Chopin Remixed

What kind of Chopin do we know and what kind of Chopin we do not know? Let’s look at some of his remixes!

By The Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Marta Tabakiernik (The Fryderyk Chopin Institute)

Szopen - buddy from the band (21st Century) by Paweł PłóciennikThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Introduction

Chopin airport, sailing ship Fryderyk Chopin, rose Chopin, chocolates, t-shirts, watches – composer’s name often becomes a cognitive category divorced from his music, a commemorating, a trademark. In different times and spaces we encounter various images and versions of 'Chopin’ attributing new meanings to them. In daily life tensions between originality and imitativeness, uniqueness and ubiquity change their dominants and accents unexpectedly. 

The model 'Copy–Transform–Combine’ that characterized the remix culture can be found also among artists and composers. What kind of Chopin do we know and what kind of Chopin we do not know? 

The withdrawn banknote with a face value of PLN 5,000 View 1The Fryderyk Chopin Institute

National Bank of Poland, Banknote of 5000-zloty denomination

Banknote of 5000 zł. denomination from a series called Great Poles is one of the retro-souvenir from the Polish People’s Republic. Fryderyk Chopin’s image by Andrzej Heidrich, based on the portrait by Ary Scheffer was a part of everyday life of millions of Poles who were paying with a banknote commonly known as 'a Chopin’. 

The withdrawn banknote with a face value of PLN 5,000 View 2The Fryderyk Chopin Institute

On the reverse of the banknote we can see a facsimile of Polonaise in F minor Op. 71, No. 3, the autograph of which belongs to the collection of the Chopin Museum. Today it can be surprising that this little known posthumously published work was so ubiquitous. 

The withdrawn banknote with a face value of PLN 5,000 View 1The Fryderyk Chopin Institute

After the redenomination famous composers (including Moniuszko and Paderewski) disappeared from the 'sphere of money’ making place for Polish kings. 200 anniversary of Chopin’s birth in 2010 was also celebrated by the emitting of a commemorative banknote of a 20 zł denomination. 

Chopin stamp design (20. Century) by Urbański LeonThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Leon Urbański, Design of a stamp commemorating Chopin

Urbański belongs to the most important figures of Polish typography. He designed over 200 books, many graphic symbols and leaflets. 'You can either relish in typography… or resign and search for different, easier occupation’ said Urbański in an interview with Ewa Prządka. His designs were above all functional, but also refined and thought through to the tiniest detail.

In the logo of Fryderyk Chopin Society he used the portrait by Delacroix. However, he transformed it monochromatically using a raster effect. In a large scale, on a preparatory drawing, we can look closely at the technology of that procedure based on illusion and simulation. 

Why many Poles went abroad (21st Century) by Marcin MaciejowskiThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Marcin Maciejowski, Why many poles went abroad

What can be a common thing linking the modern Poles with Chopin? Marcin Maciejowski’s painting tells us that this might be the emigratory experience. One of the most ubiquitous takes on Chopin by Ary Scheffer, on Maciejowski’s canvas is additionally simplified, reduced to the grays, blacks and whites. It becomes a pretext to comment on the current reality. 

To decode the meaning one needs to know the title of the painting and the context of its creation. Without that knowledge we could indifferently pass by the next repetition of a well-known image and not involve in any kind of dialogue with it. 

Chopin - portrait (21st Century) by Anna PiesiewiczThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Anna Piesiewicz, Portrait of Fryderyk Chopin

Anna Piesiewicz’s drawing is a remote repetition of Chopin’s portrait by Ary Scheffer, although one can easily notice the characteristic style of the young graphic designer who also designs products and visual communication. The characteristic contour is not finished, it looks understated.

The image seems dreamy and subtle. It reinvents Chopin’s romanticism anew, as seen and interpreted from the perspective of the year 2015. 

A portrait of Fryderyk drawn while listening to a song by AC / DC (21st Century) by Robert KutaThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Robert Kuta, Fryderyk’s portrait

What is the difference between Chopin’s image and a graphic sign? Chopin’s face depicted in many portraits seems to act as a symbol, logo, icon. The potential of this sign was used by Robert Kuta who took part in the Fryderyk Chopin’s Portrait Competition for Young Artists creating a drawing that is very bold in its simplicity. It is a concise portrait en face drawn on a sheet of paper taken out from a grid notebook. 

The elements of this composition are dislocated so that we do not know whether it was to depict two faces or only one that however goes out of a scheme and the correct arrangement of elements. The artists plays with the viewer on different levels. He not only creates a baffling image, but also titles it in a mischievous manner: 'Fryderyk Chopin’s portrait drawn while listening to a piece by AC/DC’. 
 

F. Chopin (20. Century) by Janusz PrzybylskiThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Janusz Przybylski, F. Chopin

Francis Bacon’s paintings were one of the inspirations behind Janusz Przybylski’s work. Coming from the blackness and greenness, painted with broad strokes of a paintbrush Fryderyk Chopin’s portrait suggests an insight into the deeper region’s of the composer’s psyche. Behind the dignity and coldness of Chopin’s look one can discover complicated feelings and emotions.

Slightly deformed version of Ary Scheffer’s original, affects the viewer with planes of deep colors and a relatively large size. It is one of the best Chopin’s portraits that belong to the Chopin Museum’s collection combining the individuality of the painter with a canon of Chopin’s depictions. 

Untitled [Portrait of Fryderyk Chopin] (21st Century) by Edward DwurnikThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Edward Dwurnik, Five portraits of Fryderyk Chopin

Edward Dwurnik was one of the most recognizable Polish artists. He created great amount of works in a sense remixing himself. It is not surprising that he created five Chopin’s portraits in a raw. Put together composer’s profiles seem to be its own replicas, although each of them is slightly different being a variant of the imagined model. 

Untitled [Portrait of Fryderyk Chopin] (21st Century) by Edward DwurnikThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

We don’t have any troubles with recognizing Chopin thanks to the profile, collar and haircut well rooted in the collective imagination.

Untitled [Portrait of Fryderyk Chopin] (21st Century) by Edward DwurnikThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

We are reminded about the circumstances in which the works were created by the images we can find on the revers of the portraits: the design of the wall calendar for the year 2010 marking the 200 anniversary of Chopin’s birth. 

Untitled [Portrait of Fryderyk Chopin], Edward Dwurnik, 21st Century, From the collection of: The Fryderyk Chopin Institute
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Untitled [Portrait of Fryderyk Chopin], Edward Dwurnik, 21st Century, From the collection of: The Fryderyk Chopin Institute
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Untitled [Portrait of Fryderyk Chopin], Edward Dwurnik, 21st Century, From the collection of: The Fryderyk Chopin Institute
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Untitled [Portrait of Fryderyk Chopin], Edward Dwurnik, 21st Century, From the collection of: The Fryderyk Chopin Institute
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Untitled [Portrait of Fryderyk Chopin], Edward Dwurnik, 21st Century, From the collection of: The Fryderyk Chopin Institute
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Chopin in Pop Culture III (part of the triptych) (21st Century) by Maksym OstrowskiThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Maksym Ostrowski, Chopin in pop culture I, II, III

In Maksym Ostrowski’s triptych "Chopin in pop culture" consisting of large works painted on plywood the binding motive is formed by the contour of Chopin’s figure used like a stamp or a graphic sing. 

Chopin in Pop Culture I (part of the triptych) (21st Century) by Maksym OstrowskiThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

It is multiplicand and transformed with added layers and colors that can be filled with a symbolic meaning. 

Chopin in Pop Culture II (part of the triptych) (21st Century) by Maksym OstrowskiThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

In the last work, a certain way of overlapping of the two layers results in a form that resembles… a coffin. The artist uses simple means to achieve an ambiguous message linked to the dumbed-down and stereotypical reception of Chopin and its cultural consequences. 

Chopin in Pop Culture III (part of the triptych), Maksym Ostrowski, 21st Century, From the collection of: The Fryderyk Chopin Institute
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Chopin in Pop Culture I (part of the triptych), Maksym Ostrowski, 21st Century, From the collection of: The Fryderyk Chopin Institute
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Chopin in Pop Culture II (part of the triptych), Maksym Ostrowski, 21st Century, From the collection of: The Fryderyk Chopin Institute
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Young Chopin (21st Century) by Tomasz WiktorThe Fryderyk Chopin Institute

Tomasz Wiktor, Young Chopin

Tomasz Wiktor in his portrait brought the young Chopin back to life. He does not resemble any of his historical depictions, yet, still and all, he is convincing, close and modern, although he does not wear neither tracksuit nor sneakers, neither headphones nor mp3 player).

He looks ahead into the future with a brilliant look, his hands are not on the keyboard, but in his pockets… Is he a romantic or a timeless hipster? 

Although the painting is painted on canvas in a traditional technique, it frees itself from the yoke of remixes: the transformations of well-known images known from the daguerreotypeand the portraits by Scheffer and Delacroix. 

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