Antoni Malinowski – THRESHOLDscapes

20 September – 19 October
Published by Gimpel Fils 2002

Despite the fact that architects, armed with their plans and tape measures, may tell you otherwise, ‘a room is a fairly malleable space’, wrote the writer Georges Perec. As fast as you can name a room, you can change a room.

Antoni Malinowski’s paintings seem to prove this point. Last summer, his interventions in a kitchen in Berlin transformed a small functional space for cooking into a large and airy space in which to contemplate the play of light and shade, and a window’s ability to bring what is outside in. Enter ‘THRESHOLDscapes’, his installation at Gimpel Fils, and the process has moved along. Malinowski’s lines stalk you as you move around the gallery space. They swarm behind pillars and crouch into corners. The rhythmic dashes and lines sway this way and that, and, like some spatial metronome, appear to mark time, capturing every moment of your movement through the room.

As sunlight passes through the gallery window, Malinowski deconstructs the spectrum: he peels off a wave of red and lets it dance across one wall; he distills a patch of pure blue and allows it to pool onto another. Distortion rather than ornament, the installation acts as an exception to prove a rule: light is the accumulation of colour and space the drips and drops of light.

Malinowski’s work, like all great painting, has a curious ability to inhabit space. In the De la Warr Pavilion at Bexhill on Sea, his massive wall drawings performed like black tattoos, wriggling across the building’s skin, dancing to the flex of an architectural muscle that was itself activated by the electric signals of light and shade. Enter a space that Malinowski has transformed and the trace of light becomes a trace of life. Little wonder that he was called upon to animate the public spaces of theatres in London and Rotterdam.

A story from Malinowski’s own life illuminates his process. He recalls growing up in a small flat in Warsaw. In order to enlarge the area in which he might play, he would walk around with a mirror held out in front of him in order to capture the reflection of the ceiling and then to imagine that he might inhabit that space. Malinowski’s paintings repeat the childhood gesture of capture and release – capturing a moment of colour and light, and then releasing it so that it might become an opening onto another time and space. ‘Nothing is so real to me as the illusions i create with my painting’, wrote the painter Eugene Delacroix. ‘the rest is shifting sand.’ so true does this seem of Malinowski’s work that the painter has allowed his painting to spread beyond the canvas and onto the ‘real world’ of rooms, windows and doors.

And as his work escapes the canvas to cover a building’s walls, Malinowski exploits architecture not as a singular fixed entity, but as a plurality of possible worlds, as an illusory reality, a space of shifting sand. Perhaps in doing this he comes closer than many architects to an understanding what space really is.

© Mark Rappolt