Deliberately mimicking the attention span and restless channel-zapping of the MTV generation, Wilhelm Sasnal paints pictures that vary hugely in subject and even style. As Communism crumbled in his native Poland, Sasnal found that there was a flood of imagery, be it in newspapers, magazines, adverts, cinemas, televisions... It is this flood that is his overarching subject matter, that he both celebrates in its variety and at the same time looks at from a distance, with some detachment, surprise, even cynicism. It is in part because of this that amongst the adverts and filmstills that inspire some of his pictures, others take as their sources his own snapshots and old Soviet propaganda.
In Untitled, painted in 2001, we see what appears to be a rock-star, viewed from above after a dramatic stage-dive. The absurdity of the scene, of the crowd, of the concert and the stage-dive is accentuated by the Rorschach-like assemblage of black and white forms with which the artist has rendered the scene. Sasnal is questioning the act of seeing, the fact that seeing is taken for granted, and also the fact that images like this are endemic in the commercial, media-saturated world in which we live. The manner in which Untitled has been painted challenges the viewer, as the content is made paradoxically visually striking while at the same time being partially elusive.
This cultural inspection, investigation and criticism involves the picture's subject, as well as the wider implications of images in general. For what can be more MTV than this? Movement, glamour, Western excess-- all these are embodied in the image of Untitled. But this bird's-eye view also places capitalist culture and taste under the microscope. We are viewing the crowd as a strange and abstracted mass of black and white forms, as though we were cool intellects viewing humanity from afar. The very stillness of the work and the forms removes any star quality. This frozen moment of frenzy is removed from context, enshrined in oils, and placed under the scrutiny of the artist and the viewer alike. And under this scrutiny, the scene becomes absurd. He has stripped away the source image' drama, its action, all that made it so special, in order to make it equal with all other images. This is the Sasnal process in this black-and-white style, we see that Untitled will sit happily next to the propaganda factory pictures, domestic photographs, a picture of hunters. Sasnal has granted the wealth of images of the contemporary world a similar equivalency to that felt by the people upon whom this flood was unleashed in the wake of Glasnost and Perestroika.