Ryszard Woźniak


Painting for me is a fundamental way of expression. I use basic painting techniques: oil, acrylic, tempera, watercolour, and pastel. Yet, within the space of twenty years of practice, my voice has changed. My painting experiences of the 80’s were described in the text to the catalogue of the exhibition ‘Faith and Work’ published by BWA Gallery in Zielona Góra in 1998. The decade of the 80’s was the time of increased interest for a painterly picture and faith in the truth of this picture: its positive causative power. Then I fully shared that faith.
The 90’s – these ones brought moments of doubts. Painterly visions lost their significance in relation to pictures electronically created and multiplied. Yet I still felt the need to practice the insight through a picture created by means of traditional techniques. Of course, I also made an attempt to tame a computer with the set of its complex tools, treating these experiences as an addition to my basic painting practice.
In the 90’s, I noticed new challenges to a picture. They made me search for new ways of working with a picture. My first distinct answer to them was a series named ‘Step back’ being as if ‘self-recycling’ of my own output from the first decade of my artistic activities. Works from this period were exhibited in the DAP gallery in Warsaw at the show entitled’ Egocentric Manipulator.’ The set consisted of pictures quoting other earlier pictures that were mounted on the backgrounds specially arranged for them. They included ‘Avanguardia polacca’, ‘Icon of a Moron’, Icon of a Flight’ and a series of fields using an ornamental potential of a picture, i.e. A Field (Green), A Field (Dancer), A Field (Trained Dog), A Field (N.Y., A Barrel, Let’s Talk, Kostroma).
In the second half of the 90’s, these experiences gave rise to a series of works painted on printed matter: posters and invitations to either own or other artists’ exhibitions. Some works of that period simply were to present other earlier created works. I was striving for a picture completely immersed in the past - its own history; the picture which would be a reminder through repetition. The created works took a look from a historical distance, from the remoteness depriving the images of focus or observation of emotions. The pictures were to present their layerness and ties with situational context. To communicate this idea more strongly, the pictures-backgrounds were placed on specially prepared supports being as if an environment for a picture, the place of its appearance. In this way storeyed pictures-backgrounds represented various degrees of remoteness/closeness. These days, I name these activities ‘multiplication deep’
Since 1991 while questing for a new category of an original, I have consciously started to multiply pictures manually. First there appeared a lot of double pictures, triple ones and then multiple ones. The multiple pictures were performed with ‘linear multiplication.’ I had assumed that the multiplication would strengthen pictures’ effect by providing them with additional features. The pictures often uncovered their considerable exhibition potential by enabling precisely react to existing conditions of a show. Because of different way of presentation, the picture was given new physicality and enriched with additional meanings. Each picture is simultaneously the whole and the part. By repetition – but not sameness – the picture is given a multiplied being, regenerates and multiplies as mythical Hydra’s heads. Multiplication and differentiation of picture’s neighbouring incarnations offer it a new energetic situation. However, repetition inevitably reveals picture’s fragmentariness too because each its presentation is always a fragment of a sequence of repetitions. Through its fragmentariness, the picture refers to things going beyond a piece of cloth, to context, to the cause of its creation. It also becomes a reflection over any possible mistake or the accuracy of a single realization.
The picture constructed in such a way presents its organic incompleteness and imperfection as features that enable it to come into existence in receiver’s mind. Crucial works for this concept include A (incomplete set), A Genius and A Moron, in which I have tried to make use of the tension existing between socially and culturally sanctioned values. Other multiple pictures are: Iris, A Golden Fig, Reconstruction of the Horizon, Shopping and Things to Take Care of, A Crown, The Crown of Painting and different incarnations of A Genius and A Moron. The multiple pictures have still been performed in my studio.
At the turn of 1997 and 1998 I started another essential series including works with child’s drawing as a starting point. A child is a potential receiver and consumer. For his attention, modern civilization and culture wage a fierce fight. This series is, among other things, an attempt aimed at different kinds of narration in a picture, and has been constantly developing.
In 2000, I started working on a series of pictures inspired by school view boards used at primary schools thirty and forty years ago. I gave voice to reflections on the cognitive role of a picture: its activity or passivity versus the outlook of the modern man. The pictures of this series share the title: Watch, Perceive, Know.
Since the time of my painting studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, I have been concentrating on painting and a picture whose formula I have been hard seeking anew. I believe painting still speaks vivid language, while still being good ground for pondering on contemporarity. In my approach to work, I try to make use of multilayerness of the picture and the fact that the picture is treated as information in culture. I appreciate the universality of language of visual means of expression. In painting I take up the subject of topicality of beauty and truth, searching for alternatives to these traditional categories. In my opinion, an opportunity for the picture is its activity in social problems on one hand, and the fact of being personally performed on the other hand.
The picture is an attempt at personal freedom and promise to create new images; it requires constant determination. The picture born in the process of painting, being a tangible object on one side, also possesses an ability to go beyond its material substance towards knowledge, self-knowledge and mystery. The picture is something much deeper than visually announced news only. As the result of tension between freedom and control of the creative process, it might become – I think – a true source of freedom, and here its social value is based. I expect my painting to be contemporary and am equally conscious of objective limits of painting to its reception (in the face of competition provided by mobile and digitally generated pictures). Therefore I am looking for new formal and structural developments in painting.
I use repetition or non-mechanical multiplication and add irony and perversion to traditional painterly observation. In painting I strive for the highest level of integration of form to content. Simultaneously I try to pay attention to inevitable incompleteness of the picture what has become - at the end of the 20th century - its morphological feature: the feature of its nature. My picture is to indicate things which, though stay beyond it, are still very important. In my text entitled ‘The Materialisation of a Picture, the Incomplete Set”, I have tried to present reflections on the notion of the picture, complementary to my own painting. I have described the picture running not as a thing but rather as a phenomenon in progress of changes, appearing, crystallizing or overtaken by the energy of entropy and disintegration. The picture is close to the nature of a thought: it is its either not-to-regular or regular representation. If the picture appears, no one knows where from. Picturing, however, means giving shape to hunches and freezing them into a normative thought. It is an open question what is more valuable to culture: the not-to-regular potential of a picture or the normative one.
While looking at the world’s art history from a historical distance, I have noticed that one person transforms into another one, and the fluidity of forms is an established fact. The thing that surprises and shocks at one time becomes the unquestionable basis for social contract and agreement at another historical time. I call this process the materialization of a picture. The picture opposes uncertainty and ignorance. The picture represents knowledge as the power over being and darkness; it is a constant calling for the mystery of existence. For me, the philosophical support of a picture means the area between the notion of a picture as the mirror of mind (Plato, Aristotle) and the picture understood as difference and repetition (Deleuze). The axiom of this opposition proceeds not only between a thing and a process, but between a thing and a thing in time too. The time factor seems to be a structural part of a picture in the middle of its coming into existence or disintegration. We seem to live on huge rubble of pictures that are as much documented as created by photography. Culture is a spectacle performed at the heap of broken pictures. Photography mediates on the way of the picture to a piedestal of moment and the waste bin of history. The communication goes in both directions. Photography is at least partly responsible for our losing certainty what is what and what is its value. The phenomenon of the play on the picture is a plot focusing presented reflections and questions.
The electronic media of the end of the 20th century have offered us the easiness to manipulate the picture with seemingly no responsibility. This easiness has opened to us the whole plethora of game and play. A player yields to the illusion of complete control over the picture, course of a play and himself. Yet, this game turns out to be a kind of dream - necessary element of training - and the picture a tool of this training. The picture, or truly its creator, renounces its unambiguity because content – as functional and practical – has to stay hidden. The highest values, once equipping artworks-pictures with sense – presently are only simulated due to the strategy of the player. The picture falls into particles and fragments, getting to us as a heterogenous flickering structure that I have described as an incomplete set.
These days I would like to pay attention to causative powers making the picture come into existence. The picture as an important and fundamental element of culture or civilisation, a source of knowledge, a tool of cognition, an element of social order is the case of unlimited enthusiasm. Just the enthusiasm I want to make a main topic of my reflections and part of my painting practice.