Still Lifes with Glass
The exhibition Still Lifes with Glass is a bit of a tribute to Leszek Nagrabecki, to a long-time acquaintance, to the Zakopane atmosphere.
For Kokoryn, Leszek Nagrabecki is simply Uncle. They met in the 1990s through Marcin Rząsa, who is related to Uncle through his wife’s family. The circumstances of the meeting are worth mentioning, as Nagrabecki was sitting on the Krupówki pavement in protest against the replacement of the historic cobblestones, which still remembered Witkacy’s feet, with prosaic Bauma paving blocks. Kokoryn saw a middle-aged gentleman (born 1949) with the soul of an undergrounder. A filmmaker by training, designer and maker of artistic glass by passion. Together with his wife Maria vel Tuzen-Nagrabecka, they have been creating sculptural objects in glass since the mid-1970s – concrete, hand-shaped objects with flowing lines and organic shapes. In the 1990s, ‘Uncle’ opened a gallery in Zakopane called ‘Owca Cała’ in a modernist building on Wolności Square, which was intended, among other things, to showcase their artistic activities. Of course, he ran the gallery in his own way, rather illegally, in defiance of official regulations, without a knack for business. Kokoryn showed an exhibition of mountain-themed paintings here. When, more than a decade later, a new investor demolished the building, Uncle was given a tiny space for his gallery – the former home of a CD shop, on Weteranów Wojny Street, close to Krupówki.
The idea for the latest exhibition germinated a year ago, at Uncle’s gallery. When Kokoryn, on the occasion of a social visit, put forth the idea that, going back to the old days, he would like to put on an exhibition of still lifes with glass at Nagrabecki’s, Uncle disappeared behind a curtain and came back with a plastic jug of tokaji wine. ‘Here,’ he said. The jug later found its way into a painting. And when, at Maria’s birthday party last winter, Kokoryn showed her the paintings on his phone and asked her to choose a gift, she chose the one with the wine jug. Maria vel Tuzen-Nagrabecka passed away in January this year. In the painting, the mundanity of the plastic jug is balanced by an artistically shaped glass.
Kokoryn: ‘We have quite a collection of Nagrabecki glass at home; I got them from Leszek. We use them every day; we drink not only spirits but coffee from them – they’re perfect for espresso. I make cappuccinos for my daughters in the larger cups. I’m not a fan of sweets, but I appreciate the visual appeal. When my daughter Ania brought this beautiful éclair from Cremino (we have this great patisserie in Bielsko-Biała), I decided that it had to be painted’.
Kokoryn: A memory from last New Year’s Eve. My older daughter Agata was supposed to spend the evening with some friends at their place; ultimately, her friends came to our house. I don’t particularly celebrate New Year’s Eve, but since we had guests turn up, I got out the good wine I got from Michael Mellinghoff; he gave it to me at the opening of my last exhibition, Roman Holiday at Galeria Art.pl. You should have seen the faces of the students tasting the exquisite Brunello. And on the turntable, a Fiona Apple record played.
Kokoryn: I have a custom of painting spring pictures. When I felt spring had arrived, I painted pictures on which I wrote ‘SPRING’. And as the warm days had come recently, I thought ‘how nice!’ and remembered a time when we used to go to Bratislava with friends. Here at home, there was still snow on the ground, and over there it was already warm; we sat outside and drank beer. I set the glasses on the windowsill and painted that green glow.
Decanter and glasses
Kokoryn: I like that the Nagrabecki glass is so specific, hand-formed. And it always has something to do with meeting another person. It is more than just an object – it carries emotions, memories. This one is simply a memory of drinking wine with my friend Rząsa.
A table full of pleasures: the music is playing, and the sweetness of the croissant and the refined taste of coffee will be punctuated in the end by a strong mint. The dice have been cast.
Records, glass and CDs
A separate exhibition of paintings featuring CDs will soon be possible. Just as Kokoryn has for years been painting bottles of spirits he has drunk, he now also paints the records he has been listening to recently. He changes the music, puts the records aside, and the stack grows until it is a proper still life.
In a Nagrebecki glass, even plain Pepsi becomes a fine drink. And it wasn’t even about the beverage; it was just that the artist decided that he was missing a blue accent from his series of still lifes with glass, hence the Pepsi sticker and cap. Any reason is good if it leads to such a neat still life.
Kokoryn: A scene from real life. We were drinking wine on the terrace; the moon was full. I set the glass on the railing and suddenly saw the glass catch the light – what amazing light it was! Later, in the studio, I tried to recreate it, with a headlamp standing in for the full moon. The bottle here is cool, too, and the name has my name in it. It was given to me in Rome by my friend Michael Mellinghoff, a wine connoisseur and a lover of Tuscan Brunello di montalcino.
Glass and Cigar
Kokoryn: Uncle smoking a cigar Just a mental picture – an older gentleman, a tumbler of whisky, and a cigar. Rajmund Ziemski, my professor, also smoked cigars. And I see this scene, as he catches me by the elbow and starts to talk.
A classic of the genre. Three ingredients, a riot of flavours, a quick drink ceremony.
Tequila and Corona
Kokoryn: Have you ever drunk tequila with Corona? No? Next time you’re in a bar, order both. Squeeze the lemon wedge into the bottle, cork it with your thumb, turn it upside down and then back again. This will create a high pressure in the bottle that you have to endure. It’s best done in company because that moment of pressure in the bottle is always highly amusing.
Kokoryn: I love Stasiuk. And his East, especially now in the context of the war in Ukraine, is a knockout. Add a splash of wine, and that’s enough. Speaking of this goblet, Leszek Nagrabecki said it was modelled on wedding cups used in Scotland. All the reception guests have to drink from one cup – you grab a handle and pass it on.
Kokoryn: Each one of these pictures contains a struggle with the matter of light. We have two eyes and everyone sees the light differently, and I have to find the point of that light, find a way to deceive my head. And when you put a glass on a black background, that’s when it becomes a real challenge.