Antoni Malinowski – Dulwich Picture Gallery – The Polish Connection
Essays by Ian A.C. Dejardin, Sarah Kent, Paul Hills, Martin Crimp and Anna Maria Lesniewska
Published by Dulwich Picture Gallery 2009
Antoni Malinowski – The Polish Connection – Ian A.C. Dejardin
When Antoni Malinowski approached me with the idea of a contemporary installation at Dulwich Picture Gallery linked to historic portraits of King Stanislaw August Poniatowski, I was immediately interested; partly because, in the run-up to the Gallery’s bicentenary in 2011, I was already thinking that it was high time that the story of the historic ‘Polish connection’ should be told again for a new audience, but also because Antoni’s response to that old story was so vivid and interesting. He is, of course, a profoundly spiritual artist – responding in light and colour and thought to the stimulus of 18th century portraits and the fantastic ‘what if’ questions posed by our history. What if Poland had not been partitioned? What if, Poland having been partitioned and the king having abdicated, Francis Bourgeois had not persuaded Noel Desenfans not to sell the collection they had put together? What if Desenfans had been successful in persuading the British government to found a national gallery based on their collection? What if, having failed to do that, the Czars Paul and/ or Alexander had agreed to purchase the collection, thereby honouring Stanislaw’s debt? But, just imagine – if you could travel back in time to, say, 1803, and asked the question: what if – instead of selling off the collection or founding a national gallery – what if Bourgeois were to leave the collection to a sleepy school for boys five miles south of the metropolis ‘for the inspection of the public’? Of all the possible solutions, wouldn’t that have seemed the most bizarre? Yet that is what he did; and in doing so, he achieved the glory that should have been the king of Poland’s.
Antoni’s brilliant approach has been to bring the king to Dulwich – set him up in the form of four of his great state portraits – and then, having dropped the pebble in the pool, so to speak, tune in to the ripples. His work involves direct intervention on to the walls of the Gallery, but makes use of the triumphal implications of the Gallery’s exterior arches also. He is filling the great blind arch at the south end of the east front with a magnificent altarpiece-like painting that seems to adumbrate the presence of royalty inside. Inside, lines and colour echo the king’s gaze and gestures. The result – a profound, and profoundly beautiful, meditation on the great ‘what if’; a meditation which uses words and dance also, saturating the whole site.
My thanks to Antoni for his ‘big idea’ and all his hard work in bringing it to life. I am also extremely grateful to the Adam Mickiewicz Institute for their active involvement as organizers of Polska! Year of which we are proud to be a part, and for hosting my visit to Warsaw where I really began to feel the weight of history behind the project. My thanks to my Polish colleagues at the Royal Castle and the National Museum in Warsaw; and to Paul Hills, Sarah Kent and AM Lesniewska for their enlightening essays in this catalogue. Thanks also to Martin Crimp, whose abstract text provides us with a unique perspective of Antoni’s work. Finally, my own staff: Matthew Cowpe, exhibitions officer, took on the complex challenge of organizing the show at this end, and has done a remarkable job, under the professional eye of Mella Shaw, Head of Exhibitions.
The Enduring Significance of Ephemeral Gestures – Sarah Kent
For some time the artist, Antoni Malinowski has had his eye on Dulwich Picture Gallery as a potential site for a painting installation. In recent years, he has increasingly turned his attention to large-scale projects created in response to a particular site. For the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square, for instance, he painted a Vermilion Wall; modulations in the deep red were inspired by shifting patterns in the light falling across the curved surface as he worked, while the black marks swarming over the red ground echo the cascades of words poured out on stage during performances. Haworth Tompkins, the architects reponsible for refurbishing the theatre, also invited him to contribute to Coin Street Neighbourhood Centre which they designed for London’s South Bank. Malinowski’s ongoing preoccupation with light, architecture and the interplay between the two inspired him to paint some of the walls with light-reflective pigments that change colour and intensity according to the weather.
His interest in Dulwich Picture Gallery is more personal, though, since the unusual circumstances that led to its conception link London where he has lived for many years with Poland where he was born; they involve a king, whose radical views led to his downfall, and two art dealers who became philanthropists. In 1790 Stanislaw August, king of Poland, commissioned the London-based dealers, Sir Francis Bourgeois and Noël Desenfans to acquire a collection of fine paintings that would enable him to open a gallery for the public in Warsaw.
By the time they had assembled the pictures, though, the king had been deposed and Poland disbanded; but the idea of setting up a public art gallery had fired their imaginations and, subsequently, was to inspire the foundation of the Picture Gallery. Designed by Sir John Soane, the building was completed in 1817, and now houses many of the paintings once intended for Warsaw.
So although Stanislaw August’s reign was cut short, his liberal ideals lived on, and this is what fascinates Malinowski. ‘I’m interested in the enduring power of ephemeral gestures,’ he explains.1 ‘Fragile ideas to do with the love of art and beauty are strongest because economies, political systems and even countries collapse or disappear with time. Only ideas and paintings remain.’ Similar thoughts were expressed recently by New York collector Jose Mugrabi; when asked why he continues to invest in art despite the economic crisis, he replied ‘When the empires fall – Roman, Greek – all that is left is art.’ 2
Nearly two hundred years after the Picture Gallery opened, King Stanislaw August is paying a visit to Dulwich, in the form of four portraits. Most sumptuous is Marcello Bacciarelli’s full-length picture of 1792, which shows the king resplendent in his coronation robes – a tunic of pale grey silk encrusted with gold-thread embroidery beneath a red velvet cape lined with ermine. The painting, which normally hangs in the Marble Room of the Royal Castle in Warsaw, is shaped like an arch.
The East facade of Dulwich Picture Gallery contains two blind niches the same shape as the portrait; one is hidden behind a tree, but the archway to the left of the main doorway is clearly visible and has inspired Malinowski to create a painting that responds physically and metaphorically to its setting and to the king’s portrait hanging in the gallery. ‘The architecture is such a strong presence’, says Malinowski, ‘and an archway is such a loaded shape for a painting. Visually, it can easily split where the rectangle meets the arch – like the main doorway and mullion window above it which you are aware of in peripheral vision. How to relate the two areas is a compositional problem which is very interesting and gives me an enormous buzz!’
The installation is temporary so, rather than painting on the wall, Malinowski has filled the arch with panels of honeycomb fibreglass primed with raw umber to blend in with the brickwork. Over this are laid thin glazes of light-reflective paint whose opalescent sheen resembles the silks of the King’s coronation robes and responds to the ever-changing moods of the English weather. ‘If this were an indoor painting’, he explains, ‘it would be very different, because there’s the sky. Instead of fighting it, I’m trying to catch aspects of it; rather than imposing a narrative, the interaction with the setting becomes the story and allows a multiplicity of readings.’
Along the left hand edge of the niche he has painted a band of opaque vermilion to emphasise the unity of the arch and to echo the deep shadow cast by the sun on fine days; its shape and colour also refer to the temporary pavilions and canopies once erected to welcome visiting monarchs. In Soane’s original design, the archway appears as an opening rather than a blind niche. This has inspired Malinowski to open the space visually and, as it were, dissolve the separation between outdoors and in, again acknowledging the presence of the portrait. Optical illusion and innuendo produce a surface that functions ambiguously in the conceptual terrain between a smokey mirror and a dusty window.
Swarming over the opalescent ground are tiny brushstrokes made of a synthetic pigment that changes colour, like shot silk, according to the light; the particles appear red or creamy white in one direction and green or turquoise in the other. Shoals of these shimmering marks cluster round three rhomboids visible as dark voids floating weightlessly in infinite space. Inevitably we interpret rhomboids as rectangles seen in perspective and Malinowski refers to the spatial twists and turns implied by their presence as ‘sculpting with light… For me its about the negative shapes’, he says. ‘I’m using light, but working with darkness.’
This dark geometry seems as volatile as images glimpsed in the clouds. One can imagine, for instance, the glittering brushmarks changing direction like a shoal of fish or scattering willy nilly to dissolve the elusive shapes whose boundaries they define. This creates a sense of flux and flow that makes the dynamics of the various elements uncertain and the relationships between them ambiguous. The bright cloud surrounding the upper rhomboid like an aura comes to a point at its base. Perhaps it is being sucked into the funnel of darkness leaving the rhomboid below. On the other hand, we might be witnessing its escape from the forcefield of the larger shape. Meanwhile, the small rhomboid at the bottom of the niche has tipped onto one corner, perhaps to provide its companions with a pivotal point of balance, perhaps to spin on its axis or even to slip away unobtrusively.
‘It’s an indeterminate moment’, says Malinowski, ‘in which I freeze a spatial dynamic which is ambiguous and contradictory. I’m trying to deal with certain forces in this loaded classical shape, especially with the relationship between up there and down here.’ The niche is, of course, the same shape as a Renaissance altarpiece in which, typically, a division is created between the upper and lower registers that distinguish the heavenly sphere reserved for the elect from the earthly domain inhabited by mortals.
For me, associations like these are too strong to ignore, especially as Malinowski has divided his painting into three main segments. They put me in mind of Titian’s The Assumption of the Virgin (1518) which hangs over the main altar of the Frari in Venice and is similarly arranged in three layers. God can be seen in the heavens awaiting the arrival of the Virgin while, down on earth, a crowd of disciples gazes upwards at her receding figure; and, born aloft on a bank of cloud, Mary provides a visual and symbolic link between the two realms.
‘One can’t avoid such associations’, says Malinowski, ‘but I’m not really dealing with heavenly and earthly zones. In my painting there is more darkness above and light below; so if one is looking for a theological interpretation, then things are inverted.’ His favourite altarpiece turns out to be Titian’s The Martyrdom of St Lawrence (1548-57), which hangs in a side chapel in the Jesuit church in Venice, which is so badly lit that the nocturnal scene is all but invisible. In the painting, what little light there is emanates from the moon, a few lanterns held aloft by soldiers and the flames of the barbecue on which the hapless saint is being roasted alive.
Malinowski shows me a reproduction of Jacob’s Dream (1710-15), a painting by Arent de Gelder, a pupil of Rembrandt, which hangs in the Dulwich Picture Gallery. It features a diagonal shaft of light shining from a cloud of brilliance in the heavens onto the prone form of the sleeping Jacob. Mid-way between the two realms, an angel hovers on outstretched wings; shaped like a kite, this ethereal being is remarkably similar to the small rhomboids in Malinowski’s composition.
Common to both nocturnal scenes is the importance of light as a poetic and symbolic element in the narrative. Light is also a key ingredient in Malinowski’s work and it is easy to see how pictures like these could have inspired his interest in ‘painting with light, but working with darkness’. Influences are usually much less direct, however, or manifest themselves in mysterious ways and his painting encompasses an extremely diverse frame of reference that includes physics and technology as well as art history. The pigments he uses to harness the transitory effects of light were produced, for instance, with the aid of nanotechnology, while the shifting patterns of tiny brushmarks with which they are deployed might well have been inspired by developments in particle physics, or the night sky as seen through the Hubble Space telescope. The formal aspects of the work, however, direct my attention back to art history.
The floating rhomboids bring to mind the paintings of Kasimir Malevich, in which abstract shapes are similarly suspended in space, except that Malinowski’s shadowy geometry is more tentative and more ethereal. In his determination to establish a new role for art in pre-revolutionary Russia, Malevich purged his paintings of all subject matter that was tainted, by association, with traditional values. His most provocative painting was Black Square (1913), a single square of dense black on a white ground. He hung it in the “icon corner”, a place usually reserved for religious pictures, as though to insist that the new abstraction had a spiritual as well as political dimension and could satisfy the desire for objects of contemplation and veneration.
The optimism embodied in the work was shortlived, though. The Communist Party soon rejected abstraction in favour of socialist realism and Malevich eventually abandoned easel painting for applied arts such as furniture design and architecture. Yet his paintings have outlived the regime that denounced them as elitist and are now enshrined in art history for their beauty, courage and idealism. Once again, art proved more enduring than empire.
Since Malevich rejected the medium, painting has been declared dead many times over, yet it obstinately refuses to die. Malinowski has not abandoned easel painting, but his desire to expand its remit into architectural space suggests frustration with the limitations of paint on canvas, and echoes of this can be found in the picture. Scattered within the central rhomboid are dark strips resembling pieces of wood. ‘They are like a broken stretcher’, he says. ‘Maybe they’re a shadow or a ghost of one. I’m taking issue with the idea that paintings have to be rectangular and hung on walls, and that they are valuable or special.’
Far from rejecting painting, though, he is seeking to affirm its unique qualities; this is where, alongside his pioneering example, Malevich’s painting technique comes into play. ‘Malevich painted very meticulously’, says Malinowski, ‘using small brushstrokes to create a sense of stasis that produces movement. Its a Byzantine idea; because of the incredibly fine brushmarks used to paint an icon, something optical happens to the edges and the focus. Things appear frozen yet they suggest movement inward and outward, rather than from left to right. So I’m asking a similar question to Malevich about the relevance of painting, but in a different situation. The issue now is to do with technology rather than politics; I’m asking what painting has to offer in the age of photography, video and so on. And the answer is that it deals with a different kind of spatiality, a sense of movement that can only be achieved in a painting.’
Indoors in the gallery where the royal portraits are hung, the artist further explores this potential for achieving a different kind of spatial movement. One wall is painted a dark blue that echoes the sash worn by the king. Prussian blue is a quintessentially eighteenth century colour, argues Malinowski, since its discovery changed the palette available to artists. The blue invades the white of the adjoining wall and, in turn, is infiltrated by it; curving black lines further dissolve the geometry of the interior to create a fluid sense of space, as though to amplify the baroque folds of the king’s abundant cloak. Rather than negating the figurative art of the past as Malevich sought to do, abstraction is brought into a creative dialogue with it that enriches one’s understanding of both.
As well as subverting the rigidity of architectural space, Malinowski is keen to dissolve the boundaries between different art forms. At the opening of the exhibition, Korean choreographer Yong-Min Cho and other dancers will respond to the paintings in a work that translates implied movement into physical gesture, and to a soundscape created by composer Rolf Gehlhaar. Fed into a computer, English and Polish words have been translated into abstract cadences resembling the rippling assonances of a sita, so as to distance them from literal meaning. Trapped forever within the present tense, a painting has no potential to unfold and must always remain ambiguous, but sound and dance develop through time and in space and, thereby, can offer some form of resolution.
To compensate for the temporary absence of the portraits, in Warsaw Malinowski will create an installation in the Kubicki Arcade, a 200 metre corridor along which coaches once processed into the Royal Castle. A series of temporary walls painted with the same pigments used in Dulwich radiate the colours of the spectrum. On an indigo base, the miraculous duotone paint acquires a turquoise sheen; on purple it appears olive green, on vermilion red and on yellow terra cotta. Traversing the panels, fluid black lines conceptually extend the rhythms begun in Dulwich to the homeland of the portraits, where they pay tribute to King Stanislaw August’s visionary ideals which outlived his reign to inspire the foundation of the Picture Gallery.
Antoni Malinowski’s installation wears its scholarship lightly; while responding to its surroundings, it also makes reference to subjects as diverse as royal portraits, altarpieces, icons, pioneering abstraction and the role of painting in a secular society that is saturated with images produced in other, faster media. These all contribute to the many layers of meaning that make the work so rewarding to contemplate. Above all, though, the artist is honouring all those whose fragile ideas or ephemeral gestures have proved longer lasting than countries, economies, empires or dictatorships. Indirectly, of course, he is also celebrating the importance and longevity of art and doing so with a degree of modesty and subtlety that exemplifies the very point he is making.
1 All comments by the artist were made in conversations with the author during February and March 2009
2 Observer Magazine 12.4.09 p33
Towards Reflections – Paul Hills
There are many reasons why it is timely that the London-based Polish artist Antoni Malinowski has made an installation at Dulwich. Sir John Soane’s gallery, in which paintings live and breathe in light-filled spaces, speaks to Malinowski’s longstanding engagement with light and colour in architecture. He is also an admirer of many paintings in the collection, especially works by Veronese, Tiepolo and Watteau. His art, like theirs, traces trajectories of colour, journeys of light. In the spring of 2009 visitors to Dulwich were fortunate to see the four surviving fragments of the great Petrobelli altarpiece reunited, and to witness how Veronese, like Tiepolo, at once holds his figures a little apart and brings them into communion by the silvery touch of light on an upturned face. Light makes invisible bridges and colour sustains them.
Bridging, not with a weight of masonry but with filaments of line and splinters of colour, is a recurring theme in Malinowksi’s work. The installation at Dulwich, a painting framed in the arch outside and a wall drawing on the space within, may suggest a kind of bridging, perhaps the unfolding of a magic casement. In Venice, in 2004, his drawing was extended through the city itself in an event with dancers, entitled ‘Bridging Lines’. To anyone familiar with Venetian myths, it evoked the ritual marriage with the sea and the ancient Venetian dream of throwing a bridge across the Giudecca Canal. Accompanied by music, the performance moved from interior to exterior and from the solid foundations of the quayside to the gentle rocking of a boat as it crossed the water. The notes of the music floated over the water of the canal, mingling without merging with the splash of the waves and the noises of the city.
Sound, like light, traverses distances. In his paintings and wall drawings it is as if Malinowski translates varying intensities of sound and their spatial resonances into linear rhythm and chromatic harmony. Some of his titles adapt or allude to musical terms, as in Shadow Synchrony of 2002, or Synchrony Carmine, an expansively wide diptych of 1996, where the colours of the two halves echo and answer one another. What ‘synchrony’ might mean is surely ambiguous, but amongst the dictionary definitions of ‘synchronous’ we find, ‘Recurring at the same successive instants of time; having coincident periods, as two sets of vibrations and the like’. In Malinowski’s wall drawings two lines often travel together across floor, wall and ceiling, now moving together, now moving apart, sometimes continuous, sometimes broken into dashes. His notation, whether of black marks on a white field in the wall drawings or of more varied flecks of pigment in his paintings, is essentially musical; therefore it is entirely to be expected that he has worked with musicians and composers – notably Michael Nyman – and that musicians have performed moving amongst his installations and paintings. At the unveiling of Malinowski’s wall painting at the Luxor Theatre in Rotterdam in 2002 trombones resonated against the carmine walls.
It comes as no surprise that one of the artist’s favourite works in the Dulwich Collection is that essentially musical painting, Watteau’s Les Plaisirs du Bal. This painting is musical not only in the obvious sense that its subject is a dance accompanied by musicians, but because this ethereal fête galante is orchestrated with a rhythmic structure of duplications, echoes and reflections. As in Malinowski’s paintings, Watteau’s chromatic space is woven of fine-spun flecks and threads of colour. In this way colour and line do not stand apart as separate elements; rather colour has been almost shredded into lines and line has been imbued with colour.
Watteau’s painting, like so many of Veronese’s, is staged in an architectural space like a portico, which is neither entirely outside nor inside but somewhere between. In a more elusive mode, Malinowski’s wall drawings and his paintings often propose a permeable space between interior and exterior. This fascination with thresholds is one reason why he is drawn to Pompeian wall-painting and its slender illusory structures delineated on fields of white or vermilion. These suggest spaces that are engagingly real but often seem to occupy an ambiguous zone neither exactly behind nor in front of the wall.
Traditional linear perspective moves horizontally into depth following the normal axis of vision, thereby taking priority over the vertical axis of gravity or levitation, the axis of spiritual force, but the Venetian painters, thanks to their familiarity with the great mosaic domes of San Marco hovering above their heads, never quite forgot the vertical axis. In Venetian altarpieces the semi-circle defined by the crowning arch was normally reserved as the zone of the heavenly, the rectangle below furnished the space of the earthly or mundane. When in Venice, Malinowski often goes to see Titian’s Martyrdom of St Lawrence, which stands on the altar of a dark, windowless chapel. Titian set the scene by night, dramatizing the moment when the heavens open and Lawrence raises his hand to acknowledge the burst of light. Malinowski always loved this opening in the darkness, the shape of it, and the journey of light from the opening to the raised hand, but it was only recently that he noticed a faint reflection on the water in the distance, the water of a Venetian canal. ‘He is trying to grasp the reflection’, says Antoni.
Grasping a reflection – not the divine light of Christian salvation breaking in from another world, but something here, now, elusive yet around us every day – might be one way to describe Malinowski’s project of these last fifteen years and more. His work leads us to ask what today might be the event that painting extends or proposes. In the absence of obvious figuration what happens in painting? We may best feel our way towards an answer by considering Malinowski’s interventions in architectural spaces which have been such a compelling feature of his practice. Typically these interventions and collaborations – some permanent, some temporary – involve working on site over an extended period of time. Between 1998 and 2000, at the invitation of the architects Haworth Tompkins, who were refurbishing the Royal Court Theatre, he spent many months painting the exterior drum wall of the auditorium, which faces onto the spaces of the foyer and bars. Unlike a house-painter, he worked with small brushes, slowly covering the great convex ark of wall in a deep and subtly inflected vermilion. Over these months he registered how sunlight by day and car headlights by night tracked across the curved surface, and he distilled these transient lights as parallelograms of pale flecks floating over the vermilion field. By this means inside and outside are linked. By night the red glow of the painted wall, extending over several floors, is visible from Sloane Square through the windows of the theatre’s facade, while inside the foyer spaces visitors may experience – as it were at the margins of their conversations – the slow fade of the rays of the setting sun or the flash of headlights passing over the vermilion. The artist understood perfectly that this was a social space where theatre-goers would drink, talk and move around, and that his expanse of vermilion would not so much be looked at by patrons as accompany them, bathe them in colour, and be glimpsed in fragments between the gaps in the crowd.
More recently, in 2008, Malinowski collaborated with the same architects on the design of Coin Street Community Centre on London’s South Bank. Here he responded to the clear-cut lines of Howarth Tompkins’ building by employing a range of primary hues and a more emphatic geometry for coloured walls flanking windows and light-shafts. The slant of sunlight repeatedly cutting across walls beside the grid of fenestration appears transposed into the angled blocks of colour. Interior lighting has been strategically placed so that after dark the dynamic pattern of slanting shapes in strong colours are visible from outside the building. The effect by day and by night is held in counterpoint.
What Antoni Malinowski achieves with colour in architecture, and his understanding of what happens with colour, is built upon the closest investigation of how pigments respond to light. He has written that ‘pigment is the materiality of colour, the 3d micro structure which reflects and refracts light’. When painting on canvas he binds his pigments in a light acrylic medium believing that this best allows pigments to retain their characteristic molecular structure. Like a tempera painter of the early Renaissance, such as Sassetta, he avoids as far as possible mixtures of several pigments, preferring to keep his tints pure. Since the 1990s his work has been marked by phases in which a single pigment – notably azurite, vermilion, malachite or lapis lazuli – dominates his canvases. More recently he has started to use diachromatic pigments, laying them over a ground of deep umber. These metallic-based pigments are a challenge: when applied the same pigment may shift from a red to a green or from a silvery tone to a purplish dark according to the angle from which they are seen. With fine intelligence and insight Malinowski works with this instability and enlists it as integral to the event of painting.
Yves Klein declared that colour is the link between the material and the immaterial. Pigment is material, usually mineral, but its energy – the light waves it reflects – is immaterial. Malinowski’s paintings, with their flecks of colour hovering in veils, seem to render visible the edge or meeting point between different physical particles or elements. Their distillation of subtle energies invites us – if not to grasp – at least to reach out towards reflections.
Martin Crimp’s ‘Blue Glimmer’
Permeating Meanings – Anna Maria Lesniewska
Classical art seems to be pure form. Of course, it is also a creation of the spirit. But this spirit expresses itself completely in the perfection of its own creation and thus remains invisible within it.
This quotation can best be understood as a synthetic explanation of the art of the reign of Stanislaw August Poniatowski, known as the “last king of Poland” (1732–1798). The quest for the communication of the spirit of the age through the forms and symbols adopted by artists, and characterised by a certain essence of the tragic in this monarch’s reign, is still relevant today. As a patron of the arts, this king made his home available for the display and popularisation of artistic ideas. Although his collection of paintings, which form the core of the collection of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, was never displayed at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, and he eventually had to abdicate because Poland was partitioned, the London-based Warsaw-born artist Antoni Malinowski has forged an artistic link between these two European capital cities. The King Stanislaw August whose portraits are present in this exhibition is finally witnessing a project whose origins lie in the past: his “court painter”, Peter Francis Bourgeois, and his “consul general in London”, Noel Desenfans, were among the first to make cultural connections between these two historic countries. Malinowski’s work continues these initiatives and his installation at Dulwich Picture Gallery and at the Royal Castle in Warsaw unite these two noble institutions by means of one artistic vision.
Malinowski’s visual projections can be defined as an attempt at grasping the ephemeral character of light, whilst at the same time using its energy. His ephemeral creations become a way of conveying a range of emotions, and move away from the territory of painting and into the sphere of thinking through light. Working on a light sensitive installation can be compared to the investigations of the old masters, unified with the natural rhythm of the time of day, month, and year. Each creation results from the artist’s dialogue with the surrounding reality. His actions can be defined as a quest for places which are friendly to art as well as a scientific analysis of means which serve to evoke artistic events.
The essence of Malinowski’s ephemeral painting is “an analysis of light through colour”. The artist makes light drawings in the annexed visual sphere, which creates an optical spectrum within a selected space . Defining the dimension of space, he creates its open map based on the “colours of spectrum – from red to purple”. Using natural characteristics of light effects, Malinowski evokes the projection of memory: ‘Light carries the memory of a place’ – says the artist. Through absorbing the rhythms of black lines it creates a particular emotional photography of this clash with architecture. The term “photo-graphy” conveys in the simplest way this relationship between light and memory. The space saturated with light refers to memory, liberates a protective spirit of a concrete place, which constantly fills the tiniest fragments of reality, at the same time carrying the consciousness of the whole in it. It conveys a metaphysical experience which is then consolidated in our minds, agitates our non-sensual sphere to which we refer eagerly in order to find our own personal space, saturated with personal experience. It determines what exists on the borderland of two worlds, visible and invisible.The sunlight-activated pigments trigger the essence of these moving, ever-changing pictures. “Colour is just a dance of electrons awakened by light,” says Malinowski. “In my work I focus on the subtractive colour in relation to the ever-changing daylight.”
It is not accidental that the artist refers to the earliest artistic endeavors of mankind, the birth of awareness when all actions were defined only through light and colour, and which has remained essentially unchanged. Starting work almost from the beginning, from the alphabet of art, was a fully conscious decision which was then pursued to its conclusion. The phenomenon of light, the effects of which we are acquainted with, but cannot explain, constituting an unaccountable, independent quality provides a reason for all artistic experience. The mysterious power of light conveys the ultimate values; it is a sign of divine energy, spiritual immateriality, as well as a symbol of life and happiness. Among numerous interpretations, we make successive differentiations between the light of illumination, conceived of as a source of all inspiration, and reflected light determining rational forms of cognition, awakening discursive reasoning. “Sometimes I think that if I lived 300 years ago, I would be painting frescoes in churches and palaces,” says Malinowski. “It is not only about the dynamic relationship of painting to architectural space but also about the relation between different elements and colours in space.” He recalls the light of the Venice Laguna in which he saw “all harmonies of the colours used by the Venetian painters in the dramatic December sky – Titian’s colours, in the March light – Tiepolo’s white.” He would like to catch the light effects over the Thames as Turner did. He carries this analysis through penetrating the micro-structure of pigments with specific properties of light fission; he chooses colours by composing manually mixed substances. Thanks to the variety of components there are possible experiments and changes resulting from them which take place inside colour matter.
Light sensitive installation is more than a mere sum of superimposing phenomena. Time is a dimension which combines the dispersed fragments of the real, as well as their multiple reflections – creating unity. Through mutual relations between light, space and time, there is formed an ephemeral, intimate atmosphere. Activating the multi-constitutional matter of pigments allows us to visualize a phenomenon which according to the artist is “an association with the light of a place, with its essence, Genius Loci”. Antoni Malinowski determines with light and colour both modern interiors and spaces marked with their own, centuries-long history. Independent of a place of its origin and intentions that accompanied it, each work is unique, inscribed into the description of the artist’s own personal world, which means as much as our participation in it. It is an autonomous communication, a kind of a story about the surrounding reality, an expression of tension, of the emotional state which accompanied its creation. The colours, moving along the designated, gradually fading lines follow the direction of the sun’s rays, make a unique score, through which a sound notation can be communicated, music which is itself an equivalent of changes in the intensity of hues and the energy of moving light. Unfolding, endlessly multiplied and simultaneously unique reflections intensify the effects of the changing light. This natural phenomenon also provokes the expression of emotions through movement in harmony with the rhythms of subconsciously developing music as it mutates into the dance of shadows and signs.
Drawn by the streams of energy, the score of light and painting can be also interpreted as the space of sound. Through its power of emission, optical illusion can activate other spheres of artistic activity; it provides inspiration to musicians and dancers, a stimulus to reach an expression of their own visions. The values of sound cut through space, frequently colliding with the beams of light conveying multi-layered structure of a pigment. This specific interpenetration of energy creates a phenomenon of co-dependent experience and makes us realize a need to get to terms with the place of activity. The fundamental formal factors in Malinowski’s installations are not subjected to changes. Each time a place introduces its message, evokes emotions, and activates creative energy – bringing about a still unknown picture.