Włodzimierz Pawlak. Diaries 1989-2022
This presentation of the complete Diaries, a special part of the oeuvre of Włodzimierz Pawlak, is being held in a time when the traits and values that form the very backbone of this series—extreme introversion, Benedictine work, and persisting in the pursuit of an eternal medium—are in crisis. Despite endless attempts to repeat seemingly the same gesture, these paintings have nothing mechanical about them. They are instinctual, imprecise, free. They are what they are. For although Pawlak has not been painting human figures for ages, what he does paint is incredibly human. His sort of humanist painting, albeit reduced to the simplest gestures, compels us on both an intellectual and an emotional level, providing a total experience. This impact is all the greater against the backdrop of today’s art that prides itself on academic discourse, but is devoid of an overriding choice in technique. It is pseudo-underground, tolerating the coexistence of irreconcilable rules within a single whole. The space of the creative work is filled with hybrids, whose links with each other and with art as such are strictly phraseological.
ms2, 19 Ogrodowa St
In the past, Pawlak’s imagination seemed to drift into the art journalists’ “regions of the great heresy”—a curatorial nightmare. Utterly fascinated by the deepest significance of the work of Malevich and Strzemiński, he tried to dampen his flights of fancy with the restraints of the laws this great duo formulated for art. Back in its heroic phase, in the sociologically- and politically-charged Gruppa, Pawlak tried to reduce all the concessions foreign to the nature of painting (even if only expressed through the narrative of the title) to the core of an expression that could only be achieved through painting! He went so far as to contradict the mission of the group, of whose accomplishments, full of ambitions to be of social service and inspire political revolt, a certain highly supportive critic unequivocally stated: “I remember how much I myself tried to like it. Because it was the right thing to do.”
In Pawlak’s painting, something was all the more “the right thing” the more it followed the rules of a discipline whose history went back to the caves in Lascaux and Altamira. A discipline which, at his father’s bidding, he himself (as a child) practiced on a now-famous green gate that led to the garden of his family house in Korytów. Close to the rural culture. Where awkwardness is a sacred weakness, but also the profoundest secret of expression. Where the trivial meets the sublime, distance meets gravity, the temporary meets the final, and all of it comes together in a poetics of manual error.
The logical outcome of this path was the Diaries. Separating the content from the subject expressed in the title and limiting it to two shades of white. With one exception/prologue from a watershed year for Poland, 1989. The red-and-white abstract with the narrative phrase of the title, Poles Forming the National Flag, right from the get-go, from the first canvas, displayed the full range of the series’ painterly qualities. Paint ceases to be paint. It becomes a picture. Sensual delectation turns into a state of pure contemplation. Everything here works “to his advantage.” Especially, given this is a chronicle, the passing of time. It is this time that extracts unanticipated effects of temperature contrast from the ectoderm of the Unistic white canvases. The intensely yellowing zinc white gradually stands out from the titanium white, the dusty gray of the graphite. It is time that improvises here with the warm and cold, the all-important major/minor opposition in painting.
The Diary B series is different again. These are small wooden showcases where, like a boy being naughty (or nice), Pawlak plays with the detritus of life and work. The intent of this appendix is fairly clear: these, too, are a variation on marking the passage of time. Yet while the painted Diaries pertain to the work itself, Diaries B preserve memory of the tools used to produce a work and the circumstances of its creation. Taken together, they incline the artist to formulate thoughts through a structure of radical self-restriction. Of seeing as the basis of consciousness.
ms2, 19 Ogrodowa St