At the beginning - the end
05.03.2010 - 06.04.2010
Art Agenda Nova
Batorego 2, Krakow
Bartosz Kokosiński is known for his research attitude towards painting and the ironic, unmasking approach to the imperfections of the medium. In his work, he constantly struggles with the problem of form, which is to complement the content of his works, harmoniously coexist. He tries to overcome the two-dimensionality of the painting, he tirelessly experiments.
He uses a variety of poetics, moving on a wide scale of emotional and formal values. From naivety and childish fun to erudite discourse with tradition. His actions, though often intuitive and spontaneous in his inspiration, are characterized by discipline and consistency. Each stage of creativity creates a closed whole, the result of research on a specific problem.
His next individual exhibition "To start - the end" is a record of work on the key issue for the artist. The presented objects, painting and video works focus our attention on the problem of status, image condition and imaging in contemporary culture. The apparent heterogeneity of the exhibition reflects the complexity of the subject matter discussed here and the insight of Kokosiński's artistic research..
coordination Marta Skowrońska.
Art is powder, i.e. painting made of gunpowder
author: Karolina Plinta
"Art is power," Józef Robakowski once said, waving a roasted chicken in exhilaration. And although his message was situated in a rather specific context, some of its meanings can be applied to the current situation of art, and in particular to painting, which, I must admit, is not a power. The latest exhibition of Bartosz Kokosiński's works "To start - the end" in the Krakow Nova Gallery is another voice in the matter of painting in times when "anything is possible but nothing really matters" .
Paint with Krakow (in the background)
It is worth noting that Kokosiński is not isolated in his formal battles in the field of painting. Apparently Krakow, with its strong painting traditions, seems to be a good place for such discussions, the results of which can be seen during subsequent exhibitions in Krakow galleries. For example, in the summer, there was the "Revitalization of Abstraction Action" initiated by the F.A.I.T. Gallery, and in October 2009, Michał Zawada invited us to his Platonic cave to begin reflections on the essence of painting in the darkness of intertextuality. Looking at all these treatments, it is not difficult to get shivers and the unsettling feeling that artists, moving on such topics, are walking along an exceptionally fine line just above the abyss - the autotemism of painting, which seems to have said everything about itself. The quintessence of these fears is even the work of Norman Leto who, in a sneerless manner, instead of a painting or sculpture, will offer the recipient a CD where his works are written. According to the artist, it is a much more convenient form of communication than traditional techniques, and the end result is the same, because, after all, art is now widely known through electronic media2. Although we evaluate this painterly struggle, it is rather a confirmation of the fact that the next ideas for "refreshing" or "searching for the essence" of painting are rather attempts to justify their own creativity than real discoveries. They additionally testify to the old and slightly repressed truth that we humans really need painting and we want it to continue to live next to us ... even if it is close to agony. This problem seems to be understood by Bartosz Kokosiński, presenting to us another series of his ailing, bent-to-cut canvas.
For starters - the end
The first observation imposed during the analysis of Kokosiński's works is the fact that he chooses a strategy different from the rest of the artists in his reflection on painting. If we are dealing here with autotemathy, then he is treated specifically. Visiting the exhibition, the viewer may have the impression that the artist wants to talk about something completely different from formal issues.
Apparently everything is simple: the works are presented in three rooms of the gallery and corridor. When entering, we immediately come across the first picture ... or rather its charred remnant. It has a stretched canvas in a typical Kokosiński style. This time, the image took on the shape of a burnt scroll: part of the green painted canvas remained, the rest resembles only a burnt skeleton on the verge of disintegration. This image - or the type of installation - was placed on the next canvas, this time white. So here we have a picture in the picture: a work that presents another work ... destruction. Going directly to the gallery halls, we can see a short video showing the work of a carpentry workshop where boards are being made (stretchers? ...). For some time, we see the rolling elements of carpentry tools, followed by a wider frame for the workshop. Suddenly the light goes out - the working day has ended. As you can see, the artist was not empty, suggesting the title of the exhibition "At the beginning - the end", since the tour starts from the end: stopping the work of the workshop and setting the canvas on fire. The act of setting the work Kokosiński refers to is interesting in its symbolic layer: the creator burns his works to part with his past and start from the beginning. What's more, fire in this case is not just a destructive element, but it carries with it the hope of cleansing.
This affirmation of the creative crisis resembles the former frustrations of Laura Pawela, which she expressed even during the Cold Summer exhibition (2008) in the Officin Szczecin, where she exhibited, among others, small pieces of stretcher hung from invisible ropes. A similar expression is represented by Kokosiński, crushing and burning his works as if they were successive cards with rejected, bad ideas. The final effect of these activities is to display a compressed dumpster in the gallery space. This is at least another work in the middle room, which can be described as a painterly graveyard: they are wrapped in canvas, crushed elements of boards, cardboard, foam or pillows. It was all again attached to a separate, white image, as to a specific pedestal for a sculpture hanging from a wall. Combining different artistic genres is one of the specific skills of Kokosiński: looking at his works, we are talking about them "images", although in their essence they come for this genre, being a kind of sculpture or installation, and characteristic canvases only make the viewer in such interpretation. His paintings become objects-objects, thus approaching the minimalist philosophy of a work of art. However, not every work by Kokosiński is minimalistic in its visuality; in the case of works - garbage dumps, it would be better to talk about consumption and packaging aesthetics: his works are presented as empty boxes of ideas that have been given away. Instead of a full-blown dish, we have snacks, a kind of "art food", or - using farther restaurant terms - a twister with artifacts. It would be interesting to quote the old words of Paweł Susid: "Painting, it's easy - come on everybody" and stick to what after some of Kokosiński's works the bar code. Everything for sale? Probably not entirely.
When the skin touches the canvas
We are introduced to a completely different atmosphere by the last part of the exhibition, presenting the largest number of works. It consists of six images, and only a part of them is characteristic for Kokosiński "bent". The others are in a traditional shape, which makes the composition of the work in the room well-balanced. The cry of previous works disappears somewhere; expression is concentrated mainly in the folds of bent paintings, in half or one third, of images. The muted coloring of works is noteworthy. Four of them are slightly pink, with small spots, barely perceptible lines and discoloration, which immediately brings associations with the construction of the skin, and the viewer comes to a peculiar conclusion that here stands in front of the skin covered with stretcher. Such a procedure should not surprise us if we know the previous works of the artist, such as the cycle "Diseases of painting", which paints dilemmas equated with human health problems: paint on the canvas is peeling, bubbles pop on it, the canvas begins to wrinkle ... However, in "Diseases of painting" gravity is transferred to the human aspect of the disease (literal references to specific diseases, depicting human faces in paintings), so now the painter's attention is transferred to the picture itself as an object ... animated. It has skin, pores, varicose veins, light wounds. It is not perfect. He did not get processed in photoshop, so he will not be suitable for a shiny magazine cover. Some of the pictures are leaning as if they want to be seen by people. One of them in his crook resembles an open book, in the middle of which there are folded heaps of canvases. With pink canvases contrast black, which breaks the simple scheme "canvas = human skin." It is difficult to suspect an artist to raise the issue of human races in his work ... With the rest, black, shiny canvases look more like the texture of a woman's handbag or leather couch, which reminds us of the subject aspect of the work. However, this is not a perfect, uniform black - and here we can find discoloration, we can trace the restless duct of the brush, thanks to which color begins to heave, to live its own life, so that through its microscopic painting pores can be extracted air. Therefore, the longer you stay in the room, the more your work loses its abstract-minimalist dimension. By staying with them, we are slowly beginning to hear their breath. Somewhere between the skin and the canvas, the paintings begin their story of life that goes on the other side of the stretcher. This is where the basic problem of Kokosiński's painting quests lurks, because the question about the essence of painting immediately has a ready riposte: what is the essence of man? This question remains unanswered.
Pictures, these strange beings
In Kokosiński's work one can trace many changes in the painting mood and approach to one's own work: sometimes he tries to signal what are the diseases of painting; at other times he falls into self-irony and gives us a simple recipe how to create a good picture, writing steps step by step, so that everyone can create such a picture by themselves. There was tension between the artist and the work, a kind of struggle between the eye and the stain was taking place in front of our eyes. Also this time, looking at the bleak poster of the exhibition (depicting a man with a terrible liquid, flowing out of his mouth, maybe it was paint), one could expect a pessimistic aura. However, despite the semi-explosive nature of the exhibition, apparently looks like a truce: after burning and wringing the canvas, closing the workshop, the canvas can breathe. With the rest, they are not as dangerous as it seems; delicate and sensitive, waiting for us - not spectators, but people. They are waiting, and they are so impatient that they leave the frame. To meet us.
1 G. Dziamski, Art after the end of art. Art of the beginning of the 21st century, Poznań 2009, p. 115
2 I met the artist's opinion on this subject during our conversation at the Institute of Art History at the Jagiellonian University on December 16, 2009
The awareness of the imperfections of the medium, the need for abstract actions and shame before repetition force Bartosz Kokosiński to experiment. His series of bent background images have the same physical body
Bartosz Kokosiński, "To start with - the end". Nova Gallery, Krakow, March-April 2010, curator: Marta Skowrońska
For a long time his work has been fidgeting, not staying in a fixed position. Images divided into rectangular pieces, like in rubik's cube, could be modified by moving individual parts. In the cycle "Diseases of painting", fulfilling the nightmares of each painter, the canvas became infected with flaccidity. There were blisters and rashes on them. In the case of images depicting car accidents, associated with crushed matter, the bending of the stretcher into mild esses suppressed the drastic content.
In the "Fit" cycle, Kokosiński, starting from the fascination with the compact architecture of the male body, the system of ankles, muscles and tendons, he painted a series of simple physical exercises: slopes, bends backwards or cradles. This time, the use of bent stretchers was caused by the unclear situation. It is not known whether the practitioner subordinates the matter of the image to the movement of his body, or, on the contrary, the invisible force bends the frame and body depicted in the picture.
The title of the new exhibition "At the beginning - the end" suggests exhaustion. "I have taken too far in the correct, hand-made execution of the curved picture," says the artist. The need for bending, increasingly pushing the subject to the background, serves to reveal the fleshy, left side of the paintings, their backs, backstage.
The exhibition has an atmosphere of weariness and exhaustion. The mutilated images resemble inclined tombstones or mattresses based on walls, which will slip to the floor any moment. They exude the nostalgia of the Mannerist mausoleum, sown with false elements of architecture that do not fulfill any structural function, but delight with their workshop proficiency. An image that devours a genre scene is rolled up like a pancake. Another, resembling the bend of skin on the elbow, tries to stick together. He implements the postulate of Ada Reinhardt - he does not want to be looked at, he closes. Two other images are black, shiny. It is not a uniform black - you can notice abrasions and subtle discolorations, places where color starts to wave.
In one of the scenes of David Cronenberg's "Videodrome", you can see a breathable TV, whose plastic walls, under the influence of the swelling program, swell, revealing a network of pulsing veins. The screen turns out to be a liquid plasma projecting towards the viewer. It does not fit, almost spills out, held only by surface tension. Kokosiński, in his leathery work, reaches for the iconoclastic fear that is close to this scene, aroused by images that have a greater weight than reality itself, are its condensation. His paintings, with naturalistically devoted fragments of the body littered on the surface, suggest cannibalistic-hunting fascinations. All imperfections of the skin with its discolorations, moles, small blacks and wrinkles are ennobled by stretching on the stretcher.
In 2005, Kokosiński formulated "Several easy steps leading to the creation of a painting", showing step by step how to process any photo in Photoshop and transfer them to canvas so that it meets the requirements of contemporary fashionable painting. Parameters and guidelines he wrote in points, programming the potential creator. Similarly, bent images in the gallery are accompanied by video, showing the equipment and tools needed to make them. Kokosiński enjoys the work: his own precision, skills, awareness of the time passing in the workshop. You can hear the boom of a saw and drill, you can see how the blade sinks into the wood. The camera tracks the movement of the mechanisms and corners of the studio. Close-ups do not allow to cover the entire preparation process. The viewer only gets a shred of the recipe, which without the artist's person is useless. Work is born somewhere between turning on the light in the studio, ordering the tools and firing the saw.
The poster promoting the exhibition shows the naked torso of a man who has ribbons of black pasta hanging from his mouth. The figure draws dark trickles or vomits. It delaminates and divides into threads, lines, begins to change the state of focus. The first image we encounter when entering a small gallery is burnt. Charred remains were put on another white picture, fixed like a sculpture to a pedestal. The reinterpretation of the collage and the revalorization of abstraction dies in this dead end. The location of the gallery is greatly won by the graveyard nature of the works. After three hundred drawings made with a drill and a melting Hagia Sophia model cut in beeswax, the decision to burn the painting brings Kokosiński a cleansing. Compaction provokes an inevitable explosion and new forms clump in the ashes. For starters - the end.
Marta Lisok, born on 1983, art historian, critic, curator, editor of the art department of the bi-weekly "ArtPapier". He works with the Fragile magazine. It belongs to the mafia artistic structure of the "Octopus".http://www.dwutygodnik.com.pl/artykul/1019-podejrzana-relacja.html