FOR ADULTS ONLY
If we consider William Shakespeare to be the Griboyedov of the English literature and Giuseppe Arcimboldo to be the Jan Švankmajer of the Italian painting, then, since the Owl was a baker’s daughter, the wiseman Voltaire died childless, and the hysteric Rousseau impregnat- ed thousands, Perez was the father of Hezron, Boaz the father of Obed, and his mother was Ruth, Pierre Restany invented Cesar, and Anette Messager is the spiritual mother of Eva Hesse… and then the 80s came, showing that Caravaggio is no big deal, and that we don’t have to believe sister Wendy Beckett since we have Kathleen Gilie, and Pablo Picasso or Piet Mondrian are no more than entries in historyof art, which is of interest to few, and Mike Bidlo is alive here and now. Meanwhile among many of the representatives of the so-called high art, style and philosophy inspired by the Shibuya-kei movement were in fashion; then came the ACTA dis-agreement and to the generation of today’s thirty-year-olds, this was the true end of history.
But there is a group of artists, still active, for whom the last century and its art are still a living source of inspi- ration. This group includes Marcin Zawicki, who may be situated in a current leading from Kurt Schwitters and Joseph Cornell – the Invisible Man, who canbe seen everywhere and always when we observe the development of the post-dadaist movement in the art of the last 50 years, to the representatives of the Nouveau Realisme movement and Anette Mesager. I will also include in this group Rob Wynne and Mark Dion, who are a little older, but just like Marcin Zawicki have decided at one point in history to escape from the company of constructors of birdcages and compilers of charts for the Museum of Natural History, or perhaps posters advertising the chocolate products of the Mackintosh – Good News company. Marcin Zawicki has opted for an accumula- tion in the Nouveau Réalisme style and the aesthetic of late Renaissance, as well as a demanding painting technique. Serious play that made him an heir of Giuseppe Arcimboldo.
As far as vegetable-rubbish-visceral representations are con- cerned, as well as Unidentified Food Products, he is extraordinarily skilled, like once Till Nowak, because Salad was a painting merely printed on canvas, though it has to be said that it was notable in the current using the so-called Arcimboldo effect (the title of a work by many authors, published in 1987, when the two artists in question were two and seven years old, respectively).
One could describe this art as a kind of itinerary – starting out from copying, he uses, regardless of what one might think, not just anything he gets his hands on, buta carefully selected repertoire of existing culture. He had to construct his starting place, his pointof departure, and his choice was the autonomy of complicated structures, later complemented with the formal rigour of mannerist painting – his creation is inseparable from re-creation.
Therefore there may exist parallels between mannerism and postmodernism. The renaissance technique, which brought such fructuous results, has been revealed here in all its glory, but today it serves a different type of imagination. Subjective-objective, and at the same time of micro- and macrocosmic harmony,fulfilled in the idea of a universal dialogue, displaced these days by conflict. This is not merely a histori- cal stage in the development of painting – the New Hyperrealism – purposefully using a medium disre- garded by orthodox modernists. Almost perversely– as a figure archaic on the one hand, and on the other hand a means of evoking our hyperreal world, in which objects and their representations are often mixed up. The quiet affectation of postmodernism has been reinforced with pathos. This intensity is symptomatic for cultural “schizophrenia,” which we experience especially in the breaking of our sense of time – the present fascinates us, but is experienced in a sense of loss, of unreality. This makes it impos- sible to imagine an “unreal” present, because the world around us is partially virtual. This representa- tion is based on the principle of equivalence between the sign and reality because in a simulated world, the sign precedes reality. This is when a longing appears for a true representation, as well as a longing for realist art in a “schizo” subjective world. At the same time, the artist reveals an important truth aboutour culture, showing it to be ruled by falsehood, and nostalgia to be a phantasmagoria, an ironic reha- bilitation after one has lost all points of reference. Objects consist of rejected elements, not needed anywhere else – parts of toys, scraps of various materials, formed plastic, allusions to fetishes, such as horns, souvenirs, but, despite similarities to works of the current known as Junkyard Sculpture, Zawicki the painter adds colour to them, sometimes an almost psychedelic day-glo and shine of the surface. He follows the path of masters who created “objects difficult to accept” – Giacometti and Bourgeois.
Not satisfied with any form of determinism, but aware of our susceptibility to the working of art – especially art of which we are not fully conscious– he distinguishes metaphor, which he considers to be a simple corre- lation between the author’s intention and what he understands to be the phenomenological existence of images, beings suspended in the space between the artist aware of his goals from the critical intel- ligence of the viewers. Bright colours covering the tangled forms emphasise this artistic free-for-all and the artist’s unconventional sense of humour. Paintings like exhibits from an non-existent Museum of Natural History, in which the world of dinosaursis mixed with the world of Old Masters, creatinga surrealist climate. What may seem frivolous oreven arrogant at first glance, at closer inspection proves to be the work of passion and diligence, at points interspersed with elements of humour. This is humour not in the sense of a simple joke, but the ability to reveal hidden similarities. Painting making references to art and life at the same time. Some of the elements used are easily recognisable – they may be the limbs of a dinosaur from the children’s room, or an old salt cellar. But the way they are juxtaposed in least expected ways give us a thrill that is only experienced in contact with something truly surreal. Elements invoking fragments of underwater reefs echo plant shapes. Combinations of mechanical and organic elements, competing with each other, may make us reflect on the violation of nature, and the crowding together of the forms illustrates the con- flict between the creative and destructive force.
IT’S ONLY A PEPER MOON
Constantly trying to seduce the artworld is impossible, and the artist realises this, uninfected as he is with pop art nihilism bordering on kitsch, rooted in the tradition of noble workmanship, although he is inspired by the current that made art from objects in our near- est surroundings, as well as from refuse material, like Koons or Steinbach, and more broadly having its source in Oldenburg’s Bedroom Ensemble, and Oldenburg is invoked here merely because of his attachment to proper workmanship.
Marcin Zawicki is the author of things that lose when they are painted and ones that gain in the process, things that should be big and are small, and the opposite, because they gain in the process, things that are surprising, arrogant, and yet deserving recognition.
Arcimboldo brought metaphors and allegories to life, but in this he used first and foremost palindromic humour. A palindrome remains true regardless of the direction of reading – like that untitled six-metre painting. Let us name it, following Tuwim – Muzo raz daj jad za rozum. But the meaning of the palindrome, when read in reverse, is no longer the same. In the Italian master’s works, every plant, every leaf of grass and every flower are scientifically identifiable, so thisis no joke, but serious knowledge. Scientists at the Vienna court of Archduke Maximilian II of Austria had achievements of lasting importance in identi- fication and classification of plants, and the basis of the research was Arcimboldo’s portraits. Marcin Zawicki’s works could prove equally inspiring for sweets manufacturers, when making the already mentioned Unidentified Food Products, especially jelly, with names such as: Dancing Ballerina, Milk Seasalt Caramel, Dark Demitasse, Turkish Delight, GranCru Tanarica, or Curly Wurly.