PROLOGUE

So far, whenever I stood in front of a canvas of unpainted picture, I have never thought about the way I have walked since I first felt the joy during my play with paints and a paintbrush.

This and 'sea wars' for the army of little lead soldiers I inherited from my father as well as looking at the illustrations in my grandfather's books were my favourite pastimes, during which I lost all track of time and they made waiting for my parents come home from work easier.

The joy I felt mixing all the vivid colours and spilling them on paper, my fingers moving between and among all these streams and rivers of running paints, which eventually formed one undefined, brownish grey element that slowly filled the whole piece of paper, flooding all the adjacent archipelagos.

With time, this pastime defined the borders of my awareness, my existence and the way I felt. It was a process that changed my life. It permeated my most secret dreams and fascinations, and lit the darkness of my life, of my humanity. It accompanied my thoughts even when I was not aware of it.

This pastime, which for some is a short, passing episode, they are ashamed of, means a lot for me and is like a sea that keeps calling me. I go out to the sea in a small boat tossed by the lack of faith and discouragement.

On my journey I meet sailors, who single-handedly, with absolute certainty and full of enthusiasm traverse the oceans in the only appropriate direction chosen well in advance. Others drift deeming themselves in the hands of fate. In both cases, the pleasure and excitement of the voyage itself, as well as new obstacles 'Sindbads of art' have to overcome on their way, make up for all the effort, sacrifice and dangers.




My defence took place in 1995 and for 2 years all I could draw was sketches, in which colour started to appear. I saw the necessity to return to chromatic painting if I was to paint at all. I had to find and work out my own artistic way, taking into account changes that took place in my life.

A time of purification was necessary, a time when I could not paint at all. I began to feel the urge to paint when the colour returned.

I started rebuilding the relation with my own painting by reflective and calm approach to technique and return to simplified form. Confronted with the canvas and not knowing in which direction I should go I decided to reject gesture and black and white colours as the features I associated strongly with my former experience. This formal impediments allowed me to rebuild my chromatic sensitivity and use it for creation.

Feelings and emotions were made into the composition. Gesture was rarely used, and it was often replaced by structure, surrounded by space and located in the selected area of a picture that allowed to create a 'safe' distance between the picture and the viewer, who could see the core of the picture from a distance.

The attempts to cool down the emotions resembled the observation of the content of the picture using a pair of binoculars, but looking through it from the other side, from the auditorium and not from the scene - the centre of events.

Soon, it turned out that the feelings, sign and coincidence are inseparable part of my identity as a painter, and I cannot fully express what I feel without them.

In my recent pictures I reject this distance and I get closer to the viewer. The technique of fast painting that is sometimes faster than lateralization of thoughts, together with freed gesture predominate over reflection and looking for a logical explanation or justification.

After a period of concentration solely on colour, the return of gesture allowed me to enrich my previous experiences, and gave me new formal and emotional possibilities.

Since then, the painting itself, both as an object and as the finished work, a result of a painting process, became the centre of my work. These actions resulted from the need to redefine the concept of the painting and its functioning in painting.

Return to painting connected with the painting object is also a return to my inner life, to my ego. It is a return of my human 'ego' in painting. In contrast to installations, paintings show the reflection of the artist's face, his grimace.

Return to a painting understood as an icon does not necessarily have to be equivalent to return to representational painting. A Painting might be an object, an artistic fetish, an item of artistic and philosophical importance.  What is shown by artistic means may be a secondary result of using technique.

I have come to the conclusion that my escape from painting and turning to installations and conceptualism does not solve artistic issues. Escape does not solve the problem, it allows to avoid it for a certain period of time. Only painting may solve this sort of problems.

In the same way as religious icons depict eschatological reality in each dimension and they are the picture of the final reality, I would like to focus on the ethos of painting, its final and the deepest reality seen from the angle of imperfect poetics. A question about ethos is a pretext to ask a universal question about the source of identity. Therefore, personal ethos, which, by definition, includes imperfection, erring, and looking for artistic solutions is a carrier of a universal artistic existence of a painting.

The more I paint the less I know about painting. It is more about painting over something that had been painted before or stripping off paint, uncovering what the actual painting is rather than adding paints, colours and shapes. This resistance of canvas and paints assures me that I cannot paint and I will never find out the truth in painting. I do not consider myself a painter when I am not standing in front of the canvas painting. I know that it is this time that counts for painting.

I do not like my own paintings, too. They express the ineptness, show the helplessness. This funny fuss and bother over the canvas, flirtatious attempts, dancing attendance and jumping back, this embarrassing dance around a show business star.

But this cannot discourage me if I painting is to give me the sense of life.  

I paint the same internal picture I identify with, which is the reflection of, which mirrors me, is immaterial part of me, and whose shape results from my identity.                                                                                                        

I would like my pictures to show more than it is possible to see in the surrounding reality. We look but we do not see, we hear but we do not listen, we do not understand.

I would like to replace this superficial attitude concentrated on looking at the surface of things with a subjective but honest search for the content. Is it true what we see and understand? Do we wish to learn the truth about the world and ourselves?

The quest for the truth must begin with rejection of stereotypical view of reality. We must look at the world with child's eyes and marvel at the world which was previously distorted by routine and hypocrisy.

Can we, knowing the truth, transpose it onto all areas of life, once again become as innocent as a child? "They look but they do not see" - do we not exchange one lie for another one? Are we able to apply the wisdom we possess in every area of our life?

My painting helps me to get to know the truth, and although I know the rules governing the TRUTH I might not obey all of them. Therefore, I would at least show the curtain behind which the Truth is, if I cannot show the inexpressible.

My paintings, like gothic cathedrals are more of a sign, a symbol than a description. Looking for a means of artistic announcement that is subordinated to the goal, looking for it is the content of my artistic output. Thus, when I speak about the goal I do not underestimate it, it is in a certain distance.

My paintings express my helplessness, admission of failure. For this reason I do not seek admiration, I do not strive after perfection, but I mark the process of creation, the state of quest, getting closer and walking away, memorizing and forgetting. It resembles breathing rather than a homogeneous, finished creative act.

Painting is strictly connected with identity. I change and my paintings change as well.

A painting is a symbol, it visualizes the content the painter wishes to express. If words, grammar and language rules do not suffice, they must be replaced with sign and rules of composition, with colours, lines, light and structure.

The main focus of my painting is the picture itself, especially the language of art, and what is happening with it inside the frame. Focus on the picture as such, using its visible form to better understand what it depicts.

In case of painting, a tale of light and colour is a tale of the art of looking. Observation as a source of something that becomes a picture is the essence of painting. A painting is a result of looking. Painting itself, as an activity, using artistic tools, is based on looking. In order to paint one must first see.

In my pictures, I try to say something about the way painters look, and show how the picture is 'born'.

Painting involves coding a certain message - a sign in a picture and is demands that the viewer decode this message. The picture seen by the viewer is the reflection of what the painter saw, but this view is not exactly the same as the painter's perspective, as the author who looks at his own picture sees the end of his creative experiments. He also remembers the way which led to obtaining the final shape. The viewer only sees the finished product, and how well he will decode the intention of the author depends on his sensitivity, experience, intelligence and knowledge of techniques.

The painting is an invitation to adopt the same way of looking at the picture as the author. It is an attempt to persuade the viewer put on 'glasses' the artist uses. On the other hand, a painting is a question and an answer, or both of them. And they appear in a certain reality and in a certain point of time. Connecting the picture-symbol with the real world influences the quality of reception.

I demand a little from the viewer. What one sees in a picture depends to a large extend on the viewer.  Therefore, I leave certain things unsaid. They give a chance to see more. I do not make it easy for the viewer. A painting is just a proposal.

Realism in painting attracts me if it gives me the chance to go beyond the ordinary meaning of objects, be it feelings, mood, symbolic associations, etc. Looking at a bottle and thinking about the bottle seems to me trivial, boring and intellectually wasteful.

Purely naturalistic performances seem to correspond with the aesthetic needs of barbarian tradition of the European culture.

Greek-Byzantine tradition is closer to geometric abstraction, that rejects simple symbolic references to the painting content, and builds on presenting the synthesis of the reality of the picture, which makes up this reality. /Nowosielski/. A picture shows essence of the reality that can be presented.

A similarity between a Byzantine icon and an abstract picture, where the iconographic layer is based on a geometric perspective, can be noticed.

Contemplating the icon and abstraction does not involve intellect. Contemplation begins where understanding ends. /Nowosielski/

Understanding symbols means understanding the reality, to which this symbol refers. A symbol passes by the reality it uses to get through to another one. It is a cause of division between iconography and iconology.

The message contained in the semantic layer is decoded using the formal layer. The shorter and simpler way between seeing and understanding the picture, the clearer it is. I am thinking about iconological meaning of a picture where the form (iconography) will be an invisible bridge. It would be perfect to put the equality sign between the form and the content, just like in a religious icon. Artists representing minimal art rejected the semantic layer, using the form of a picture as the semantic layer. Is the reduction the only way to achieve the unity? Is it possible to stand in front of a painting and say - it is a picture and nothing more than a painting whose all meaning is contained in the elements that can be seen, what can be perceived by our senses? Can it be at the same time understood as a revelation of itself, its visual and material aspect?

Through the frame of the picture it is possible to see the conventional reality. Another window shows deeper interiors. Drawing back next curtains, like in a dream, leads to discovering the secret, the mystery, which turns out to be a seemingly insignificant detail of our life, a dusted item from childhood, a reflection of light, reverie we experienced. But just like in a dream, the quest is more important than solving the mystery we are trying to solve. Apparent passing is like apparent solving apparent mysteries.

Return to the beginning of this pseudo-journey does not fully satisfy our curiosity. There will always be a mysterious longing for something in our soul.

My pictures tell the viewer about space. Sometimes it is internal space filled with emotions, with the atmosphere of a certain recollection, reminiscence, which returns during painting together with appropriate colour tones.

I recollect long forgotten situations, smells, emotions. Appropriate combination of colours develops the film of my memory. Using this painting 'chemistry' I regain lost memories.

Memories of my childhood are the most pleasant ones. The less I remember this period of my life, the more precious these journeys to the safe world of eternal happiness are. If I was to choose a period of my life in which I felt permanent happiness, I would choose my early childhood before I turned five years old. Adults often would ask me if I wanted to be grown up but I always considered such questions a tactless absurdity.

In those times I lived together with parents and grandparents in the centre of Lublin, in an old pre-war tenement, out-of-the way, in a backstreet lost among busy streets, where it was quiet, and the picture of old, devastated, shabby-looking tenements with small courtyards ended suddenly with a cliff closing the street. From there, one could have an unexpected view on the gorge and a small stream, orchards and a fair-sized yard where funfairs, amusement parks and circuses arrived.

Today this street looks as shabby as years ago, devastated and forgotten. The same grey plaster, full of cracks and coming off, showing bare wall, embellishes its perspective. The same neglected children, separated by the gates from the vibrant outside world, play in the courtyards.

This aesthetics of apparent ugliness, visual severity and neglected beauty makes me feel 'at home', and the past glory covered by the patina of age make me feel tenderness, respect and peace. It may be the reason why I keep avoiding the glitter of 'better' and newer streets in my journeys to the past.

One of the things I can remember from my childhood is a room, in which I used to spend countless solitary but otherwise interesting hours playing, painting and observing the life of a distant city through the window. The pictures of roofs, windows, streets I painted looking through the window, the sight of mysterious world of adults compensated for the lack of the company of peers.

EPILOGUE

White canvas of my picture is no longer white. It is covered by spots and damp patches, a result of too eager retouches and changes. 'Growing rings' are visible, significant, but at the same time limiting, the results of decisions that were made.

In comparison with eagerness and carefreeness of the positions I initially took in painting, now I have only few options to choose from. I cannot even stop painting as it would mean contradicting myself and all I sacrificed to be able to think independently and see things the way they are, which is indispensible to be an honest painter. I would contradict myself in every way.

An unexpected change that opened up for me is painting as if with other people's hands, by means of giving them advice, sharing my experience, having satisfaction from their progress, worrying about their failures and sharing their joy at their achievements and successes, no matter how big or small.

When I work with young people, nothing gives me more satisfaction than observing the process of artistic maturing, and the process of finding  independent artistic solutions. I am pleased to witness the slow process of breaking free from various external influences and looking for inspiration inside themselves, the process of forming a strong, independent identity. Each of them is a different mystery for me, a task demanding a unique 'key'.

I try to show them their predispositions and possibilities, open their eyes so they can see the inside. I make them look for their unique sensitivity, their own unique 'face'. I warn them against shortcomings, temptations of easy and quick successes or unjustified changing the means of expressions, which often conveys the escape from one's own self.

I work on the assumption that each artist is different and should look for his own way. I try to be as "transparent" as I can. I try to avoid influencing others or make them paint according to my ideas. I have no universal solution. But I can say that appropriate conditions for development must be created, there must be enough time, peace and trust.

Everyone has one identity and one soul. It is not important when we start to 'dig'. If we are honest, persistent and determined doing our work we will reach the same conclusions, we will find the same inner soul.
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