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  • Magdalena Herman

Karol Hiller. Heliographics 1931-1939. AG Polska visits the Olszewski Gallery

On 25th January 2019 Ars Graphica Polska visited the exhibition Karol Hiller. Heliographics 1931-1939 organized by the Olszewski Gallery. We were warmly welcomed by Weronika Kobylińska-Bunsch who authored the exhibition’s catalogue (to be downloaded here) and Małgorzata Ciacek who co-organised the display. The sixteen heliographics that were put on the exhibition come from private collections, therefore it is an unique opportunity to see them all in one place. The exhibition ends on 28th Feb 2019, so if you are reading this in the early 2019 – hurry up!

Heliographic composition XLIII, 1939

Weronika Kobylińska-Bunsch provided an insightful introduction to Hiller’s theory of art and his innovative, artistic strategy which he named “heliografika”. Karol Hiller was strongly inspired by László Moholy-Nagy, but the Polish artist strove to subjugate the element of fortuity, accepted in the Bauhaus circle. Hiller’s endeavours resulted in the creation of a new technique in the 1930s. This unique process is often also compared with May Ray’s photograms. It should be underlined, however, that while the famous dadaist praised the fortuitousness, Hiller thrived the process which enabled him to control thoroughly the final effect.

However, this exhibition goes far beyond exploring the novelty and artistic effects obtained by Hiller’s single-handedly invented technique. Various works show us a wide range of Hiller’s interests. He was not only an innovative, avant-garde artist who successfully mixed photography, graphics art, drawing and painting, but he was a vigilant observer as well. Hiller was disappointed with the fall of modernisation process, strongly visible in industrial Łódź. Many of his works also reveal existential anxiety of the 1930s.

Heliographic Composition, ca. 1936

Deformation and whirling of the fluctuating matter or the opposite – crystal and well-proportioned shapes that are put together strain the compositions to their limits. The geometric and abstract forms convey the abundance of metaphorical meanings that often allude to motives of human beings, music, machines, industry, city, and above all catastrophic visions. Hiller avoided simple literality and left his works open for interpretation.

Unfortunately, Hiller’s career was violently ceased by the outbreak of the Second World War. He was executed in December 1939. This makes the exhibition of his late works, which in some way anticipated the cataclysm of war, even more compelling.

Heliograph XXV, 1938

Ars Graphica Polska is grateful for inviting us and presenting such thought-provoking works by Karol Hiller.

Edited by: Weronika Kobylińska-Bunsch

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