IN SEARCH OF AN IMAGE
Boguslaw Deptula talks to Lukasz Huculak
Bogusław Deptuła:What is an image?
ŁUKASZ HUCULAK:Certainly, some time ago it was more obvious to me. I was convinced that it was something that captured, emitted and enabled experiencing what I called for myself metaphysical feelings, the feelings I used to associate generally with a basic opposition to life feelings, as described by Witkacy. Something that was in close relation with a sense of peculiarity, ambiguousness of the external world.
Nowadays I also accept images that refer, in a sense, to more simple issues and life feelings, although still this primary function is the most important for me, it is a kind of a metafunction. In this case I certainly have far more doubts – is it possible at all to produce a thing that comprise a possibility of transmitting metaphysical emotions, whether images may comprise such energy immanently or is it rather a question of secondary ascribing these possibilities to them – a sort of superstition.
BD:Was it once easier to know what an image is?
ŁH:The longer you live, the more doubts appear, it is obvious. The purpose of existence of the major part of human products is clear, in case of a painterly picture it is less and less clear. The more you experience, the bigger the potential of doubts grows. Belief meets more disappointments than confirmations. The only thing that has not changed is the conscience that it is a question of belief, which may not be rationally or logically justified, you only have to motivate yourself and express an adequate amount of this belief.
BD:Belief in what you are doing?
ŁH:Yes, and that it works out, effects, that it is not impossible. Values are most often assumed, imposed on us by father figures, ourselves or our opinions. Still, the fact whether some things bare specific traits or values objectively, phenomenologically, is not certain for me. The older you get, the harder you should try to learn how to fight doubts, cross them over, or even better, benefit from them while practising painting and thinking about it. You will not be effective at work if you only ignore them. Doubts are certainly epistemologically important.
BD:Considering you are a fairly young painter, you have achieved much in your life. Nevertheless, as an artist you remain as if not certain enough, which can be proved by performing so many different things at the same time, various ideas and concepts of a picture appear parallel. Being uncertain is constructive or destructive?
ŁH:Quite probably it is easier for artists who treat painting as a kind of a postulate, something assumed and already defined. They apply an image to express visually what can be expressed, let it be, verbally. I realise that “to say” is different from “to demonstrate”, and actually it is sometimes more effective to represent or to paint something. But for me painting is not a sort of a postulate, it has nothing in common with public comments, or world which can be expressed by words and language. Paint matter and painterly practice is not an easy way. When I set to work I haven't got a clear-cut vision – the final effect comes as a specific kind of feeling that a picture is supposed to evoke, and it is not an exact visual construct.
Meanwhile, there is a continuous co-operation with technical workshop. The more sense I see in it, the more unexpected is the result of what the free from my intention material can, in a way, generate out of itself. In a way, as certainly there is always an area left under control of an artist who decides what to excavate, what to hide away, what to leave and what to cover with paint. Still I try to set free the most of forces from the area without my control and limit my rational interference. Each artist makes an attempt to comprehend and follow this process so as to repeat it later on, to use it again. However, uniqueness of a picture is decided by the extent to what this picture is being hidden and secret, in a sense individual because strange as it is.
BD:Is a painting an event each time?
ŁH:I wish it would be like this, this is a will of almost each painter except for those radically leftwing, for whom uniqueness is anti-egalitarian. When proportions – both in colour and composition or shapes – are predictable or banal, a picture is not intriguing. I wish the spatial and chromatic relationships were always the least obvious or easily named. I get the impression that such a state happens when relations between proportions or colours focus some kind of energy which evokes feelings I await from art, although I realise that this is another, little precise and extremely subjective, definition.
BD:Isn't it true that being afraid of predictability, you introduce to your art something a bit bizarre though I don't actually want to call it this way.
ŁH:It is again a question of my growing doubts. Once there was simplicity, the rule of austereness and specific primitivism, but as the time went by this potential got used up a little. Now I am more sensitive and acquisitive to what is complicated and unclear, and in specific stylistics. Quite possible it is something about Baroque exultation and the need to confuse.
BD:Have you found peculiarity and ambiguousness in Baroque or rather in Surrealistic paintings?
ŁH:It seems that in a sense of structure it is more Baroque and Mannerism, I mean the paintings I had not been able to look at before because of excessive impressions offered by them. For me they “disappeared” because of their overflow, persistent alternation of colours, directions, of everything. For some time now I've begun to see them and I try to reach a kind of clarity and lucidity out of this confusion. Total transparency and simplicity I used to love once – I still love it by the way – as at Giorgio Morandi's, bored me at a certain moment. It may be the question of “crop rotation”, as Nowosielski called passing from figurative to abstract paintings in his art. I might have had to exceed myself with sight sensations to be able to perform reduction again.
BD:One of your latest shows was entitled “Q abstrakcji” [Q Abstraction].1 Why not just abstraction but “towards it”?
ŁH:The title was proposed by Karolina Jaklewicz from the Socato Gallery. At the beginning I was thinking about Odyssey; considering journey it was more about heading towards instead of reaching the aim. I did not mean a mythological Odyssey, I thought more about Stanley Kubrick's movie with Ligeti's music.
I have a problem with pure abstraction – it attracts me though I am sensitive to apparent easiness of practices like these. I rather reject pure informel – as it operates masses rather than relations – but I am incredibly fascinated with Russian Constructivism in its “dirty” revolutionary phase. It is where you can find such pure proportions, both simple and not banal, beautiful though not perfect: Lissitzky, Puni, Strzemiński – texture and materiality were not so much important at that time.
Moreover, I have always perceived this as a labile border, I have always thought that the world includes abstraction, and it is only matter of scale or framing, in other words: seeing in a state of phenomenological reduction. I do not perceive abstraction as an invention of Modernism, or even more as something opposite to reality. Besides, I am George Berkeley's admirer.
BD:For some time now you have much complicated the potential of accidental forms. How has it happened and why?
ŁH:It is all about being unique, unrepeatable what I have already mentioned. It is about an attempt to extract cosmos out of chaos. Asian, Chinese pictures have always attracted me – both in their ideological structure and individual motifs…
BD:But there is nothing left there to a chance, everything is performed perfectly till the very last line.
ŁH:…as “Persimmons” by Mu Qi. I think there is an accident here as there is no place for mechanics, there is gesture, the Gutai's practice, and a fundamental for Zen painting history about a landscape with autumn leaves under a waterfall, a painting that was created by splashing paint and traces of treading animals left on it.
BD:BD:Actually all your works are lacking colour – colour is not spectral, from the optical point of view these are all “dirts”.
ŁH:Yes, they are achromatic or half-chromatic. Since my early secondary school period I have had an assumption that colour spectrum has not been obvious… Nevertheless, someone can say that it is obvious, as it is just grey.
It is probably a reaction to some superstitions imbued in my secondary school monopolised by colourists. I have always tried to find blue in reds, warm tones in cold ones – I have wanted to see certain unobvious chromatic energy in colour, values that cannot be recognised thoroughly… At the beginning it was related with repeated putting on paint, interfusing layers which were supposed to lead to disappearance. It has been simplified nowadays, sometimes it is ordinary operation of my muted palette. It is said that on atomic level matter is colourless.
It surely is related – translating into music terminology – with silence, muffling, or at least calm, what, in an evident way, maybe even too evident, is supposed to lead to contemplation. I am attracted by rustles, Scelsi, Sciarrino, Darmstadt, and some single sounds.
BD:Does it mean that the excess, present in your ones before last paintings, is caused by an attempt to reach moderation, silence and calm?
ŁH:I do not know if it is the only reason but still if I have in my mind some dreamed-of pictures, they are surely empty or almost empty, nevertheless there is a kind of energy – the relations, though accidental, comprise absolute necessity; the energy that results, excuse my bombastic tone, in metaphysical illumination.
BD:Have you succeeded in including some part of this illumination in your last, so much reduced, pictures?
ŁH:Surely enough, I should say it is not my task to estimate them. I was surprised once that these “faint” paintings, in which hardly anything is visible, after stretching canvas on frames start “to look”, they leave emptiness. I painted something on canvas laid on the floor – it was supposed to be underpainting only, I even happened to tread upon it as it interfused with the dirty floor – but then I stretched the canvas on frame, and here it was – although actually it was nothing. For a long time now I have wanted my paintings to be empty and “faint”, but it seemed to me it couldn't be so easy, that there had to be many layers, toil, search for colour, repeated repainting. But it occurred that it is just the other way round – if something is supposed to be about nothing, dust, a corner, a piece of ceiling – it has to be faint, not forced, in a way slapdash. Now it seems interesting to me, how suddenly “something” comes out of this “nothing”, how you can become entranced by white of a wall or proportions of a little dirt. I adore purity, so I notice all, even the smallest, rubbish. I wish I could reach such a state that enables me to see the universe in a piece of undefined mini-litter. Here, eventually, is everything: minimalism, rustles, phenomenology, metaphysics. Moreover , a still-life, or direct contact with reality I began with. The contact with the world has always been important to me, the fact which may be difficult to believe in. For the world is strange in itself, it does not need to be made bizarre additionally – it is odd because it is and simply because we see it. Seeing is for me a key function: peripheral vision, dim seeing, unconscious seeing without any attempt to call what has been seen, or phenomenological staring situated on the border of conscience. All of this happens between world and mind, and the eyes are naturally on the border, in between.
1 A letter “q” is pronounced in Polish same as preposition “ku” which means “towards”.