X Międzynarodowe Biennale „Portret Rodzinny” 2017


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Międzynarodowy Konkurs Plastyczny „Portret Rodzinny” The 10th International Biennale ‚The Family Portrait’ is, this year as well, being organised by The Norwid Secondary School of Fine Arts in Lublin and ‚Lubelski Plastyk’ Association. The competition has been featured in the DSAiEK and CEA’s ‚International and Domestic 1st and 2nd degree Artistic Education’s Events 2016/2017 School Year Calendar’.

The competition was founded in 1999, when the first edition was organised. It was inspired by an idea of the International Family Congress – to highlight and support every action whose aim is to inspire to reflect on the role of the family in the modern society.

Since the very first time it was organised, this particular fine arts competition has been an opportunity to discover a visual manifestation of the problems that families may encounter in the world of the post-modern era. This manifestation is especially important because it is presented as it is perceived and understood by the young creators, who have just begun their journey down the path of art. How much credit has the competition received is well-reflected in the numbers: for the past 9 editions, several thousands of pieces were submitted, and over 500 in the last (held in 2015) edition only.

This year, the organisers have taken a different approach to ‚The Family Portrait’, focusing more on ‚The family on the roads of the contemporary world’ aspect. Certainly, the first impression might be closely linked to the images shown in the media – images of hundreds of thousands of exiles spread across the landscapes of the civilised Europe, images which are a grim reminder of the cruel events of the 20th century. It is, also, an image of all the personal tragedies that are so meticulously being shown in numerous emotive close-ups, purposely calculated to elicit shock and leave the recipient badly shaken. It is difficult to compete with how literal and graphic this reality can be, as presented through a reporter’s lens. This is exactly why the idea behind this competition is to inspire deeper reflection on the condition and shape of a contemporary family. It is essential, also from the artistic point of view, to widen the scope of all of the possible aspects while reflecting on this phenomenon. The concept of a metaphorical road understood as a journey through life, perhaps, especially in our contemporary world, is gradually but inevitably becoming more relevant. What already became relevant is a piece of text on the general idea behind the competition we wrote in 2013:

‚(…) it goes back to the experiences that accompany the process of coming of age, it translates not only the individual existential dilemmas so typical of this period in life, but also tries to examine the condition of the basic human unity, established on the bonds with their loved ones. That is why the theme is so multidimensional – from displaying how strong an emotion can be, to love, to the fear of loneliness, alienation, emptiness and the barrenness of relationships, which are exceptionally painful if experienced when one’s character is being built.

The competition’s theme creates an opportunity for a cultural clash – the theme of a group portrait, a family portrait, has remained intertwined with the history of art for thousands of years – as long as we agree to include the mediterranean tradition – since the ancient times. Since the beginning of the early modern period, this very type of image is one of the most characteristic phenomena for our culture, in the religious (both pagan as well as christian), the social (from ostentatious representation to miserabilistic naturalism), the personal and existential, or the ideological (e.g. progressive modernism) context. The pieces which were granted a prize in past editions, utilizing various techniques of contemporary artists often pertained to those inspirations.

Currently, the question about the meaning of family, as well as about the purpose and importance of relationships, gains a new meaning. We can say that, just like during the eras of great social and political projects, the same, basic question about the purpose of the existence of family remains. Recalling revolutional and totalitarianistic insanity of the past few decades, one can see that the family bonds are a social structure which remembers the most violent eradication attempts. Today, the question about the purpose of family’s existence is more of a cultural one, showing the evidence for the virtues we believe in. Is there still any need for a family as we know it from photo albums, stories, pictures and films in the era of the political ideologists, the spreading commercialisation, consumerism and growing egoistic hedonism? Isn’t it going to be replaced with institutions providing services for the contemporary, politically correct nation? Is such an image – a family portrait – still needed?’

Krzysztof Dąbek
The Head teacher of
The Norwid Secondary School of Fine arts
in Lublin


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