SECOND CREATION OF THE WORLD
The figure of artist as Creator is well known: any artist of note creates his own distinctive world, imitating thus the divine act of creation. Putting together three artists from Wroclaw, who are linked by their having been pupils of prof. Stanislaw R. Kortyka, I intend to present their notably different attitudes und separate ways as a kind of history of creation. This history proceeds from the emptiness emanated by Lupa's contemplative paintings, through the outline-design World contained in Duda's “rebuses”, to the narrative paintings of Pajączek that are brimming with life. Thus we proceed from abstraction (Lupa), through symbol (Duda), to a narrative that is rich in detail (Pajaczek).
Among many stories concerning the relationship between idealism and realism we will find the account of the doubting Apostle Thomas, who became guilty by believing more his hands than the testimony of his eyes. Blessed are those who have not seen and believed. Believed, that is, without any kind of sensual confirmation. More blessed would be those that totally deny whatever positive sensual confirmation there may be, proving thus the axiomatic superiority of ideals as opposed to the empirical force of the (material) World. We, the-not-blessed, are the last in that ranking, for, not wishing to be thought crazy, we depend on the testimony of sight that is ultimately confirmed by the testimony of touch.
In the biblical account St. Thomas, not believing the witness of his eyes, is eventually convinced by a tactile proof. The art of painting concerns the eyes. Touching, as a “3D” sensation, technically speaking, belongs more properly to scuptors than painters. However, as a method of ascertaining the reality of this or that object, it is far superior to the “two-dimensional”, abstract, of its nature non-material and burdened with optical illusions, as well as parallax, visual sensation.
A paradox hidden in the white monochromatic paintings of Wojtek Lupa consist in that by touching the surface of the painting (he paints with his fingers), he at the same time creates paintings where nothing can be seen: he thus proves the existence of nothing. Even if this “nothing” is material, it is a matter in its pre-formal state, antecedent to the state in which matter and form are combined into a whole (the synolon of Aristotle). The matter just before creation, still formless, which is no more than a touchable “nothing”. Not named, not classified, therefore perceivable neither by senses nor by reason - simultaneously existent and nonexistent.
Painting with his fingers, Lupa is touching something that is not visible. Something which we can't see. And it is a normal reflex action: when we can't see anything, we try to touch something, so that we can again find ourselves in space and feel our separateness from, and our internal integrity vis à vis, the objectively existing material world. We try thereby to prove our own existence, which effort is being made significantly less possible by the lack of external points of reference. The paintings of Lupa offer to the eye few such points, as if aiming at the disappearance of the viewer. On his pictures we can only see Nothing, because there isn't there anything to see. The reality of painting matter (Lupa confirms its solidity by his touch technique) is used in his works to create a visual immateriality. All that this “touching” ascertains, is merely a lack, an absence - a not-existence. But the touch technique, which permits Lupa - as he puts the snow-white paint on canvas - to be more precise and feeling than the brush technique, is justified not from the technical standpoint only. It creates both a relation and relatioships in a place where the eye will not find them.
The effect is something like an invisible “matter painting”. Colour white - as an excess of light and through its abstract extremity also an idealistic value - is a well known, so to say, reducer of the reality (visibility) of the World. Fog, snow, clouds - they all are a force generating the physical “meta”, an environement of loftiness and transcendence.
The birth of colour
The way Lupa treats colour negates the objectivity of the painting surface. Colour appears accidentally in the eye or in the brain of the viewer, as an illusion compensating for its absence in the painting itself. Being absent from the paint (Lupa uses only pure titan white), it is subjetive: it emerges as a consequence of the angle of incident light, or of the play of the scale of points, or because of the momentary predisposition of the viewer's viewing apparatus. Putting the paint with finger creates a delicate three-dimensional strucrure, on the surface of which a kind of “light-drizzling” occurs, which creates an illusion of dimming chromatic effects. How strong is the need for colour in the sterile white reality of Lupa's paintings can be seen when one reproduces them photographically end enlarges the copies: one can see the white split into the delicate primary colours. Only seldom does Lupa use the real colour: he sometimes titillates the viewer's eye with regularly arranged small points of pure colour. But generally we remain, so to speak, under the surface of visibility, we regard it denuded, without the garment of shapes, colours and other attractive details. We regard this visibility as a naked structure, an abstraction that is physically and chemically pure. The World would perhaps look so, when seen under a microscope or through a telescope: as an atomic explosion or a cosmic implosion. I would dedicate those paintings not so much to daltonists (as Lupa likes to joke), but to those who are either shortsighted or longsighted.
The middle distance doesn't allow to perceive all their qualities; they should be looked at from a standpoint that is either “too close” or “too far”. The viewer should look at them from a distance or he should try to go inside them. In many respects they are close to the concepts and the aesthetics of the Far East and, not unlike the chinese rolls, they invite for a journey.
Duda: The World
The painterly compositions of Waldemar Duda are similarly concerned with measuring (traversing) space. Here is the world that emerges from behind fog and dust which envelop Lupa's paintings: pages of an atlas that limit Lupa's limitless spaces by means of marking a place or staking out a route. To “tame” space and to make its pieces distinct by, for example, marking the edge of canvas with a warning “zebra”, as in a striped zebra-crossing, or at a place where a road accident has occurred. In this way Duda is saying: take care - the picture ends here. Take care also - because the World begins here. Many of the formal means he uses bear a striking resemblance to a map. His use of the “bird's eye view” and the accumulation of symbols make the schematically mirrored space of the World into something like a visual synthesis of the immensity that is surrounding us. The symbolical ordering of that space enables Duda to divide visibility in two layers: the first is the just mentioned immensity, being the painterly background, and the second is the drawing grid of relations that is imposed upon that background/immensity. The painting surface is being worked on with stress put on facture and it is either subdued with regard to colour or is distinctly dominated by it. This makes it susceptible to the play of colour. Sometimes it will be subtly vibrating surfaces not unlike sand dunes, deserts of sophisticated monochromatic tones, on other times it may be naked soil, a field that has been ploughed and is awaiting tillage. All this is seen from afar, looked at as if from a cosmic, or perhaps a “divine” perspective. And then the drawing appears: signs and paths incised in the surface of the paint. They are on occasions emphasized with an intense pure colour, so that they are contrasting with the background tone, but never too strongly - if only on account of their quantitative slightness, as compared with the dominating surface of the background. Unlike Lupa with his formal austerity (the sole defined form he uses is a point), Duda offers the viewer a profusion of forms: he introduces a sort of runic signs, glyphs (do they not remind us of the drawings from Nasca or other works bordering on land-art, or perhaps of some relics of magical rites?), he uses hieroglyphs and he seems to oscilate between a rebus and a map. We find in his work very simplified silhouettes of things, trees, buildings, as well as spirals and small crosses. In his newer works we will also find industrial products: airplanes, razor blades, stereo players.
Those objects are placed there with a studious carelessness, but the way they are situated in the picture is only seemingly random. The subtlety of colour that is clashing with the “programmatic” sparseness of drawing, done as if with a child's hand - this quality gives Duda's paintings their specific expression. One can see in Duda's paintings not only a private geography of solitude, but something like a playground, or ad hoc improvised board games.
We remember similar games form school: ships, circle and cross and many others. On the one side an extreme elaboration and on the other an ostentatious un-ripeness (innocence?). A peculiar mixture of elegance and primitivism, of primeval means of expression (sign) and highest sensibility (dimming colours). Where are those maps leading? Where is their author taking us and what is his message?
Looking at Duda's work in the “cartographic” context, one can see it as an attempt of domesticating the strange and rigorous (having just emerged from chaos) space. If, on the other hand, one would follow the “rebus” track, what is depicted suggests a message, is a testimony of human presence. Contrary to Lupa's completely uninhabited spaces, in Duda's world - to be precise, in the divisions that organize it - we find a trace oh human presence, a desire to establish contact. It's a desire not only mark a definite locality, to give somebody a specific place, but to lead to somewhere specific too. In the veiled stylisation as something primeval one can perhaps find an element of despair: a cry for help out of the oppressing solitude. But the message remains hermetically sealed. The barbarian, although sensible and even tender (as can be inferred from the delicacy of colour he uses), and selfconscious as well (the sign of the small cross bears witness to that) is nevertheless incomprehensible. He is a stranger.
Pajaczek: Earth - the homeland of humans
It is in the works of Pajączek, the third participant of the exhibition, that we will find a world that is really friendly to the human being. Done in the watercolour technique, his paintings are completely flat and devoid of facture. Seemingly not susceptible to the play of light, they, however, display a peculiar shimmering, which is caused by elaborate structures and mini-ornaments that are covering large parts of them. The effect is akin to what Lupa and Duda accomplish by means of facture. In many of Pajączek's paintings those abstract multiplications are quite dominating and obscuring their narrative richness. The lattest is very important to the painter: in his world the need for existence and for dialogue are paramount. It is a strange world - a land that would be alien and exotic to the inhabitants of the cities of today - yet the people living in it seem to feel at home there. They are locals. Here we will at last find shelter and some comfort, after we have negotiated Lupa's ascetic deserts and Duda's cool universes. Here we are on Earth, and what's more, we are protected by architecture, by provisional houses of sorts, gates and fences that separate our space from the space of others. In his passion for architecture Pajączek is not satisfied with remaining within the bounds of surface - a project, a registered concept - but he takes the next step, he builds in space. He satisfies the urges of his passion by creating in three dimensions. His lean sculptural structures
are a kind of tenderly built up refuge, both provisional and refined in its proportions, at the same time natural and artificial. Due to the geometry of divisions it belongs to architecture, yet due to the rawness of the used material it still belongs to nature. Imperfection is inscribed into the human opus and it is not the only trait of his peculiar naturalness. An instinct that we have already found in Duda - namely imposing (staking out) divisions and filling them up with traces of human activity - Pajączek brings to a culmination. His need to fill up space seems to be compulsive, as if confirming the ancient physical principle of horror vacui. The brimming narrative mixes motifs and varies content, while its author, as if a child or an alien enchanted by the world, succumbs to the charms of excess.
Pajaczek's paintings are inviting us not so much for a journey as for a feast of senses: we should enjoy them - we should immerse ourselves in their visual excess and forget ourselves in their intoxitcating exaggeration. How should we look at this confusing yet affirmative abundance? Should we perhaps read him as an artist praising the riches of visibility? In contrast to Lupa and Duda, who accentuate scale and wholeness, Pajączek puts stress on detail. Pajączek's world is captivating and dominating: we are soon lost in the jungle of points and commas, in the ever new waves of ornaments and rhythms. We become not unlike Gulliver, whom the Liliputs have bound by innumerable threads. More: nature and the world, intertwined, are moving violently, with a vitality that gives the impression of being a process more intuitive than conscious. That process, not controlled by rational selection, functions rather as a stream of unconsciousness. If at a certain place the small single signs begin to form, say, rows, or flower-beds, or regular stripes, they in no time fall apart chaotically - for something is breaking the form-imposing lines. They then disintegrate into indefinite shapes, something like a Solaris-sort-of mimoids and strange creatures. Ultimately, each shape, exploding, returns to its primary pre-natal form - seen already in Lupa - of something that is soft and indefinite. One could perhaps say that Wojciech Lupa, following the traces of impressionism, dematerializes the World, breaking it by means of light (pure white), while the tenderly expressive Waldemar Duda fights against the ever stronger feeling - that we all increasingly experience - of loneliness and of being lost. And of Pajączek one could perhaps say that, being sensually insatiable as he is, believing moreover in Bergsonian elan vital and, aside from that, praising existence more avidly than the poet Leśmian - that he closes the cycle by means of once again transmuting the excess of form into the primordial nothingness.
The artistic attitude of the three painters who create the World for the second time can be linked to what is being called “The Vratislavian Structuralism”. Belonging to the Vratislavian aetshetic traditions, that attitude, surprisingly, is also related with the work of Prof. Zbigniew Karpiński, the mentor of Prof. Stanisław Kortyka. In Karpiński'd work, after his expressionist period, one can see a decisive turn in the direction of discipline and objectivism. (Duda's “Baby / Women”, painted in the years 2005-2006 are a distant echo of Karpiński's rural models.) Karpiński himself referred to his paintings made after 1976 as “a realism without compromise”, substituting a maximal precision of brush strokes for emotion and poetic interpretation. A sharp synthetic style and the fauvistic tone of his youthful paintings give way in the 1970s to a systematic and dispassionately objective (though not indifferent) method of depicting the real world. With respect to iconography it is painting that is often proccupied with man, but its extreme objectivism - the “hyper-realistic” approach and the technique that is a further development of impressionism, strictly speaking, the divisionism - permits an interpretation from the structuralistic (philosophically seen) perspective. That perspective accentuates what is formal and as a doctrine it is autotelic, being focused on disclosing its own rules and procedures. What in Karpinski's painting is most astonishing, is his formal coolness as juxtaposed with the iconography that displays the greatest respect for existence - an affirmative joy no lesser than Pajaczek's.
Several formal and iconographic elements connect the three presented artsits with the work of Kortyka. In Kortyka's atelier ruled always pluralism and an acceptance of all sorts of different attitudes. One of the central motifs of Kortyka's work, namely the desert, or the emptiness, finds also its own interpretation in the works of Duda, Lupa and Pajączek. It is worth noting a similar tone displayed by the matter of their paintings - akin to what we see in the works of Karpiński and Kortyka: a dislike for a flat, abstractly decorative situating of the one-dimensional surface of a uniform colour. And an understanding of a paint-colour not only as a pigment but also as matter.
All those attitudes are also linked by a construction rule: multiplication of an element, a point or another simple sign, creating forms by giving the simplest structures the maximum of density, patience, ascesis. Which all might be regarded as a kind of variant of Strzemiński's unification postulates. The linking element is colour - often not immediately evident, with the underlying white in Lupa and Pajaczek, or with the underlying black, in the demi-chromatic compositions of Duda.
There is, too, in each of those attitudes, a great deal of human, sensual tenderness. Even a most abstract Lupa is not wholly contained by geometry, because a of typically human imperfection of the hand-work (in his case literally). Even though in Lupa the human element is absent from the painterly iconography, it is present in the technique - as a trace of the finger with which Lupa paints. It is an abstraction in which the transcendent is combined with the human element in a way suggesting the postwar attempts of the New York School. The noble character of colour juxtapositions in Mark Rothko's work seems to have influenced Duda's chromatic preferences, although Duda uses narrative, which is absent from the mature work of Rothko. One mustn't forget though, that in the early “mythological” works of the Lithuanian émigré there are motifs pertaining to legends and archetypes. Those elements are also important in Klee's work, and Klee can be regarded as the father of Duda's “two-layered” construction principle of his paintings: a synthetical drawing superimposed on the painterly background. If, moreover, one remembers the attention with which Klee considered the subconscious and the art of non-professionals (children, mentally deranged, “primitives”), Klee would also be relevant in the case of Pajączek. Although possessing professional credentials, Pajączek has retained elements of sincerity and unpretentiousness that are characteristic of the art of the autodidacts. Their world is often a mixture of iconographic excess, a tendency to ornamentalism as the composition principle, and a touching lack of consequence (Augustine Lesage, and, more so, Rafael Lonné).
The exhibition of the three Vratislavian artists could be regarded as a dispute with the logically irresistible theorem of Parmenides: being exists, non-being doesn't exist. Lupa, following even the slightest traces of matter, touches upon non-being, because he doesn't trust the eyes, which prove that non-being doesn't exist. Duda, conscious of his own being, is looking for other beings: his aim is to name and to give form, as a condition of perceiving.
Pajączek's art, endlessly multiplying shapes, is the last stage of evolution, in which the limitless richness of form returns to the state of non-being, getting lost in its own superabundance.