Henryk Zarski

The drawings of Henryk Zarski reflect the experience of rural life in Central Europe in a manner that is at once candid and marvellously direct. His evocations of the world he inhabits are suggestive of a compelling reality, although the objects in his pictures occupy a resolutely two-dimensional picture space. Despite the artistic talent which is now evident, until the age of eighteen Zarski was considered to possess neither skills nor interests by the staff of the Special Institution for Children in Zduny, Poland where he had been confined since infancy.

Born in Jabelwarc, Germany towards the end of the Second World War, he was diagnosed as severely mentally retarded and employed only to do simple cleaning and babysitting jobs in the institution. He fared much better in the Welfare Institution in Pakowka. to which he was moved in 1962. In 1989 he was released and employed as a farm labourer, but returned voluntarily to the Institution a short time later; a reflection on the fact that after so many years on the ‘inside’ its particular conditions and community satisfied best his sense of belonging and idea of home. It was at this time that Zarski began to draw, at first finding inspiration in images he saw in newspapers and on postcards, and later articulating his personal visions. His work has been displayed in exhibitions of ‘psychiatric art’ in Europe, and more recently London.


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