It seems like every European city would like to have such a eulogiser: he is tireless in his observation, he is a devoted researcher of historic sources, capable of finding spots of beauty in what is ordinary and ugly, and on the top of that is gifted with a provoking to reflection, critical view, and a sharp sense of humour. This is how the visions that may outlive us all are being created. Since his wonderful exhibition about Venice, via Paris, Istanbul, Athens and Bruges, Florian Doru Crihana has become a true specialist in portraying cities. The bigger the joy is if we consider the fact that Legnica has entered this exclusive circle.
The artist has visited us many times. He emphasises the fact that it was just here in Legnica where, to some extent, his world career began with the Satyrykon prizes and meetings with patrons who promoted his artistic output throughout Europe. However, the exactness, complexity and in-depth treatment of the subject result not that much from other than artistic reasons but from the very artist’s personality and perhaps also a bit (let us be not so humble) from the “spirit of place”.
„Satirical Impressions” is a cycle of forty paintings presenting a big number of Legnica’s important places, so to say, its symbols. Therefore we have: the city theatre, Market Place, herring stalls, the town hall, the library, the Piast castle, the park and its surroundings, the barracks, the railway station… Apparently nothing new, and still anyone who knows Legnica, will be really surprised. Just like in old vedute, the reality intermingles with surrealistic details. At the same time it is an extremely concrete fantasy.
It is surprising, how many things that seem to be finely made up, how many arrangements and even satirical concepts themselves, originated in reality, especially the one recorded in old postcards „Gruss aus Liegnitz”. Furthermore, and what is more important, all these details, that prove Crihana’s careful examination of the sources, undergo more fascinating transformations. They become counters in the game full of endless sophisticated jokes, knowing blinks of an eye and riddles, they are also the basis for complicated historical or even historiosophical metaphors. One could say that this is “ideal” Legnica. The timeless world of memory, where nothing gets lost, although things often change proportions, and all the antagonists of the bygone dramas co-exist in an apparent aesthetic harmony. Everything that used to supersede and exclude each other in the historic development.
What is characteristic, this serene, fantastic and occasionally so exotic Legnica does not hide away the fact that at times it really reminds Venice, Paris, Istanbul, the harbour city of Bruges, or even London. Obviously, the similarities result both from the viewer’s attitude, and also the universal character of human ambitions. It is a picture of crazy elusive dreams which are about to come true, that live here. About idyllic provinces and a capital city, about a homely and an exotic place, the centre of market gardening, the paradise garden, a powerhouse of industry and a spa, the cradle of military conquests, a colonial power and a bastion of culture, all at the same time… Because our city has worked over all the utopias (and their consequences) of modern Europe, and their dangerous sense emerges from these idyllic pictures as a skull which you come across in Arcadia. Or perhaps it is a satirical cannon hidden away amidst flowers.
“Impressions of Legnica” appears to be an image of actually all places in Central Europe, which experienced changes in state affiliation, influence of power ambitions as well as utopias of totalitarian systems, the world history and, in general, the history of history. It is partly a tale of passing told, however, specifically enough, without ruins. As appropriate for a hydro engineer – “everything flows”. And everything also melts, pours and overgrows. It is a tale about the world which constantly revives and splits up the old forms.
One could complain xenophobically that there are only few our indeed, Polish traces… Well, the last decades is a moment if we take centuries of history into consideration. Still, these are our most important, collective, contemporary experiences – social realistic clearing of the city centre, floods, the recent hurricane – are the sources of the most significant, historiosophical metaphors. And there is so much about those who loved this city and told about this love. About zeppelins and cucumbers grown here once, about the importance of the railways and the station, trams on Market Place, the piano factory, the copper work and metallurgy, the Russians and the “Square”… It is even possible to guess who came up with which stories.
Last but not least there is a place for Satyrykon, Don Quixote’s truthful ally from Legnica, the defender of unpopular and “trivial” as toy windmills ideas. As, let it be, the fact of preparing for our own city a bizarre set of satirical impressions instead of an ordinary advertising brochure…
Translation: Anita Wincencjusz-Patyna
Florian Doru Crihana was born in 1958 in Galați, Romania. He graduated from the Naval Architecture (1984), nevertheless since late 1980s he has been active in satirical painting. In 1990 at the Legnica Satyrykon he was awarded one of his first prizes, and made artistic contacts which initiated his European career. Within the frames of Satyrykon, Florian Doru Crihana was a laureate of numerous awards (1993, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, including three gold medals and the Prizes of the President of Legnica), a member of the jury (1999, 2013), a main character in group and solo shows (1999 “Satirical Drawing”, 2011 “Venice”, 2014 “Legnica. Satirical Impressions”), as well as in exhibition catalogues. The Satyrykon Gallery possesses many of his art works.
Before he had stopped taking part in contests, Florian Doru Crihana won 80 international awards; his works belong to museum collections, and quite recently he has become best known as an author of monumental painting cycles dedicated to various places and cultural phenomena (e.g. the Eiffel Tower and Titanic) which constitute an exceptionally original vision of modern history.