The Vatican Exhibition of a Polish artist
Włodzimierz Rędzioch talks to the Polish artist Anna Gulak – the author of the monumental bust of Blessed John Paul II
Popes have been great patrons of artists, thanks to which the complex of Vatican museums, the Apostolic Palace and St. Peter’s Basilica are an exceptional art treasure today. Also in our century popes patronized artists. Paul VI played a special role in this field, because he organized the Museum of the Contemporary Art from the gifts of artists and private collectors which is in the Renaissance Borgia Apartment. From Paul’s VI initiative, a modern audience hall, called Paul’s VI hall, was built in whose atrium artistic exhibitions are sometimes organized. On 21 October this year, within the preparation for the first liturgical reminiscence of Blessed John Paul II, an exhibition of the Polish artist Anna Gulak was opened – which is an unprecedented fact that Vatican patronizes the exhibition of the artist from Poland. The exhibition entitled: ‘I volti del beato Giovanni Paolo II’ – ‘Faces of Blessed John Paul II’ was opened by cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, the former chairman of the Pope’s Commission for the Vatican State, together with professor Giovanni Morello, the critic of art and professor Marcello Bedeschim from the Foundation of John Paul II for the youth, working with the Council for the Secular. The opening was attended by among the others: cardinal Stanisław Ryłko, the chairman of the Pope’s Council for the Secular and its secretary archbishop Josef Clemens, archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, the chairman for Health Service and Pastoral Work for the ill, archbishop Antonio Maria Veglio, the chairman of the Pope’s Council for the Pastoral Work for Migrants and Travellers, bishop Paolo de Nicolo from the Prefecture of the Pope’s House and many other representatives of Rome’s Curia (W. R.).
WŁODZIMIERZ RĘDZIOCH: - How shall I introduce you to our readers?
ANNA GULAK: -I am a graduate from Fine Arts Academy in Warsaw. I gained my diploma in the Faculty of Painting with the specialisation of sculpturing. Within my activities, besides the aforementioned areas, there is also graphics and interior design and pattern-designing.
- You graduated from the Academy in 2009 but you had contacts with Vatican earlier...
- That’s true. When I was in the first year of my studies - and it was the 25-th anniversary of John Paul’s II pontificate – my medal was chosen and minted by Vatican on the hundredth pilgrimage of the Holy Father. The present Pope Benedict XVI liked my medal of 2003 very much and I was asked to make another one. So, I prepared my project of the medal on this year’s pilgrimage of Benedict XVI to Madrid and the project was chosen from among other projects (the Vatican State mints a series of coins and a medal every year ; also coins and occasional medals are minted, for example on the occasion of the Pope’s travel – note W.R.)
- How did it happen that the young student started working for Vatican?
- In 2002 bishop Stanisław Dziwisz had an occasion to see my first sculptural works. He liked them very much and suggested me making the Pope’s medal. At that time I did not know that medals are chosen within a contest, in which many prominent artists from the whole world present their works. After some time, I learnt that despite of such a high competition my project was chosen. In this way my adventure with Vatican started.
- How did you become interested in John Paul II?
- John Paul II was not only a Polish Pope, but, first of all, the contemporary man with many charismas and a fascinating personality: strong but suffering, morally adamant, but also sympathetic; a prominent diplomat and a leader with an artist’s soul, philosopher, poet, and an actor. Examples can be multiplied. Shortly speaking - he was and is still my idol. I was fascinated with his energetic pace of walking, way of speaking and gestures. His attitude and personality were the personification of God’s beauty and goodness.
- What did you prepare for the exhibition about Blessed John Paul II?
- The exhibition is composed of the monumental bust of John Paul II with the project of the monument of John Paul II ‘Tu es Petrus’ as well as eight graphic portraits made also in a big scale (the height of 3m), showing different aspects of his character. It is the beginning of a series of portraits which I am going to continue.
- Why did you choose this form of a portrait?
- In art I am fascinated with monumentality of forms. Referring to the modern art of billboards and mass culture, and with using a classical workshop at the same time, I want to reach to the contemporary addressee in a stronger way.
- You also exhibit the project of the monument...
- The project of the monument ‘Tu es Petrus’ consists of four elements. The upper part is a figurative person of John Paul II – a pilgrim going to Father’s home, slightly bent and carrying the burden of responsibility for the whole world on his shoulders. This figure emerges as if it was forged from a rock. The chasuble, dispelled by a strong wind at the bottom, changes into a rocky mass. Beneath, in the geometrized base of the monument, on the frontal wall, there is an inscription: ‘Tu es Petrus’ – the idea and message of the whole monument. While on the side wall the most beautiful quotations of John Paul’s II teaching were engraved. On both walls of the base there is a project of water flowing down from the rocky mass at the feet of the figure of the Pope, whereas at the bottom it creates a reservoir surrounded by a small wall and the amphitheatre of stairs, making it possible to relax and meet others. The project has not been realized yet and it is waiting for its place...
- Card. Lajolo mentioned that John Paul’s II monument of your authorship is supposed to stand in Vatican...
- In fact, the project has already been approved. The work is supposed to begin next year. It is going to be the statue of John Paul II from bronze. The form of the monument more classic and composing with the surroundings quite well.
- I congratulate you on the artistic successes in Vatican and thank you for the interview, and at the same time I would like to inform the readers of ‘Niedziela’ that your exhibition is open till the end of November this year.