paintings installations art books films publications CV press contact

"Wlodzimierz Ksiazek: Painting Substance" by Saul Ostrow

Sometimes, someone (be it theorist, critic, journalist, artist, student or innocent by-stander) will venture forth, compelled to supply philosophical, historical or textual arguments to assert the potential significance of those expanses of color, texture and surface given form by an act of human consciousness. Sometimes these things called paintings are mimetic, trading in appearances and codes of representation others are said to be abstract and appeal to the senses. Because of language's inability to communicate the qualitative aspects of these things experientially, the best that may be achieved is to propose meaning and affect in the hope that such descriptions will serve as suitable substitutes for those indefinable properties embodied by the actual act of painting. So be it. .

In the confines of the frozen moment of that is the present, Wlodzimierez Ksiazek in, or through his paintings carve out a territory that is both symbolic and real. From the surfaces of his paintings emerge signs and symbols, traces and reminders of decisions undone, fractured, fragmented, obliterated and buried structures as well as the processes and marks that record their own making. This an account of Ksiazek's attempting to inscribe reason, or lay its foundation -- or merely impose order without a master plan. Consequently we may see in them the portray of a primitive self driven by the id -- knowing only its needs and wants, seeking nothing more than satisfaction. Yet such a being must be judged narcissistic and self willed -- and such a painting can only secure for its viewer either the pleasure and pain of an eternal present or indifference. What could be more rational?

We are told that the romantic and humanist tradition with its metaphysics of being and its endorsement of subjectivity and raw emotion have atleast in the realm of the visual arts been spent itself. The appeal of those forms of self-valorization and affirmation -- we are told-- is merely sentimental, nostalgic and out of place in our post-modern world. The reason given for such a judgment is this form of expression is premised on an ideological model that in privileging a false consciousness of self represented as universal, natural and given -- rather than as a being merely a cultural construct. While such a criticism makes sense within the context of Modernism's project that sought to rationalize and standardize knowledge and consequently the "self"-- it does not explain the continued appeal or perseverance of this model of self-hood and individuality. The desire to express oneself, ones individual uniqueness and freedom are still a powerful force, one that in our world still constitute a revolutionary act. Is such a project to be abandoned merely for the sake of intellectual fashion or might not it seek the terms of its own recuperation? This was my first response to the Ksiazek's recent paintings.

Paradoxically, what provoked this response was the familiarity and unfamiliarity of the painterly terms by which Ksiazek he seeks to redeem and reconcile these conflicting impulses. I realized there was a significant difference here, -- one that required that I re-orientate myself, that I needed to move beyond the customary territory of AbEx and formalism and enter the less frequented terrain of L'informale. The l'imformale's (the unformed) indeterminacy and process are often confused with the uncertainty of AbEx. If we look beyond the simple happenstance of appearances and look to effect instead we may realize that Ksiazek struggle is not against the Void, but with the instability of materiality (reality) itself. The interval he paints is not the mythic space of AbEx and but the worked and re-worked, caked and debris ridden, impenetrable surface of l'informale. Though gothic at times -- as in the case of Clifford Still , or gloomy as in late Rothko, the spirit of AbEx is that of the sublimity and rather than degradation. Conceptually classical, immaterial and spaceless -- AbEx flattens out and exposes to view the heroic purposefulness and performative acts of its maker.

This shift of register in Ksiazek's paintings moves me from reflecting on the willful assertion of a heroic self -- to a vision of an abject nature characterized by decomposition and entropy. Within such a world, organisms produce and survive on their own waste, nurtured by the break-down and recycling of their own substance. What better metaphor, than this might we find for painting in general and culture in specific? In this context Ksiazek presents our self and that of painting at once fierce and entropic, elegant and unsuitable -- that is as something sutured together. This identity that we share is characteristically, rational and fanciful, ordered by chance and inevitability. Its beginning and end are a site of hope and disappointment of vulnerability and death.

Ksiazek does not give us only the visual evidence of this melding but also the kinesthetic. The haptic quality of his work transfers to the eye the sense of tactility -- which then in turn revels in, caresses and delves into the textures of the painting's surface. Ksiazek's surfaces permit our minds to imagine our own bodies pushing and pulling the sticky, unformed paint about. Through our gestures re-enact the act of making, just as the audience member who at a concert, to gain greater understanding of the music mimics the conductor, Ksiazek evokes the physicality of our being to be brought to bear on our understanding of his paintings. Through this somatic-- bodily experience -- we index, recount, recognize, construct and give meaning to the raw, hermetic and personal content that KsiazekÕs paintings embody.

Julia Kristeva in her essay on Giotto's Arena Chapel reminds us that the semantic -- language itself arises from our need to express the somatic -- that is bodily experience, for it is within the body that the mind resides its experiences are those of the body. In this context Ksiazek sets aside the Cartesian dualism of in which the mind comes to mistrust the body its vehicle the body that only knows the world as inchoate sensation. In this he akin to Merleau-Ponty's Cezanne, in that Ksiazek seeks to give representation to the relation of mind and body as an integral network in which the binary poles of intellect and physicality, actuality and illusion play themselves out in some complimentary rather than antagonistic manner.

Ksiazek's paintings become beguiling momento mortes -- vanitas, by representing the "now" as obscureing, displaceing and merging with what once was. As with 19th Century Romantic landscape paintings populated with follies and ruins meant to announce the futility and vain glory of wanting to last forever, these paintings signal to us that no matter how civilized, cultured or technologically advanced we are -- no matter how long we prolong our lives -- supplement our being -- order our world -- it is just a matter of time before we are recalled. The futile metaphysics, that we have used in the past to explain to ourselves this state have desensitized us -- given us false hope that over coming entropy resides in some other, rather than in our own merger efforts. Therefore in this dialogue of sense and consciousness, mark and matter we find in Ksiazek enacting a politics of hope and perseverance (of resistance)

Monographic Publication: Wlodzimierz Ksiazek: Think of It. Loughborough University Art Gallery, Loughborough, England, November 16-December 16, 2000. Texts by Dominique Nahas, Saul Ostrow, and Mark Harris. Published by Loughborough University, England. (Library of Congress # 2002449210)

Wlodzimierz Ksiazek © All Rights Reserved 2010 - Web Design : www.arttoolbox.com