The five artists in the Ladnie Group say they never formed an artists? association.
Others did that for them by lumping them together and giving their collected work a name.
The five simply went out for a beer, talked and painted, they have said. In other words, they were mostly just socializing.
None thought about exhibiting his work. Fun was what counted.
At one point, however, some of them were asked to exhibit their paintings. Art-scene observers dubbed the five the Ladnie, or Pretty, Group. The rest is history.
Ladnie members have been ranked at the top of both the Polish and international contemporary-art scenes for years.
For a long time, each exhibited his work separately. Recently galleries have begun asking two or more of them to exhibit their work together.
The artists have achieved such international stature that the famed auction houses Philip de Pury & Co., Christie?s and Sotheby?s have sold their work. Paintings by Wilhelm Sasnal, Marcin Maciejowski and Rafal Bujnowski were among those in an auction of contemporary art in New York just last month.
It should not be surprising then that Charles Saatchi, the advertising tycoon and art patron, decided to exhibit works by Sasnal in his own gallery. The multimillionaire describes Sasnal as one of the most promising contemporary painters in the world today.
The five artists who would be dubbed the Ladnie Group began hanging out together in Krakow in 1995. The members besides Sasnal, Maciejowski and Bujnowski are Marek Firek and Jozef Tomczyk, alias Kurosawa.
The group?s art is often associated with the movement known as banalism. The subjects they paint are often taken from everyday life as seen in newspapers, advertisements or on television. And their works make broad use of popular motifs and clichés from pop culture.
If you consider the themes they choose, and their painting techniques, it?s not far-fetched to say that at first glance Ladnie artists seem to be interested in everything but art with a capital ?A.? Drawing and painting are all that count. Initially you get the impression that the artists feel they are talented enough now — but that they keep redrawing or repainting just for the sake of it.
It is only after a certain number of images have been redrawn or repainted, however, that you realize a unique path has been taken or a unique reflection or perspective has emerged. Maciejowski?s works are anecdotal. He often uses the language of comic strips to comment not only on his private reality but also the broader social reality around him.
?This Is Where I Live And I Like It Here? is the title of the comic strip that Maciejowski draws for the ?Przekroj? weekly. It reflects his approach both to life and art.
His works constitute a unique record of Polish life and morality. They can be both funny and scary.
Sasnal has an unusual gift for arranging form, space and light in his paintings. His works are less literal than Maciejowski?s and that makes them more intriguing.
Sasnal?s paintings skillfully depict the ambiguity of today?s culture. In addition to understatements, he makes broad use of references to pop art.
Bujanowski?s favorite method is repainting an object using different techniques, such as oil painting or a linocut. His approach appears to suggest he is trying to cleanse his art of any individuality.
His works look like bricks or planks but they can simultaneously be perceived as fine examples of abstract or conceptual painting. At first Bujanowski used to put a price on his works that he felt reflected the ?good? they represented.
Part of the ?good? he has accomplished has included helping to paint galleries? facades. It has been seven years since ladnie artists worked together on a project. That was a promotional campaign for Radiostacja that the D?arcy advertising agency commissioned in 2000.
The artists were asked to design and paint a series of billboards in Krakow advertising Radiostacja and the music genres the station plays: hip hop, techno, ambient and breakbeat.
It took years for the artists? individual careers to blossom before the Ladnie Group became a phenomenon in the international art world.
As usually happens, international recognition leads to art critics trying to put the artists in well-defined categories. That is exactly what the Ladnie Group has always tried to avoid. So far it has succeeded, mainly because its members keep borrowing themes, subjects and motifs from whatever source they can turn to.