In the 5th century BCE, while visiting the colony of Olbia – a northern beachhead of Hellenistic culture on the Black Sea – Herodotus encountered Scythian nomads from the steppes. Thanks to their stories, and the inquisitive nature of the Father of History, a description arose of the lands of today’s Podole, Ziemia Tarnowska and Polesie, and of the nature of the nomads who roamed the lands between the Baltic and Black Seas.
Ever since antiquity, whoever has inhabited this endless space has learned to travel lightly. This is attested to by records, and by logic. This landscape of lowlands unbounded by hills is extremely favourable to migration, and this conditioned every element of existence, including visual culture. Cloth can easily be rolled up, transported and rearranged close at hand. Thus, works on cloth came to be part of everyday life.
The works of Wojciech Sadley, a grand old man of the Polish School of Textiles, have been described by another classic, Jerzy Nowosielski, as “documents without any trace of the human figure or human face”. What dominates in Sadley’s work is spirituality. It was not without reason that, Sadley gave up the loom for painting on silk and parchment – in such a form, his textiles can fulfil sacral functions, acting a dossal or a shroud. Apart from what has previously been said and written about his work, it behoves us to also consider the feeling of temporariness they impart -characteristic of the mentality of the people of the eastern borderlands where Sadley was born.
The second, younger author of the exhibition, Błażej Rusin, comes from the same region. He, however, invokes both to ancient nomads and modern painting, and describes his own work as postgraffiti. His paintings migrate from murals to studios and galleries, during constant journeys around Europe. Like Sadley`s works, they may be described as dyed, colored dossals – but completely secular ones.
*The exhibition title is the term “Αγιος νομάς”, latinized Greek meaning: “holy nomad” or “holy in constant movement”.