Introduction to the album “Studies and Sketches” (ISBN 83-915545-6-2); the album accompanied the exhibition at the “Na Żywo” Gallery.
The author of the introduction, Maciej Szczawiński, is a poet, literary critic, journalist, editor of radio programs devoted to culture. He has been cooperating with Radio Katowice for many years. Aleksander Żywiecki was often a guest of his programs.
Aleksander Zywiecki; or swimming against the tide. In defi-ance of the heralds of death of painting — how awful! — realistic painting in particular. Zywiecki; or considerable courage. We need add solitude (whatever happens “in opposition to” in fine art, most often doesn’t recognise crowds or groups). But after all it is our support in well hidden longing for emotion, naturalness, truth and mystery. Mystery does not have to mean cascading manner and theoretical and conceptual hokus-pokus. Its reflection — which enables encounter and entry into the depth — examines itself especially nowadays in the dense matter of “the low”. In the particles and glimmer of the real. In what whispers, and sometimes cries out to us: clouds and walls, wet soil and arid sand’s breath which pulses in fissures of bark and cracks of flesh. Zywiecki risked going back. That means he did not set off in search of a new language (the word “new” seems to be an identifier of intellectual kitsch and self-advertising deception of). Instead he took a close look at the Polish tradition of landscape painting from the end of 19th and the beginning of 20th century. Dodgy ground. . . What has ever been more cursed by modernism, ridiculed by all those “-isms”, fooled by (fleeting) avant-garde and pushed into a bashful nook of mass longing? So let’s repeat: RISK. To jeopardise oneself. To expose oneself. Whichever way we look at it we have to say that he risks it all. In Art such a stance has exceptional value. One feels like adding a little word “always”. A mighty word.
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The choices and stance of this artist are like eminent litmus paper. This paper tests the real musculature of contemporary painting. In spite of their idyllic nostalgia, Zywiecki’s paintings push in doubting Thomas’ finger. The paintings irritate and sting. Here is a realistic landscape according to the equation Stanislawski-Wyczolkowski-Kotsis. It incidentally checks the role of those theoretical-speculative “nutrients”. As a matter of fact it’s not meant to disapprove of artistically or intellectu-ally truthful stances. It is meant to challenge the new “-isms”, seemingly allied with the spirit of the times TODAY.
Let’s admit that it doesn’t often happen that a relatively young artist — well versed in his trade, as he tried his hand at creating in some 20th century avant-garde styles — suddenly turns to a mode of painting that belongs to a totally different era. From a quite different story about people and the world. The act of “going back”, with all due connotation, takes on a completely new dimension here. A new meaning and sense. I have in mind the current context, predominating and contemporary. I am thinking of all the tensions, contaminations and impacts of Zywiecki’s choice with “what’s happening to Art” right now There’s no way of being unconscious of all that “sub-text”, when we look at these paintings.
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It happened two, three years ago. I was hurrying along gw. Jana street not to be late Tor the opening of an exhibition in the Silesian Museum. I was anxious and distrustful. There were too many paintings like that. Reproduced in local brochures, also blended into the (ghastly) display of ZPAP shop, glitter-ing with glossy, world-wide, excellent paper of a luxurious catalogue, they attacked and pursued me. It felt as if somebody wanted to deceive or provoke me. I knew and could sense this aura. Yes, “we’ve been here, we’ve done it…” etc. When the artist Karol Wieczorek bumped into me I virulently snapped — “meadows, clouds and valleys, eh? ” After a while I heard the reply — “Know what, I do believe it’s beautiful? Somebody can see those ‘meadows, clouds and valleys’. Today!” Quarter of an hour later I was calmly looking at the even calmer technical mastery of Zywiecki. The bend of a river in one of the paintings emanated reality (REALITY) . As did the bliss of cumuli over a field. Or the twilight of autumn air. In other words reality was unreal in these paintings, innumerable in the serious, unhurried sense of things that matter, authen-tic things. In the outline of a painting, through the detail of a close-up some kind of mystery — experienced in humility — shone through. Indeed! One could always pout, “re-pe-ti=tion”. However, honesty required… rhyme. Which means con-ster-na-tion or e-mo-tion. A twist. Because Zywiecki posed the simple and fundamental question — Can you see IT? Can you see WHAT’s shining through?
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It’s an extraordinary exhibition. The art gallery I’ve run for years is still craving independent art (independent of tradi-tion, of “impregnated” truths, critical announcements etc). Obviously it doesn’t always come off Such is life. But today there is a modest holiday, a quiet “bingo!”, a stroke of luck. Zywiecki, that disguised agent provocateur and lyrically mused scandalizer (yes, indeed! ) shows us his work from behind the scenes. He performs a striptease in front of us letting us take a peek at “how it’s DONE before…”. It means that he lets us into the maze of his tricks. Thus another — how invigorating — SCANDAL. For we are rummaging around the dim recesses of his technique! We are being initiated into his ways. The sacred moment “just before” shrouded in the bashful veils of taboo. Before the final effect, overtone, image.
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So let’s enter. But before we do, a warning! Because ALEKSANDER ZYWIECKI invites us on a dangerous jour-ney. We are threatened by serious allergies with complications: inter alia classification of phenomena stereotype (so-called “intellectual bedsores”), taking the intellectually easy way out (i. e. “a short cut to the tamed cliche”) and the worst of all in-fections — “it’s just not my cup of tea”. By overcoming the leth-argy and fear we can gain an opportunity to encounter really bizarre art. Really astonishing and original art, though veiled in the echo of sights and fulfilments of a past age.
Maciej M. Szczawiński Katowice, May 2003