie four sheets of black plastic. Each one has the dimensions of a specific room in the house where Mirosław Bałka works and that used to be his childhood home. From underneath the plastic comes the sound of running water, indicating that something hidden is going on. Accompanying these "floors" are photographs of the actual lamps in the room. The photographs where taken lying down on the floor so an absolute relation between floor and ceiling, ground and shelter, is created. The works indicate a situation, perhaps lying down in bed fighting off insomnia or sleepiness. Or perhaps, remembering being still a small child and lying in bed fantasising about the realm of the night. Ø 79 x 15, consists of a Ø 79 cm steel tray filled with ashes. In the midst sits a sculpture of a small black man holding an ashtray. This ashtray dates from the artist's childhood when it served as a toy since no one in the family smoked. The circle formed by the larger tray represents the space that the artist's own body would occupy. A few strands of hair from the artist, added on the small figure's head, turns it into a self-portrait, or to yet again speak with the artist 'me being dark in space.' The last part of this nightly journey is The Fall, a video projection of sand falling endlessly down covering the bottom of the image. Underneath the projection, a shelf seems to be gathering up the sand. In fact, we are looking at a blow-up of a tiny landscape from a seashore souvenir, perhaps a token to remember a childhood journey to the sea. The world is seen is this tiny landscape. Mirosław Bałka's work always deals with memory, with one's personal history and with one's inevitable links back. A reference that comes to mind is of course the end of Orson Wells', Citizen Kane, where the tycoon clutches a similar souvenir, unable to shake off his childhood memories, and utters his last word: 'Rosebud,' the name of his sledge.
Over the years Bałka has moved from a realist representation of the human body to a more minimalist conception of his art. His sculptures today are often metaphorical and narrative - in such a way that he can create an active relation between artist and beholder, as well as between the private and the public. Another basic formal principle in his works is the intricate relation between the human body (or the body of the artist) and its closest, almost enveloping, environment. Bałka's works take its point of departure in the horizontal and vertical dimensions of the human body; the vectors that delineate the presence of the body in a room. To this the artist attaches a more delicate investigation into the absent traces a body leaves in a room, almost as a residuum. In this context the frequent use of substances such as salt, ashes and soap become important elements. Ashes as the residual element left by a fire consuming organic materials, salt as the essence of sweat - an epitome of human endeavours - and soap as a principle of purity and recycling.
The main body of the works seen here at Galerie Nordenhake have previously been exhibited in the exhibition "eclipse" at the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo (October 27, 2001-January 13, 2002)
Mirosław Bałka was born 1958 in Warsaw, Poland, where he also lives and works. His first solo show at Galerie Nordenhake in Stockholm took place in 1990. In 1992 he participated at the Documenta IX. Selected Solo Exhibitions: SMAK, Ghent; National Museum of Art, Osaka; Museet for Samtidskunst, Oslo; IVAM, Centre Del Carme, Valencia; Kunsthalle Bielefeld; Centre d'art contemporain, Thiers; Tate Gallery, London; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld; and Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago. Solo Exhibitions scheduled for 2002: Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb, Croatia; Dundee Contemporary Art, Dundee, Scotland; The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, Ireland. english