This work, with its striking upward perspective, is based on a photograph Sasnal took of his wife, Anka. Sasnal explores the possibilities and boundaries of painting and of seeing rather than addressing any specific set of narrative or abstract subjects. He makes paintings and drawings in a multiplicity of styles, depending on a broad array of source materials and art-historical precedents.
Gallery label from What is Painting? Contemporary Art from the Collection, July 7–September 17, 2007.
In the graphic shades of white, black, and gray typical of his work at this time, Sasnal has depicted a figure from a striking perspective. The painting is based on a photograph the artist took of his wife, Anka, while he lay on the floor. The image is intimate yet superficial, as all identifying characteristics have been removed. In this way, Untitled (Anka) is more like a landscape than a personal portrait, and it exemplifies Sasnal’s ability to paint diverse subject matter with equal indifference. He has remarked, “It … sometimes happens that subject matter which seems the least suitable for a painting, or for art in general for that matter, is the most interesting.”
Born in Poland, where he still works, Sasnal is a prolific painter with a chameleonlike facility with a paintbrush. He draws his imagery from newspapers, comic strips, celebrity publicity shots, and his own photographs, among other sources, and he also makes films. He is as likely to be experimenting with abstraction as with figuration, creating portraits or depicting objects and scenes from everyday life. Sasnal’s myriad approaches to painting (including references to Pop, socialist realism, and abstraction) make up a restless practice that investigates what painting can be.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 258.