Text: Adam Zdrodowski
Workshop: Haga 2013
Exhibition: Royal Academy of Art in the Hague, Holland 2013

Sinners in the Hague – an IP project at Royal Academy of Art

In March 2013 Royal Academy of Art in the Hague held an EU-funded intensive workshop. The participants included, alongside the hosts, Lahti University of Applied Sciences (Institute of Design), Vilnius Academy of Arts and the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw (Prof. Błażej Ostoja Lniski, Adam Zdrodowski, PdD., Paulina Dudek, Małgorzata Kulka, Piotr Kołakowski, Ewa Pomorska, Adam Walas and Martyna Wyrzykowska). Each country was represented by two teachers and six students and the main focus of the 10-day workshop was the relationship between private and public spaces.

Five workshops were taught simultaneously: an obligatory theoretical module supervised by Marc Boumeester and Adam Zdrodowski, consisting of readings and discussions, movie screenings, lectures (among the invited artists and theoreticians were: Adosh van der Heijden, Yolande Kolstee, Andrej Radman, Willem Oorebeek, Niels Schrader, Charlotte Warsen) and four practical workshops from which each student could choose one:

– Wall comics workshop Off the Wall (Kaisa Leka and Christoffer Leka)
Mix and Fix – a combination of common material (cardboard), the theory of metaphor and any chosen materials and techniques (Robertas Jucaitis)
– Risograph workshop (Ewoud van Rijn i Karin de Jong)
– Traditional printmaking workshop (Prof. Błażej Ostoja Lniski)

Due to the profile of the magazine I will focus on the work produced in the course of the lithographic and silkscreen workshop conducted by Prof. Błażej Ostoja Lniski. One should add that traditional techniques were treated in an open and modern way – not as ends in themselves but as means to an end, which was to create works as various and multi-layered as possible.

The teachers and students decided to narrow down the workshop's topic, and focus on the Seven Deadly Sins. How does it fit into the overall theme of private vs. public space? Sin is a category that combines the private and the public spheres: it is perceived as private (one weighs and analyzes sin in one's conscience) but it is also the result of breaking external, public norms that have been internalized. Moreover, even though the notion of sin originates in religion, one can find it in manifold forms (and under numerous names) outside strictly religious contexts – for instance, in psychoanalysis or post-secular thought. Thus, one can consider sin a notion still valid in our contemporary experience.

The artists approached the subject of the Seven Deadly Sins in a variety of ways, using a plethora of techniques and means of expression. Akvile Paukštyte focused on emotional aspects of sins, and created two-layered works in which she juxtaposed the abstract symbol of a given sin with a more figurative depiction. Juste Leišyte used the beautiful texture of lithographic stones to foreground the irony and symbolism which she reads into her interpretation of the Seven Deadly Sins. Lukas Dryžas set out to illustrate all the sins in different styles, moving from realistic drawing towards the abstract. In the beginning Bjorn de Boer adopted a similar approach – he began with figurative drawing; but later on he decided to experiment, letting himself be guided by his material and the technique, instead of starting from a well thought-out image. Ilona Rybka looked at the workshop's topic like a voyeuse, watching other people sin: in her lithographs she used photos she had taken when she had been working as a maid in a hotel (I felt a victim of the system. I was working so hard for so little money) and creatively reworked the images. Paula Dudek worked with two media – lithography and silkscreen – and put nature to the foreground. Nature is understood as the space, private and public, where sin takes place; also, it is in nature that sin has its source and beginning. Piotr Kołakowski prepared an installation combining lithography with sculpture: our sins are often invisible for others. Therefore, we cannot see the sculpture that is hidden behind a wall and we can only see the man's feet. But we may know his darkest secrets by looking at the lithographs representing sins that are displayed behind the statue.

One can say that the project was both well-defined (one topic, one main medium, seven sins, seven people) and unpredictable, indeterminate, open-ended (a variety of techniques, a freedom to combine lithography with other media). Most certainly, the work made is an inimitable marriage of discipline and creative fury.

The author wishes to thank the artist for their inspiring insights and interpretations.