Artes': mythologising reality in interwar Lwów (1929-1935)
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date22/02/2023
This thesis is the first extensive, English-language account of ‘artes’, a group of artists, architects, and graphic designers living and working in the borderland city of Lwów, Poland between the First and Second World Wars. Grounded in a close visual analysis of their artworks and interpreted alongside local, indigenous sources, this thesis describes these artists’ praxis according to writer and close friend of the group Bruno Schulz’ notion of the ‘mythologising of reality’. Closely tied to but not exactly congruent with language, Schulz describes the mythologising of reality as an active meaning making and re-making process that seems to have been a critical tool adopted by ‘artes’ in their efforts to resist the homogenising and hierarchical structures of state and society. This process appears in different artists’ work in different ways, so the thesis is organized to reveal these shared interests before refocusing to investigate in detail the work of a single artist. Instead of offering a prescriptively interpretative account of ‘artes’ and their oeuvre, a misstep at this early stage of the historical project, each chapter of the thesis is arranged thematically, with the depth and breadth of artists and artworks under discussion varying appropriately according to theme. The first chapter, ‘Mapping Contexts,’ addresses the circumstances under which ‘artes’ was formed, including the impact of the time spent abroad and the relationship between politics in interwar Poland and modern art. Chapter two, ‘Life and Art in the City of Lions’ traces Lwów’s unique character and position in Polish and Ukrainian history. Chapter three explores how the metaphorical and dialectical relationship between science/magic and machine/organism are manifested in the works of Henryk Streng/Marek Włodarski, Aleksander Krzywobłocki, and Jerzy Janisch, while the relationship between a machine and the human body is further represented in the figure of the mannequin that is explored in chapter four. The final chapter of the thesis focuses on the work of a single ‘artes’ artist, Margit Sielska, to further highlight the diversity of the group’s artistic practices and emphasize the contribution of the only woman artist in the group. For ‘artes’ the process of mythologising of reality functioned as an antidote to on-going crises of nationalism, fascism, and the economic depression across Poland and the wider world.