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Radek Szlaga

They Respect Nothing

painting; oil and paper on canvas; 38x45 cm

In They Respect Nothing, Radek Szlaga returns to his childhood memories spent in the village of Ochotnica, situated at the foot of Mount Szlagówka in Gorce, where part of the Szlaga family comes from. A significant object is stuck in Szlagas memory: a decrepit Fiat 126p, turned into a chicken coop. Once this kind of a car was the sign of prosperity and modernity, decades later it is taken over by chickens and children. The title of the painting references a phrase often uttered by the artists grandparents, the owners of the farm “they respect nothing, an expression of older peoples disagreement with changes that seem inevitable. Szlaga treats this quote with both irony and nostalgia.

The image is clearly divided into two colour zones with a light yellow streak at the top it resembles an old photographic plate, on which two images have been partially preserved. One depicts a childhood scene: a Fiat, chickens, mountains and a mountain road. The second one is illegible; actually it is just an irregular smear of colour. At first glance, the whole seems to be an unfinished painting on canvas and attached paper. However, a few details are quite suggestive and the transparent colours indicate Szlagas sensitivity toward the presented subject. They respect nothing is like a photographic film of his memory, with which he shows the changes that took place in the now mythical world of his childhood. The film is in a bad condition; it shows signs of damage resulting from being kept in poor conditions. The artist points out that nowadays, the memories of the past, even those not too distant, are not cherished nor respected. The material and emotional signs of the past that shaped the artist remain only in his memory, but even there they are fading away.

Radek Szlaga is a painter and a graphic designer; he also creates illustrations and installations. In 2005, he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań, where he is currently a lecturer. He co-founded the Penerstwo artistic group. He lives and works in Detroit, Brussels and Poznań. In his work, he combines narratives from Europe, North and South America, and Africa, and shows national diasporas and ethnic groups in search of a better life. He is also interested in issues related to religion, geography, history and all kinds of social groups excluded due to race, material status, or views. In his works he creates a kind of cultural melting combining threads from various sources into a new kind of quality. He draws inspiration from reality, literature, and the internet, creating stories based on both facts and fiction.