Plebeian Art (401-450/594)

Plebeian Art, created since ca. 1970, is a typological document, which I would situate within the field of sociological photography. It is a realist, yet somewhat sentimental record of aesthetic expressions of life style transformations in the modernising and urbanising Polish society. Hasior focused on universal, supra-local trends in folk culture, often adopted superficially, missing the core of the original tendencies, which corresponds to the contemporary “cargo effect.”

In a sense, the document is Hasior’s self-constructed lineage, an identity project, a unique attempt in his artistic career to scrutinise the characteristic phenomenon of the Polish People’s Republic, which also benefited the artist, namely, the phenomenon of social advancement. 

Władysław Hasior:

"Plebeian art is indeed a phenomenon deserving notice and respect. Its exhibits are created from heart’s desire. Its existence resembles wild flowers in natural environment. It is made without professional fluency, but in great, spontaneous joy.

Plebeian art once bore the name of parochial art. The term localised the phenomenon with great precision, suggesting that it is provincial, peripheral. Its centre lies in small towns. The private joy of creating beautiful things defines the nature of this art. Owing to historical processes of urbanisation and civilisation, the self-evident fact of the mass media reaching the countryside and small towns with the same speed as the urban centres, the populace (once coarse and flax-clad…) is nowadays stricken with internationalist form of mass culture. Regrettably, in consequence folk art in its one, true form is being irretrievably lost, culture is increasingly losing local and regional features, and the process is irreversible. However, no void emerges.

Plebeian art enters every corner of human art. It is religious and lay, it expresses social instincts, and arouses emotion. First and foremost, it defines the small-town landscape, but it is manifested both in the house interiors and in more public creations: garden sculptures, graveyard tombs, and the unique design of funfairs.

Folk art intentions and capacities are illustrated by root-sculpture. What we are facing here is the basest form of art, art that lies near the ground, the art of imagination, where creative invention is triggered by association. The primary capacity to notice sparks of expression is sympathetic; it is a kind of play where exhibits are made at ease, without the paralysing seriousness and responsibility for the artwork. Hence their unforced freshness.

The heart’s nobility determines formal expression, themes, materials used, composition, and sizes. The grandeur of intention most often misses the skills, hence pathos trapped in substitute materials.

One of the most poignant features of plebeian art is the stubborn attempt at creating beauty from ordinary and ugly things. This type of art often employs worn-out objects, withdrawn from normal use. Besides aesthetic value of the objects, one should notice their severe feature of exceptional temporariness. The more visibly poor an object is physically and materially, the more splendid, daring its aesthetic cover, masking its actual poverty. A rarely practiced intention is realised within the realm of plebeian art: to connect beauty and sweetness. This way, all the more poignant as unconscious dream of power comes true. Dreams and yearnings for a better life and world."

(Władysław Hasior's comments for „New Village”, illustrated weekly for the village youth, 1983-86)

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