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Saturday, 16 March 2013

Airbrushed from art history: Bohusz, Falkowski and Sempoliñski

Jan Wiktor Sienkiewicz writes in Wojciech Falkowski: Painting of Falkowski's debt to his teacher Marian Bohusz-Szyszko at the Polish School of Painting. As part of this comparison he discusses their different approaches to depicting the crucifixion:

‘In Marian Bohusz-Szyszko's paintings Christ is always stretched on a leaning cross (along the diagonal line of the painting), hung in a whirling and heavy atmosphere of dark sapphire heaven, often with a bright "window" in the background. For Bohusz each Crucifixion foreshadows Resurrection. In a moment Christ is going to appear among the people!

In Wojciech Falkowski's Crucifixions the cross does not emphasize the dynamics of the composition (as in the case of his master's paintings) and it does not divide the surface of the picture into two spheres. In Falkowski's Crucifixions the cross "moves" towards the front of the composition, thus dividing the picture into two halves, and the heavy figure of an already dead Christ hangs inertly by his outstretched arms. From behind long, bloodstained hair covering the whole head we cannot see Christ's face. Brightness of the dead body of the Saviour and "radiating" whiteness of "perizonium" are contrasted with the background which is composed of dark brown and green tones. In the background, on the level of the horizontal beam, there is a spot of blue sky, finding its way with difficulty through the dark, whirling clouds.

In the Crucifixions of the London painter, the Son of God is "freed of the aura of romanticism, which so far influenced presentations of Christ. He is revealed, like in the paintings of German expressionists before, in stark reality, without any adornments, in a caricatural world full of chaos, fear, absurdity and senselessness". In Falkowski's interpretation of crucifixion scenes there is drama - Christ is dead.'

Sienkiewicz then goes on to compare Falkowski with Jacek Sempoliński:

'In an attempt to answer the question why Falkowski throughout his artistic life would return to the theme of crucifixion, it might be helpful to analyze the religious art of another Polish painter, Jacek Sempoliński, with his experience of following religious motifs. He was a student of Eugeniusz Eibisz in the Academy of Art in Warsaw, and he has been working and painting in Poland since the end of WWII.

Almost the same age as Falkowski, born in 1927, Sempoliński decided to "redirect" his painting in the 1970s, after his own experience of (in his own words) "secularized painting" 138. "[At that time] ... almost instinctively I turned towards the image of crucifixion, as the person of Jesus was always central to my faith. The person of Jesus with his dual nature - of God and human. If I feel low, when I go under, the Man nature of Jesus leads me out of it. And his passion. I thought, if I was even to paint religious subjects, I had to take up something that was central to it ... and probably the most difficult: Crucifixion."

The crucifixion fascinates both artists mostly in sphere of spiritual experience and in the context of interpreting passion motifs generally. They share less similarities concerning artistic conventions or the choice and application of technique. Falkowski, like Sempoliński after the time when he most probably felt "low" and when he "went under" in the face of historical and political events in Poland, especially in the 1980s, returned to the theme of Crucifixion after 1989. Of significant importance for the London artist were also his experiences of sufferings connected with his successful convalescence after major heart surgery in 1995.

Even though Falkowski, as opposed to Sempoliński never made any sketches "from nature", as all his work painted in his studio, still, in the moment of deciding to paint a religious scene he does not formulate, as he sees "any concept - neither artistic nor theological". Paint for both artists is undoubtedly a reflection of their "spiritual energy, and so are sacral motifs. Without any preconditions. This is confirmed by Sempoliński: "I cannot make a statement, that avoiding religious subjects would be a sin of neglect because I paint only out of need. I do not know if I give any "testimony" through my paintings. I do not know, if it is a blasphemy or not to deform the figure on the cross in a risky way. A suffering man. Often his divinity is comprised in the title of the picture. Apart from passion motifs I often paint pictures with the motif of the skull. The skull is a metaphor of Golgotha, but it is also a vivid realistic image of a man after death. There is also the Guardian Angel – he is a grown-up man, a man you could talk to ..."

Without having any contact with Sempoliński's artistic studio in Warsaw, the theme of a Worried Guardian Angel appeared also on the canvas of Wojciech Falkowski in 2004, in his London studio. Symbolic, traditional and religious importance of the Guardian Angel, and more of all the belief in his protection, let us speculate that the Polish artist in London will gratify us with further compositions from his palette of musical colours and inter-artistic and religious experience; compositions which, contribute to the history of Polish painting in the century.'

In a note, Sienkiewicz continues:

'Speaking about Polish artists using religious motifs in their works after WWII one has to mention the following artists (in alphabetical order):

Grzegorz Bednarski, Leszek Budasz, Kiejstut Bereźnicki, Jan Berdyszak, Jerzy Beres, Tadeusz Boruta, Adam Brincken, Ewa Cwiertnia, Marian Czapla, Bronislaw Chromy, Janusz Eysymont, Jerzy Fober, Jerzy Kalina, Christos Mandzios, Henryk Musialowicz, Zbylut Grzywacz, Aleksandra Jachtoma, Marek Jaromski, Piotr KmiećStanisław KulonJanusz Marciniak, Mariusz Mikołajek, Eugeniusz Mucha, Jerzy Nowosielski, Janusz Osicki, Irena Maria Polka, Janusz Henryk Raczko, Eugeniusz Repczyński, Stanisław Rodziński, Teresa Rudowicz, Wojciech Sadley, Jacek Sempoliński, Stanisław Słonina, Teresa Stankiewicz, Jerzy Stajuda, Józef Szajna, Jerzy Tchórzewski, Brunon Tode, Jacek Waltoś, Apoloniusz Węgłowski, Tomasz Wiśniewski, Gustaw Zemła, Maciej Zychowicz, Dorota Żarska.’


Gillian Welch - I'll Fly Away.

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