Łukasz Skąpski studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow, at the Department of Painting. He lives and works in Cracow (Poland). He is a member of Supergrupa Azorro.
He makes installations, objects, photography and video. In the nineties he was interested especially in the metaphysical potential of reality. Art that he created reflected both his interest in the tradition of conceptualism and in minimalism. He was fascinated by astronomy, optical and solar phenomena. What he did reflected also his pragmatic approach to our ability of percepting the world. However, his works do not lack distance, irony and critical analysis. Since the year 2000 he makes films. Łukasz Skąpski resignes partly from “esotericism” and the analysis of the metaphysics of things for the sake of socially oriented projects. However, in some of his works you can still find the specific minimalism of form.
A very important theme of his art are works forming cycles or typologies. The first collection of this kind - the portraits of Mao Zedong entitled „Szeregi / The Rows” (1990-1991) – was made during his stay in China. Skąpski keeps coming back in his art to the method of putting into rows. This is also visible in the project called “Maszyny /Machines” from 2005.
It is to document about 150 of tractors constructed by farmers from Podhale in southern Poland. This work is made of photographs showing the vehicles in different shots and of films with farmers talking about the values of the handmade machines. Agricultural machines which were photographed by the artist were conscructed using parts coming from different vehicles. The first ones were made in Podhale in the sixties. It was caused by a complicated socio-political situation in Poland. As Łukasz Skąpski says, agricultural machines produced by the country were available mainly for state-owned enterprises, dominating in the plains of central Poland. For the farmers of southern Poland these tractors were too expensive and insufficient in the mountain region. All these factors: economical, social and practical made the farmers produce their agricultural machines by themselves, machines that were cheap and fulfilled their expectations.
Łukasz Skąpski was interested in these strange handmade machines because of their, how he calls it, “anti-corporational” character. He was interested in people’s exceptional way of adapting to the existing socio-political conditions, alternative economies, specific anarchy and absurdity of situation which made the farmers become inventors and constructors. The artist brings back to memory this practice, forgotten in the late capitalism, which lasted in Podhale for 40 years (the youngest photographed tractor is from 2003). The artist presents the machines with sense of humour, recalling the times of communism when meeting even the most obvious consumption needs was an unbeliveable problem and very often the only solution was this sort of private production.
The artistic analysis is also focused on the interesting design of the vehicles which reflects the times in which the machines were constructed. However, the construction problems were dominating over the aesthetics. The films accompanying the photographical documentation reveal constructors’ emotional approach to their machines that are a part of some kind of peculiarity of the region. “Machines” of Łukasz Skąpski is a truly original project because the artist combines different perspectives: art with etnography, sociology, history and even engineering.
Joanna Zielinska 2006