Opposite nr 1

Mniejszości narodowe i etniczne w sztuce polskiej po 1945 roku. "Dla ciebie chcę być biała"

Marcin Lachowski / Jonasz Stern - between otherness and identity

The paper is dedicated to Jonasz Stern's - Holocaust witness' and survivor's - after-war creations. Artist's creative activity, as heritage of inter-war avant-garde, after the war was significantly changed.

I scrutinise and analyse Stern's graphics, made at the at the tail-end of the 40's, which show influences and inspirations from different artistic sources: geometric abstraction, surrealism, cubism. I recognise them as a way of reception of modern conventions, and, at the same time, for their transgression, through using quasi-collage composition of images. Stern's monotypes suggest a process of problematizing survivor's identity through reception of known artistic formulas. His graphics present different kind of figures, which are showed in a very shallow way and are depicted very schematically. Sometimes they are very deformed and placed on the background of sea landscapes. I also observe an often repeated motif of the eyes located among fragmentary represented bodies. The eyes may be perceived as a tool of recognition and reconfiguration of reality after Holocaust.

In this series of graphics Stern departs from a realistic depiction of the ghetto, which characterized his graphics in 1945. At the tail-end of the 40's his artistic creativity was defined as a surrealistic mood and post-cubistic simplicity. But I think that such a significant replacement of artistic poetics was one of the tools of defining his personal identity - as a survivor, which at the same time paid tribute to modernistic tradition. This series may be perceived as a process of shaping traumatic memory by contemporary artistic conventions. The use of conventions through quasi-collage structure of monotypes expresses artistic aspiration and, on the other hand, indicates the difficulties connected with modern language, which blocked a direct approach to a painful past.

Stern's after-war creations, representing different trends of modern art in Poland, may be perceived as an attempt to define the Others after Holocaust. If one way of thinking about victims puts them in a universalistic perspective of total Nazis crimes, the art of this artist was an attempt to see ethnic differentiations in the holistic model.