Wilhelm Sasnal

Poland 1972

Photography, Video Art, Painting

Wilhelm Sasnal
Wilhelm Sasnal
October 2, 2013
Nina Karaicic is a journalist with experience in TV and radio media. Born in 1989, she had studied at the University of Belgrade – Faculty of Political Sciences (Journalism). Interests: Photography, Art, Film, Folklore, Video Games

The variations on media and topics in the work of Wilhelm Sasnal seems to be in service of the constant research of personal and collective experience in regards to history. His multimedia artistic practice is grounded in absorbing inspiration from 20th-century propaganda, photojournalism, and art history. By constructing his own authentic and slightly bizarre imagery suffocated with strong social and political references, Sasnal develops well thought and dense narratives which are delicate and rather critically charged.

Polish artist showed his works in hauser wirth and anton kern gallery and contemporary museum in Warsaw
Wilhelm Sasnal – Untitled (from the film The Manhunter), 2010 – image via artmuseum.pl

Trained to Become An Artist

Wilhelm Sasnal is born in 1972 in Tarnow, Poland. He studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków until 1999, but before that studied architecture for two years at the Polytechnic In Krakow. During the studies, Sasnal became involved with the art collective called the Ładnie Group. The title meant pretty or nice and the group embraced exactly the opposite, rather unconventional, aesthetics and was active until 2000. After that, Sasnal worked for advertising companies but simultaneously made paintings, photographs, films. Over the time as his career grow the artist’s work became part of public collections of such institutions as Tate Modern in London and Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw.

Specific approach to coloring and forms

In London New York as well as in Germany Wilhelm was in contact with perfect gallery
Wilhelm Sasnal – Kacper and Anka, 2009 – image via culture.pl

Further Artistic Development Of Wilhelm Sasnal

After the departure from Ładnie Group, Sasnal began to expand his stylistic and formal means of expression and moved closer to the phrase engaged artist. For his upcoming and important group exhibition, the artist published a comic book entitled Życie codzienne w Polsce (Everyday Life in Poland). The whole narrative rotates around his personal life and was based on agenda of depicting difficult life conditions in post communist society. By extending his field of experimentation and devoted fully to empowering his personal art agenda.

Deskilled aesthetic became the artist’s signature

The artist had exhibition in polish museum and new york anton kern gallery in 2001 and 2011
Wilhelm Sasnal – Palm Bay, 2013 – image via frieze.com

Working With Different Media

Sasnal’s heterogenous approach to media provides him with a possibility to express his sensations each time differently. Pencil drawings, ink drawings, photographs, videos and paintings vary, yet all of his works, more or less, are usually rotating around the bodies, empty spaces or vast landscapes. Nevertheless, the artist is perhaps mostly dedicated to painting. From banal everyday objects, portraits of historical figures, views of his home town Cracow, snapshots of friends and family members or images from the internet or mass media, Wilhelm Sasnal is incorporating and wisely constructs the composition. In general, the approach of his is unpredictable and methods he uses are ranging from graphic reduction and a pointedly two-dimensional, illustration-oriented style to expressive gestures with brush and paint.

The influence of popular culture is apparent in his work

His film untitled is associated with his everyday life in Poland and was shown in London gallery
Wilhelm Sasnal – Untitled (Maus 2), 2001 – image via archiwalna.zacheta

Inspiration of Wilhelm Sasnal

Although entire opus of his is related to the critical interpretation of the Communist era and on the post-Communist imagination, the artist draws inspiration from various different sources. For example, graphic Holocaust novel Maus from 1973 and stills from Claude Lanzmann’s 1985 documentary Shoah were used as source material for some of his works. In 2008, for the work titled symbolically Swiniopas (Swineherd), Wilhelm Sasnal used Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of the same name, yet adapted it as a story of a swineherd who smuggles letters back and forth between a farmer’s daughter and her lesbian lover. On the other hand, in 2013 the artist realized the series of works around the theme of Kodak, the famous film and camera manufacturer in order to address issues of picture-taking and picture-making.

An interest in different approach to cinematic experience

In Germany Sasnal realized new project which was produced in collaboration between hauser wirth gallery and polish museum
Wilhelm Sasnal – Installation view Frankfurter Kunstverein, 2006 – image via fkv

Composing The Motion Pictures

Besides painting, comics and photographs, Sasnal is using film which has a significant part in his opus. Namely, it is a hybrid format since, somewhere in between film and video, usually made in collage manner out of his favorite music clips, recordings of leisure, or slightly bizarre situations like car accidents or air crushes. Each work is full of references from Polish popular culture – especially music and movies. In one point, Wilhelem Sasnal began making films on a 8 mm camera. In 2011 he produced a short film titled It Looks Better From a Distance together with his wife Anka Sasnal, which began making the rounds of festivals and other venues, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the International Film Festival in Rotterdam. Actually, it was an artistic experiment with traditional forms of narrative and dialogue, drawing mainly from a strong visual pace.

Wilhelm Sasnal is devoted to peculiar composing of picture plane

The contemporary warsaw new york anton kern and london hauser wirth gallery organized exhibition of paintings 2011
Wilhelm Sasnal – Killing an Arab 1, 2016 – image via frieze

The Importance of Music

The artist is rather hooked on the music that gets him in a creative mood. Namely, while in production mode, Sasnal does about half and hour of work and then has a break between records. The playlist is usually formed out of very simple songs, which are classical in structure – from Elvis Presley to Slayer. Some of them ended up in his films. The video work The Band (2002) was made during a live performance of indie rock band Sonic Youth, while the 16-mm film projection Untitled (2007) is based on found-footage from the late 1970s of Elvis Presley.

Wilhelm Sasnal is concerned with sub-conscious layers of meaning and history

Wilhelm does not use facebook and his works are on view in hauser anton kern gallery
Wilhelm Sasnal – Map Trap, 2004, site specific installation – image via raster.art.pl

An Established Artist

The large number of solo and group exhibitions and notable critical reception proved that Wilhelm Sasnal is a highly ranked and authentic artist, so naturally, in 2006 he was a winner of the Vincent van Gogh Biennial Award for Contemporary Art in Europe. His ongoing activity is uncompromising and stands as a fine example of artistic practice in accordance with contemporaneity since it deals with the complexity of our everyday lives intersected by various political and social factors.

Wilhelm Sasnal lives and works in Warsaw.

Featured image: Wilhelm Sasnal outside the cinema before the Sadie Coles & Artprojx screening – image courtesy of David Gryn
All images used are for illustrative purposes only

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group 
2016Wilhelm SasnalHauser & Wirth, Zurich, SwitzerlandSolo
2015Wilhelm SasnalJohnen Galerie, Berlin, GermanySolo
2015ColumbusSadie Coles, London, EnglandSolo
2015Wilhelm Sasnal PaintingsQiao Space 2555, Shanghai, ChinaSolo
2015Random Sampling – Painting from the Goetz CollectionHaus der Kunst, Munich, GermanyGroup
2015A Blind Man in His GardenLuma Westbau, Pool, Zurich, SwitzerlandGroup
2014Take Me To The Other SideLismore Castle Arts, Lismore, IrelandSolo
2014Secret Passions. Private Flemish CollectionsTripostal, Lille, FranceGroup
2014Hate speech – I’m against!The Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw, PolandGroup
2013Wilhelm SasnalHauser & Wirth, Zurich, SwitzerlandSolo
2013Wilhelm SasnalAnton Kern Gallery, New York NYSolo
2013Presenting the VincentGEM – museum voor actuele kunst, The Hague, NetherlandsGroup
2013A Boy Grows to Become a Knight. A Discourse on Masculinity in Polish Culture from the End of the 18th Century until TodayNational Museum, Krakow, PolandGroup
2012Wilhelm SasnalHaus der Kunst, Munich, GermanySolo
2012Dear PortraitMOSTYN, Llandundo, WalesGroup
2012About: BlankKunsthalle Münster, Muenster, GermanyGroup
2011Wilhelm SasnalWhitechapel Art Gallery, London, EnglandSolo
2011Wilhelm SasnalSadie Coles HQ, London, EnglandSolo
2011Wilhelm SasnalKurimanzutto, Mexico City, MexicoSolo
201016mm filmsRat Hole Gallery, Tokyo, JapanSolo
2010Wilhelm SasnalAnton Kern Gallery, New York NYSolo
2010Wilhelm SasnalJohnen Galerie, Berlin, GermanySolo
2010Wilhelm SasnalSara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere, FinlandSolo
2010Wilhelm SasnalRochester Art Center, RochesterSolo
2010Hirschfaktor. Die Kunst des ZitierensZKM – Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, Karlsruhe, GermanyGroup
2010The Power of Fantasy: Modern and Contemporary Art from PolandPalais des Beaux-Arts BOZAR, Brussels, BelgiumGroup
2009Wilhelm SasnalCAC – Centro de Arte Contemporàneo, Malaga, SpainSolo
2009Wilhelm SasnalKunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen K21, Dusseldorf, GermanySolo
2009Wilhelm SasnalHauser & Wirth Zürich, Zurich, SwitzerlandSolo
2009Wilhelm SasnalSadie Coles HQ, London, EnglandSolo
2009Presentation in the Collection Rooms: Wilhelm Sasnal. Works from the Collection MartinNeues Museum Nürnberg, Nuremberg, GermanySolo
2009The Reach of RealismMOCA Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami FLGroup
2009Abstraction + WarholWoxart, Prague, Czech RepublicGroup
2008Wilhelm Sasnal. Lata Walki: Years of StruggleGalleria Civica di Arte Contemporanea, Trento, ItalySolo
2008Ad Absurdum – Zeitgemässe ApparateStädtische Galerie Nordhorn, Nordhorn, GermanyGroup
2008Films. Lambie, Lloyd, Lucas, Sasnal, WilcoxSadie Coles HQ, London, EnglandGroup
2007Wilhelm Sasnal. Lata Walki: Years of StruggleZacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, PolandSolo
2007BoredomJohnen Galerie, ‘Boredom’, Berlin, GermanySolo
2007Wilhelm SasnalSwiss Institute, New York NYSolo
2007Wilhelm SasnalHauser & Wirth Zürich, Zurich, SwitzerlandSolo
2007PinturesFundació la Caixa, Barcelona, SpainSolo
2007Wilhelm SasnalAnton Kern Gallery, New York NYSolo
2007Painting of Modern LifeSouthbank Centre – The Hayward, London, EnglandGroup
2007Gesellschaftsbilder. Zeitgenössische MalereiKunstverein Hamburg, Hamburg, GermanyGroup
2006Wilhelm SasnalDouglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, IrelandSolo
2006Wilhelm SasnalSadie Coles HQ, London, EnglandSolo
2006At the Very Center of Attention Part 10: Wilhelm Sasnal – USACenter of Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, PolandSolo
2006The Standard of the Kilogram (Wzorzec kilograma)Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw, PolandSolo
2006Wilhelm Sasnal. Paintings and FilmsVan Abbe Museum, Eindhoven, NetherlandsSolo
2006Ist das Leben nicht schön? Gruppenausstellung in 4 Kapiteln, Kapitel 2: Wilhelm SasnalKunstverein Frankfurt, Frankfurt a. M., GermanySolo
2006Polish Painting of the 21st CenturyZacheta National Gallery, Warsaw, PolandGroup
20061,2,3…Avant GardesCenter for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, PolandGroup
2005Matrix 219UC Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley CASolo
2005Wilhelm SasnelAnton Kern Gallery, New York NYSolo
2005Wilhelm Sasnal – Chinati Artist in ResidenceThe Locker Plant, Marfa TXSolo
2005The Collection XIII – LuzMuseum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerp, BelgiumGroup
2005Goodbye Rothchild 64, Welcome Rothchild 13Sommer Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv, IsraelGroup
2004The BandHauser & Wirth Zürich, Zurich, SwitzerlandSolo
2004Wilhelm SasnelCamden Arts Centre, London, EnglandSolo
2004Wilhelm SasnelGalerie Rüdiger Schöttle, Munich, GermanySolo
2004ZAWA SRODGalerie Johnen + Schöttle, Cologne, GermanySolo
2004Wilhelm Sasnal – Map TrapGalerie Raster, Warsaw, PolandSolo
2004PrymGaleria BWA Zielona Góra, Warsaw, PolandGroup
2004Funny CutsStaatsgalerie Stuttgart, Stuttgart, GermanyGroup
2003Wilhelm SasnelKunstverein Münster, Munster, GermanySolo
2003Wilhelm SasnelKunsthalle Zürich, Zurich, SwitzerlandSolo
2003Wilhelm SasnelSadie Coles HQ, London, EnglandSolo
2003Wilhelm Sasnal – Monika SosnowskaGalleria Laura Pecci, Milan, ItalySolo
2003Wilhelm SasnalAnton Kern Gallery, New York NYSolo
2003Interventions: Wilhelm SasnalMuHKA – Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerp, BelgiumSolo
2003WISLASommer Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv, IsraelSolo
2003Hidden In A DaylightHotel pod Jeleniem, Cieszyn, PolandGroup
20034ever youngSommer Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv, IsraelGroup
2002Wilhelm SasnelGalerie Johnen und Schöttle, Cologne, GermanySolo
2002Wilhelm SasnelFoksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw, PolandSolo
2002Wilhelm SasnelParel, Amsterdam, NetherlandsSolo
2002Wilhelm SasnelBWA Gallery, Zielona Gora, PolandSolo
2002Keine KleinigkeitenKunsthalle Basel, Basel, SwitzerlandGroup
2002Painting on the Move: Nach der Wirklichkeit – Realismus und aktuelle MalereiKunsthalle Basel, Basel, SwitzerlandGroup
2001Samachody i ludzie - Cars and MenFoksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw, PolandSolo
2001Zzycie codzienne w Polsce w latach 1999-2001 - Everyday Life in Poland between 1999 and 2001Galeria Raster, Warsaw, PolandSolo
2000Gra planszowa - Board GameGaleria Potocka, Cracow, PolandSolo
1999Sto kawalków - The Hundred PiecesGaleria Zderzak, Cracow, PolandSolo
1999Tlok - The Crowdbillboards of Galeria Otwarta, Cracow, PolandSolo
1999Malarstwo/PaintingCenter of Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, PolandSolo
1999Prywatne-Publiczne - Private-Publicbillboards of Galeria Otwarta, Cracow, PolandSolo
1999Swieto panstwowe - A Natural Holidaybillboards of Galeria Otwarta, Cracow, PolandSolo