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Home arrow Painting arrow 1975-1978
1975-1978 Print E-mail
PAINTINGS


1 The Lunatic on the balcony of my London studio | 2 The Lunatic (1977) | 3 View of my studio (1977)
4 Self-portrait With Pencil (1977), acrylic paint on canvas, 60 x 75 cm, Collection: W. Rapaczynski, New York

Some of the best paintings were done in London between the spring 1977 and the fall 1978. My gallery, Fischer Fine Arts, was interested in hyperrealism and figurative painting. I lived at the house of my Norwegian friend Gjertrud Polonezer in Little Venice. Situated along Hampstead Canal, ours was a mixed neighborhood of slums occupied by squatters, charming Georgian mansions with lush gardens and run-down Victorian houses swarming with artists.


1 Two Cups (1977), acrylic on canvas, 60 x 75 cm, Collection: A. & A. Drweski, London | 2 Yellow Shirt (1977), acrylic paint on canvas, 60 x 75 cm | 3 Trend (1976), 120 x 150 cm, acrylic paint, and collage on canvas

In Little Venice the work gained momentum, composition was simplified, and the tonality turned cool and pastel. – Ashes falling on the lagoon – Gjertrud remarked seeing me paint Outlining My Shadow. She did not know that this canvas, like several others, Two Cups, Yellow Shirt and Campo Santo Stefano, were inspired by photographs taken in Venice. I often recalled the Pearl of the Adriatic while strolling along Hampstead Canal and my painting, suspended between Little Venice and the real one, acquired a bit of a Venetian touch.

I kept succumbing to hypnotic daydreams, suffered from nightmares and in the morning I wondered about my bruised body. As recorded in the self-portrait The Lunatic, I sleepwalked for several weeks, up and down the stairs and on the balcony. Wondering about my strange behavior, I portrayed The Painter Worried and glued a photo of the naked Nuba women by Leni Riefenstahl above my head. At that time punks first appeared in England causing debates about tribal savagery in modern civilization.


1 Outlining My Shadow (1978), acrylic paint and collage on canvas, 150 x 120 cm, National Museum, Poznan
2 Self-portrait With Mickey Mouse
(1975), acrylic paint and collage on canvas, 75 x 60 cm | 3 Black Newspaper (1978), acrylic paint and collage on canvas, 150 x 120 cm | 4 Campo Santo Stefano, (1977), acrylic paint and collage on canvas, 120 x 150 cm

Collages in the form of windows, vignettes and silhouettes in the portraits and self-portraits are comments as well as documents and private relics. The envelope of an important letter was glued to the canvas My Bike’s Shadow, the lovers from the movie Empire of Senses can be seen, their figures the size of insects, in the self-portrait Outlining My Shadow. In the canvas Et in Arcadia I am holding a tiny dancer on a string. It’s Nureyev, his stage a small green box with the words et in arcadia ego (“I am even in Arcady”), spoken by Death.


1 Blue Overall (1977), acrylic paint on canvas, 150 x 120 cm | 2 Between Five And Fifty (1978), acrylic paint and collage on canvas, 120 x 150 cm | 3 Leszek In Pink Jacket (1977), acrylic paint and collage on canvas,
60 x 75 cm, Collection: W. Rapaczynski, New York | 4 Leszek With Maple Leaf
(1977), acrylic paint and collage on canvas, 60 x 75 cm

Leszek Kolakowski, the philosopher at Oxford, occasionally visited me in London. Placing his hand into the ever bigger cracks in my room’s walls, a diabolical little smile on his lips, he joked that my art would bring more income if I would paint not myself but Oxford dons. This provoked me and I executed a whole series of drawings and paintings showing the philosopher whom I have known since my student days. The portrait Between 50 and 5, was painted for Kolakowski’s 50th birthday. On top he plays in the sand, below he acts as a sphinx.


1 Electric Dog (1975) | 2 Et in arcadia (1976), acrylic paint, and collage on canvas on canvas, 120 x 150 cm
3
My Bike’s Shadow (1976), acrylic paint and collage on canvas, 120 x 150 cm | 4 Little Animal (1975), acrylic paint and collage on canvas, 120 x 150 cm

The British art historian Nick Wadley wrote in his Zacheta Retrospective essay that my first paintings he had seen “seemed to play subversive games with the practice of painting, almost toying with the medium. Flat, unpainterly, they were never windows onto another world, more like pages of memorabilia, or a card table with private tarot cards.” The red contour, symbolic of cuts and injuries, pain and suffering, was my obsession.

Suddenly, I could no longer deal with color and I even eliminated it from my clothing which since has been limited to black and white. My self-portraits are documents of how colorful I used to dress, how I carried myself and what I did. I typed my book Hyperrealism – New Realism at our Warsaw flat in 1976. A year later I depicted myself typing this very book against an abstract blue background in the Self-portrait With Typewriter.

When I flew to the United States in 1981, all the paintings stayed behind in European collections and museums, most with friends. Later, I brought a few smaller pieces to New York, the rest to Paris after I had settled in Montparnasse at the end of the 20th century. Today I realize that the paintings are divided in four periods: London 1977-8, Vienna 1973-7, Warsaw 1964-1972 and Vienna 1959-1964, a city decisive in every respect.

In Vienna I often painted myself doubled and tripled, both naked and dressed, wearing a bathing suit, playing tennis, wearing overalls in bright pinks or greens reminiscent of the exaggerated colors of advertising and color films, or tops made of metal foil. The Ik Are Us – Helmut and me, black and wearing masks – was inspired by Peter Brook’s production The Ik, a moving spectacle about the African tribe of hunters and gatherers uprooted and doomed by civilization.


1 Three Times I (1976), acrylic paint and collage on canvas, 150 x 120 cm, National Museum, Cracow, Photo by E. Ciolek | 2 Big Fish (1976) acrylic paint and collage on canvas, 120 x 150 cm | 3 The Ik Are Us (1975), acrylic paint and collage on canvas, 120 x 150 cm, National Museum, Warsaw | 4 The artist with her paintings The Ik Are Us (1975, National Museum, Warsaw) & Tenis Player (1975, National Museum, Cracow), 6th Fine Arts Festival, Zacheta National Gallery, Warsaw 1976, photo by E. Ciolek


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