Maria Anna Potocka


Art has no goal to achieve, no function to fulfill, no direction in which it must go. It plays with its own reflections, glancing unexpectedly around in various directions and surprising the artists who find themselves in the role of constructing the reflectivity. Artists know how art "works" and some of them try to anticipate or imitate its vague expectations. The real chosen ones, however, are those for whom it doesn't matter, who aren't coquettish with art, but only stand together with it. When we look at artists, it is easy to tell the ones who look at art in search of hints from those who have the art within themselves. The latter are sometimes as surprising as art itself: they close down the wide-ranging, existing reflections and open new ones that seem distant and astonishing.

Edward Dwurnik is an artist of several reflective stages. These can be divided in the most general terms into two groups: paintings without people and paintings with people in them. The former, using geometrical tactics and simplifications, impose order on certain observations and, at times, emotions. The latter have distinctly "civilizational" references. They are "engaged" in politics, society, and artistic life. The latter paintings usually take place against the background of the former, using their silent accomplishments to highlight their own outcry.

Edward Dwurnik began with urban landscapes (Hitch-hiking Trips, also known as Hitchhiking), where he tried to fit the complex nature of the city (at least the perceivable city) to the flatness of drawings or paintings. He tried to encompass the city in such a way as, on the one hand, to grasp its essence, and, on the other—and this seems more important—to achieve paintings that make it possible to "experience" the city, to express presence in the city. He tried various ways of doing this: wide angles, the decomposition of real views, the deformation of proportion, changing points of view and suspension. In the end, a satisfactory "view" emerges, and it is possible to walk around the city, and experience its complications as it reveals its structure and moods. This was a giant's view, suspended above the city and looking down at the streets from a 45-degree angle.

I can't get enough of looking
The world is in my hands but
It's as if it weren't there
So near and so far away
Somewhere down in the valley.*

The emptiness at the beginning of the city gradually began to fill with people. Some of them were giants from outside, observers and intruders with unclear intentions, while others were the tiny inhabitants of the city, logically composed within its arrangement, making the impression of being the motors that power the architecture. The geometrical, empty city from the earlier drawings has discarded its psychological stability and submitted to the anxiety introduced by man. Man is always the problem: he doesn't know how to appear in an innocuous, neutral way. He always introduces some kind of faith, manifests some kind of idea, and contaminates the landscape with his complicated disorientation. Man brings either an eternal or an ad hoc problem into the work. Edward Dwurnik has chosen ad hoc man. By doing so, he finds himself in the world of social-political problems and enters the fissure between the depressing and the ridiculous. "The world in his hands" was a difficult world that required involvement, intuition, orientation, harshness, and magnanimity. He had to be both participant and observer. He became a victim of his own work and initiated a strategy that imposed a definite responsibility on him. This is what every artist does. There are various degrees of being troubled by one's own attitude. However, these limitations do not impair the freedom of art, they only infringe upon the artist's "childish" license. They contain no obfuscation, flattery, or coquetry. There is nothing but a meticulously prepared contract between the highly important subject matter and the form that alertly services it. The painting is filled with subject matter that it must deal with. On the one hand, the painting steers the subject matter and, on the other hand, it is steered by the subject matter.

In thousands of paintings, Edward Dwurnik has proved that a coherent artistic system can be created through the use of such combinations. However, he has abandoned it in his most recent work. His seascape series already hinted that this would happen. In the most general terms, this led to the abandonment of subject matter for the sake of a sensual painting experience and involved a search for abstraction through a "loosening" of the real image. Falling into abstraction to the point of horizontal linearity, these landscapes are quaintly aesthetic. They are a synthesis of real images and can convey their beauty.

The newest abstract paintings totally renounce the comfort of beauty from outside. Nor do they attach much importance to creating one's own beauty. They seem like an escape from subject matter that is as euphoric as it is violent. Dwurnik wants to paint a lot, and fast, and to forget about ratiocination while setting free his accumulated painterly intuition. To escape from significances while freeing painting from a subservience to subject matter. What does painting do when it must paint itself? This question has been coming back in different ways over the last 100 years. Its most spectacular appearances included Tachism, automatic painting that dreamed of freedom from the painter. This turned out to be a Utopian dream, but the results and reflections on them were highly valuable. A great many beautiful paintings were painted, aesthetics determined by "the primal gesture" arose, and we saw the birth of the incomplete composition, cut out of some greater whole.

Edward Dwurnik alludes overtly to Tachism. He has made pilgrimages to Pollock's home and photographed himself in front of Pollock's house and studio. An artist who does such things must feel highly independent of artists he might resemble. He must feel free of the tasks set by Tashism. And he is right, because today's tasks are different.

Over the last 40 years, art has been the handmaiden of subject matter. It has adapted to the medium of subject matter, analyzed the effectiveness of its message, and subjugated itself to the meaning of the world around it and the meaning of the artist's perception. The importance of emergent significances has been a weighty argument for value. "The beauty of the presence of meaning" has become the hallmark of the new aesthetics. Yet, in the end, this hunting down of meanings and constant vigilance for them has bored artists and art. The retreat from meaning has begun. This could be seen clearly at the last Biennale in Venice, where works appeared, sometimes gigantic, that shocked with the wealth of their abstract arrangements, which were ostentatiously stripped of meaning. This was far more, surely, than a matter of relaxation for its own sake, of the pleasure of making pretty compositions. It surely concealed an attempt at forcing new perspectives and a much-needed correction to mendacious proportions. For the moment, there is too little information for more responsible speculation, and it is not known what this "easy" gesture really means. In the early days, we are always free to enjoy things without thinking. It is enough to yield to the natural tendency of gesture and believe that hidden knowledge, free of false and opportunistic tricks, stands behind it.

This sketch seems to fit Edward Dwurnik's newest abstract paintings. We also have an escape from meanings, ennui in regard to responsibility for meanings, and "pangs of conscience" in regard to form. It is hard to see where this is leading or where it will end. What counts at the present stage is recovering the innocence of painting, the physical pleasure of applying paint, the wild shamelessness of color, the delightful aesthetic naivete, and yielding to the authority of the painting. And the unreflecting anticipation of what comes next.

December 2004

("Thanks Jackson. Dwurnik 2001-2004. Cykl XXV", Bunkier Sztuki, Kraków 2005)

* an excerpt from a poem