The modern mural, regardless of our desires, always establishes a multi-level dialogue with the urban fabric that is already in existence. However, every once in a while we come upon a perfect harmony between painting and architecture. We should be all the more happy, that we can see this happened in the district of Bałuty, by the hand of Italian artist Opiemme, on the elevations of a primary school which he has painted. This piece clearly demonstrated that the mural is a wise art form.
This project not only pleases the eye, but most of all shows extraordinary coherence and a well thought-out idea. There are no visual fireworks here, no form dynamic or vibrant colours. The artist intentionally decorates the elevation with the kind of embelishment which coordinates perfectly with surrounding architecture, the facade’s division into parts: the plinth, the middle (which create pilaster strips) and the crown. Skillfully, she underlines the vertical and horizontal articulations of the wall, which are concurrent with the architectural intent. On another elevation, let us call it the back one, a synthetically portrayed fish appears within delicate edging. The fish, of course, refers to the history of this place (the school is placed near a park which is commonly called Herring Park, a name which is connected with the place’s history).
„The herring” is an exit point for the dialogue, or rather dialogues, which is begun by this piece. What we see here is a type of dialogue with the architecture of the building itself, but also with the space of Bałuty, its context, and what is most surprising, soc-realism itself. Additionally, every narrative which is built is conducted very intentionally, because this mural is definitely more than an action connected with making the elevation more „aesthetic.”
Soc-realism is barely noticed in Łódź, expecially in the Bałuty district, which was built and defined largely during this era. In everyday discourse, the Old Town Market Square and the nearby settlement project are not considered to be soc-realist, covered with a pre-war context or the history of occupation (ghetto). Opiemme returns a remembrance of soc-realism, opens up a dialogue, and is no afraid of subtle references to the design typical of this period. Her work makes a type of miracle happen; it turns attention to soc-realist architecture, while ennobling and reinterpreting it at the same time. It even goes a step further, connecting soc-realism with avant-garde (typography). It literally uncovers the modernist, avant-garde roots of soc-realism. This is another fact which escapes everyday discourse.
In some part, Opiemme’s piece legitimizes other painted and sgraffito decorations from the period of the People’s Republic, which can be found even several hundred meters farther, on a building by Podrzeczna street. It encourages people to get to know these works. Surely, it serves as a reinforcement of identity, and helps build a positive relationship with a place with a problematic and difficult history, most of all through understanding it. For the foundation of acceptance is dialogue, which takes on a model form in Opiemme’s Bałuty piece, and enables the formation of positive emotions towards the (time) space which exists there.
Text by Aleksandra Sumorok
Translated by Wojciech Szymański
Posted by courtesy of Łódź w Kulturze