Edward Dwurnik „Polish Emblem – Cancer Patient” 1986, oil on canvas, 146 x 114 cm
“Who are you? A Polish child. What’s your emblem? The Eagle in White.” In the title of his painting from 1986, Edward Dwurnik referred to the 19th century patriotic poem quoted here, written by traditional poet Władysław Bełza. However, apart from a bitter irony concerning Polish national symbols, this painting has also another subject.
The 1980s in Poland is considered as a rather gloomy and depressive period. The second half of the decade was marked by deepening economic crisis, the collapse of the welfare system, the critical state of national healthcare, pollution of the environment, and the breakdown of social ties. The “cancer patient” in Dwurnik’s painting raises his fist in a gesture of protest. Dwurnik, in this mocking, powerful work, shows the fate of an individual amidst the current conflicts. It portrays the clash of the language of propaganda, claiming constant social and industrial progress, and the sheer facts that contradict and undermine this.
A “second head,” emblematic of the artist’s painting at that time, appears in the composition. It grows up and falls out of the body is its affective double, symbolizing a scream of rage. Cancer Patient is one of five canvases by Edward Dwurnik (1943–2018) in our collection, and it represents one of his most disturbing work of the 1980s, filled with protest, affection and dark humor.