16.06.2023 - 31.07.2023

Ugly, mediocre, suggestive or sexy: architecture is a metaphor because it operates with abstract means, which some people fill with their own content, while others see as a sum of contexts and a collage of unconscious associations . The cited quote seems to well reflect Michal Sroka's thinking about this particular discipline, as he treats architecture as a metaphor. For he is interested in its "afterimages" rather than iconic realizations, and if he already refers in his creative practice to the "classics" of modern construction, the ideological aspect, the representation of the meanings they carry, is more important to him than their design process. Thus, he freely juxtaposes photographs depicting events that only seemingly have nothing to do with each other: the demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe housing estate in Saint Louis, USA, called the symbolic end of modernist architecture, and the body of the Tarnów train station, damaged as a result of a terrorist attack on the eve of the outbreak of World War II. Both photographs emphatically show a farewell to hopes and illusions, in the case of the American housing estate: the naive faith of the pioneers of modernity in the social efficacy of architecture (overcoming racial and property divisions among the population living in Pruitt-Igoe), while in Tarnow the realization of the reality of the coming war catastrophe, which is also the end of an era. The neo-baroque-modernist architecture of the Tarnów train station, with its eclectic decor at the same time, corresponds perfectly with Michal Sroka's working method. This is because the artist works in the spirit of the "palimpsest," patiently uncovering successive "layers" of art history in his works, but subjecting them to critical revision. No wonder he is so keen on the collage technique, working, for example, with photographs of industrial architecture by Bernd and Hilla Becher, stressing that he is primarily interested in analyzing the typology of these buildings, with a particular focus on their metabolic nature: the successive layers superimposed on the works create a kind of utopian urbanism, with freely winding streets, fractally growing layouts.

Architectural references are also revealed in the series of paintings "Constructions", especially their color scheme (a range of grays and blacks), matter (imitating unplastered walls), interpenetrating lines, infinitely multiplying their repetitions, recall the climate of Brutalist realizations. Michal Sroka is also preoccupied with the issue of mock-ups, widely discussed in the architectural world, which, to the regret of some circles, have generated their own truth , gaining the status of autonomous works of art. As the artist aptly notes, mock-ups often play with representation and objectivity, and thus resemble certain programs of modernist painting and sculpture (the biggest boom for mock-ups was precisely the 1950s). Michał Sroka's artistic peregrinations thus serve to uncover and explore further "constructopias" awaiting their definition, manifested at the intersection of many disciplines: design, painting, sculpture and architecture, much like his own creative practice.

Agnieszka Jankowska-Marzec

Agnieszka Jankowska - Marzec