Sublime Now

Though it’s impossible to discuss sublime today without historical references, I would like to use these to contradict the traditional denotations.

The term has its background in the ancient rhetorics, then – mainly through eighteenth-century Western-European philosophy it establishes itself firmly as an aesthetic concept, functioning along and in an opposition to other terms within the area like: beautiful, tragic, humorous, profane, ugly etc.

Yet, it’s probably worth to emphasize that, strangely enough, in E. Burke’s and I. Kant’s understanding the Sublime never fits into criteria of metaphysical or ontological phenomenon (or entity) – it simply exists in a beholder’s mind as a powerful yet transient, fleeting psychological and spiritual reaction, an emotion, feeling of sublime. From a historical point of view is interesting to see how the dialectics of the sublime, used by two great ontologists fits into the nature of the phenomenological school of thought, which is both specifically twentieth-century and opposed to metaphysics discipline. It seems that the concept under discussion never fully integrates into a traditional philosophical inquiry – being more Dionysian than Apollonian in its nature – the sublime is born from paradoxes, it’s based on these and – if it functions in any universal form (out of a beholder’s mind) – it probably takes the form of  an ontological oxymoron, an enigma – as unnerving as it is alluring.

Looking forward to the modern and postmodern times one may be easily dazzled by its potential to embody and to convey the sublime to an intensity not possible ever before. After ‘growing out’ of the Great Romantics’ idealistic enthusiasm on the matter, in the ‘after-God” era when the sublime cannot be simply mistaken for a religious/mystical experience, facing the challenges of  the shattered, discontinuous, idiolects and antitheses – based world, reaching scientific and technological heights difficult to imagine even few decades before – the humankind not longer chases but seems to meet on a regular basis that great oxymoron – the sublime.

It takes many forms and definitions – from the A. Hitchcock’s and C. Jung’s shadows then – G. Lucas’s astriferous epics, from Big Brother’s house grotesque and through the war/terrorism-rooted atrocities to Barrack’s Obama intense political charisma – Burke’s mind-expanding ‘negative pain’ and Kant’s ‘indefinite’ yet desired dread is as indisputably a part of the contemporary condition as Aristotle’s catharsis had to be for ancient Greeks.

Andreas Gursky’s photos, which  embrace the traditional understanding of the sublime as the vast, terrifying, annihilating, formless, liminal etc. and the ultra-modern embodiment of it in digitally mastered photographs of a postmodern – globalized and impersonal universe.

His approach would be that of a shock-therapy and a direct, uncompromising attack – perhaps the best way of a defense against the audacity and the… ridicule of the contemporary sublime.

Both Gursky’s work gives a picture of a formidable, limitless, always deeply confusing, often ugly and grotesque, sometimes eerily attractive spectacle, some sort of Baudrillard’s hypo-reality , and the ancient Roman bloody games – the reality, we live in today.

In Chicago Board of Trade II (above) human beings are nothing more than annoyingly numerous, uniform, yet nicely coloured dots, the well-rehearsed pixels; while in 99 Cents (above, 2) the supermarket goods take their place – and guess what? – one can hardly notice any substantial difference…


Ivan Marchuk

Who likes Ivan Marchuk’s paintings? After all – the question wants more than a personal aesthetic statement. Marchuk is incredibly East-y if you know what it may mean. Spiritual, complex and with some philosophical ambitions. Thus, saying yes to his vision seems like supporting a specific world-view.

Marchuk’s painstakingly detailed works, at once lyrical and disturbing look like clinical operations on the open heart. The open heart of living things – the intricate microcosm of structured chaos, stylized forms emerging and dissolving back into itself.

Some more info on painter’s life and work here.


From a bulletin of the Visual Artists Ireland

Arts Council Study Reveals Poor Living and Working Conditions of Artists

The average professional artist living in the Republic of Ireland earns just €14,500 a year from his or her art, despite having a higher level of formal education than the wider labour force, new research shows.

The data, published today by the Arts Council and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, reveals how many artists are now working on the island, and the challenges they face as they pursue their chosen professions.
In the most comprehensive study for a generation, the two arts councils have shed critical new light on what it means to be an artist, writer, painter, musician or performer in modern day Ireland, north and south.
The Living and Working Conditions of Artists in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland shows that artists are an exceptionally highly educated group, with over two-thirds having attained a university degree. They are also hard working, putting in more than 55 hours per week and frequently holding down extra jobs to support their creative endeavours.
In stark contrast to their academic achievements and evident commitment, however, the overwhelming majority of artists still earn just two-thirds of the average income for all others workers. Lack of provision for pensions also spells financial hardship ahead for the current generation of artists.
The findings of the report will influence how the arts councils continue to provide support and the measures they take to improve conditions for artists on the island.

You can read the full report here


More or less ‘incognita’?

Well, l cannot avoid this question now -not after almost four years of studying art and over two years of writing the blog with the ‘unknown’ promise in its title… How ‘known’ my land has become – to me and to others who – just due to my appearance within the ‘art-world’ – have been gracing me with their attention and often a friendship in here and in the ‘real’ life?

As l stated introducing the blog, and with some inevitable degree of audacity in all those happy beginnings – this writing of mine has been devoted to an exploration of an ‘unknown’ – ‘Terra lncognita’ of the contemporary art and my own personal expression. So – more or less ‘incognita’? Or – shall l rather ask – have l failed better or worse?

Some of my long-followers may already have an answer and l won’t blame them for that – where has the drive of the ‘old good times’ gone? And – the author’s ability of abandoning the site seems to be the only thing that got ‘better’ with time…

Right – cannot or won’t defend myself here. Not because of my apparently innate self-indulgence which had made this adventure possible at all, but cos – believe it or not – l’ve been trying to display some sort of integrity all the way through. Hence , never this very virtual profile has appeared better (hopefully not ‘worse’) than my actual experience had been-  day to day – enfolding the world as seen by the ‘painter’s’ eyes… Mirroring all the tides of emotions and the intellectual gain, as well as meaningfully keeping silent throughout the toughest bits…

But – to return to the dilemma – is it all more or less known/unknown right now? How do l feel about embarking the ‘professional’ board? These and many other questions need to be  addressed within the next few months in a way that nothing/nobody could have ever been able to teach me to deal with…

Am l afraid? Perhaps more than my sensibility and sentience can admit for the sake of my own well-being. Yet – in all that fear l’m still lucky to have all those beautiful individuals who will stay be me… and l’m still able to write it down in here… how truly and undeservedly lucky one can get…


Retreat

Presenting below – some blog-cuttings by SARSPARlllA – a blogger who ‘approaches Borges’ as one of his followers has noted.

Brilliant, thoughtful writing from someone who looks like the contemporary James Cook.  And the entire world seen in fractals – incomprehensible, awe-inspiring, hurtful… A place to run away from – or rather, like in a vertigo trap – to escape to by retreating from…

You go to that house and work it like a Chinese gymnast: wear  something tight, force a smile, and lie about your age

Woken by five phone calls a night. Panicked, jealous.
The heat so enervating, my toes burned.
‘What do you think of Belen?’ Unable to lie.’It makes my heart hurt.’
Prehistoric turtles with diamond heads. With leaf heads, floating. Ayahuasca. A capuchin tied by the penis.
The attention Is gets, and that I’ve grown too old for; and the pleasant feeling of not resenting it.
The tiny frogs in the rain outside a sushi restaurant.
Slipping through black silt faeces in the floating village,dry season on the orillas of the Itayo river.
Everyone looks like Josue – delicate noses – when the Iquito tribe were wide-nosed.
Wanting desperately to do something to help lift them out of this poverty.
Well, we've done it again. We still haven't finished the story. How  extremely careless of us. But I promise you on my honor the truth will  be out next time. I've excused the actors until we return when they will  present the final act of our play. Unfortunately, since you are all  accessories after the fact, I cannot permit you to leave the room.

It’s beginning to hurt him more than it’s hurting me.

Partly, that’s because raw terror is making me block all thoughts of future, or of change, out. (it’s a coping mechanism, leave me be).

Partly it’s because running away is always the easier role than being run from.

I can’t help him much with that. He’s the one who made me choose. I could have managed half my life not choosing.


Building Ingmar Bergman’s cathedral…

  • People ask what are my intentions with my films — my aims. It is a difficult and dangerous question, and I usually give an evasive answer: I try to tell the truth about the human condition, the truth as I see it. This answer seems to satisfy everyone, but it is not quite correct. I prefer to describe what I would like my aim to be. There is an old story of how the cathedral of Chartres was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. Then thousands of people came from all points of the compass, like a giant procession of ants, and together they began to rebuild the cathedral on its old site. They worked until the building was completed — master builders, artists, labourers, clowns, noblemen, priests, burghers. But they all remained anonymous, and no one knows to this day who built the cathedral of Chartres.
    Regardless of my own beliefs and my own doubts, which are unimportant in this connection, it is my opinion that art lost its basic creative drive the moment it was separated from worship. It severed
    an umbilical cord and now lives its own sterile life, generating and degenerating itself. In former days the artist remained unknown and his work was to the glory of God. He lived and died without being more or less important than other artisans; ‘eternal values,’ ‘immortality’ and ‘masterpiece’ were terms not applicable in his case. The ability to create was a gift. In such a world flourished invulnerable assurance and natural humility. Today the individual has become the highest form and the greatest bane of artistic creation.
    The smallest wound or pain of the ego is examined under a microscope as if it were of eternal importance. The artist considers his isolation, his subjectivity, his individualism almost holy. Thus we finally gather in one large pen, where we stand and bleat about our loneliness without listening to each other and without realizing that we are smothering each other to death. The individualists stare into each others’ eyes and yet deny the existence of each other.
    We walk in circles, so limited by our own anxieties that we can no longer distinguish between true and false, between the gangster’s whim and the purest ideal. Thus if I am asked what I would like the general purpose of my films to be, I would reply that I want to be one of the artists in the cathedral on the great plain. I want to make a dragon’s head, an angel, a devil — or perhaps a saint — out of stone. It does not matter which; it is the sense of satisfaction that counts.
    Regardless of whether I believe or not, whether I am a Christian or not, I would play my part in the collective building of the cathedral.

    • Four Screenplays of Ingmar Bergman (1960)

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His movies inflict this kind of an acute emotional and spiritual pain that no other sort of celluloid reality is able to do…

It asks for a consideration – is it one’s personal predisposition that makes an individual so vulnerable to the artist’s emotional roulette; or is it ‘just’ the common human feature – that one strives for empathy and compassion identifying with the characters, and always at the expanse of his/her inner equilibrium?

But Bergman is not dancing any genius yet cruel vengeance dance – or so we are bound to believe in … He is building a ‘cathedral’ out of our ‘common’ human clay – the space of some transcendent sense of things… All by carving a piece of art/a movie – a ‘dragon’s head, an angel, a devil’ from the frozen avalanche of our emotions…

Little invention here, little help there; a sacrifice and the apparent brotherhood of tens working arm in arm with the same irrational aims in minds…

Here is the re-building of wonder and awe, here is the struggle to create, the pain to re-connect human beings with themselves and with each other…

But – prosaically speaking – here is also the sweat, the mud, the aborted ‘ego’s and the nearly lethal fatigue….

Here is the artist’s way…

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Inspired by I. Bergman’s ‘Autumn Sonata’


Deleuze and Guattari’s flesh-appeal…

Well, these thinkers are not for faint-hearted or narrow-minded; they not even for those rebellion-minded and lion-hearted…They are someone between and beyond, the very dismissal of any signification or categorization right in the core of their beliefs…

How did I fall for D&G’s double charm? Typically perhaps – via theirs passionate pupils and followers. Manuel Delanda’s lectures at the European Graduate School (below) have slapped me right across my safe, familiar thinking waking me up to a world of another possibility – that there are still highly inspirational thoughts and theories resonating from within the contemporary philosophy – those compelling enough to alter one’s perception of things… And I thought that after Sartre’s death few decades ago it was rather impossible to experience that thrill again…

Then I started to read their whimsical yet carefully crafted theories; seasoned generously with the idiosyncratic concepts, which I could not grasp intelligibly even the half of…It took me some time to get the very principle of the philosophy – that is meant to be on the opposite of the ‘proper’ and classical reasoning, that the fact that is seems to grow in all different directions at the same time, fluctuating with co-existent possible readings – that is – what is was designed to be… Not that easily accepted for anyone nurtured on the great, perfectly logical and systematic systems of thought – if you remove one part from them – they fall; if you get one concept – others add on like letters of an alphabet…

Not in D&G’s world though – here the system is anti-hierarchical, not ABC code but rather ASDFG… riddle (letters of your keyboard, second row)… Their called it the ‘rhizomatic’ reasoning – horizontal, open and multi-centered. Just like the chosen organic structure – the thought multiplies in a semi-random pattern of many possible threads springing from the one common source; yet no one can predict which, if any of the threads will survive, or will become the satellite-wombs for another ideas to be born…

Perhaps the easier way to introduce the thought of the two French thinkers is to contra pose the old, classical concept of the ‘body’ with the one of the ‘flesh’. The Greek ‘body’ is the self-contained, dignified object of an admiration – an epitome of beauty and epiphany of the transcendent divine order – just as their thought used to be. The ‘flesh’ is more primitive and Hebrew (‘Bible’ originated) – it’s shapeless, featureless and extremely vulnerable; it’s a place of suffering and weakness – it’s extremely human – it’s so human that it becomes… animal…

D&G’s philosophy is the one of the ‘flesh’ – of a formless lack and a painful transformation, of a celebrated dis-unity and perpetual ‘becoming’. It’s a difficult, yet strangely soothing proposition for someone trying to make sense of the contemporary times…

It’s an anti-philosophy after all, if one keeps up with the rigid standards; that’s why it’s been struggling to sink into the academic grounds – right now it gets more of the deserved attention, with the esoteric texts being translated from French and commentaries being published… Still it remains mostly inaccessible in Polish ( I guess in many other languages too), too bad – over two decades after the original publications…

It’s a remotely optimistic vision for the remotely optimistic times of ours… I hope to present some of its aspects in the posts, which will follow…


Change again…

What I’ve noticed, my dear readers is that you keep dropping in this very ungrateful space looking perhaps for fresh ‘art news’ to stimulate you – and what you can find are weeks old reflections taken from dead guys and somehow outdated artistic expressions…

Well – it’s time to cease to mock the expression ‘news’… This art blog is what it has always been – an art blog… not a journal, not a private newspaper, not an ambitious magazine – just a blog. But it’s been over two years adventure and it will always stay as a formative part of my artistic journey. A student’s blog – it’s on its threshold of a transformation – it needs to move on, just like its author is bound to do…

What the change exactly is and how it manifest I cannot pin down yet – but I hope to discover soon… At this stage I would like to direct your attention beyond this space; and this is what the virtual universe becomes – never a place of any destination but a clue, a code, a link to something beyond itself… A never ending story of some sort…

First of all – notice my Twitter’s updates on the right hand side – this micro-blogging service gives that mind-teasing potential to ‘read’ people’s thoughts the moment they are being thought. Furthermore – I enjoy my Facebook activities, which can be compared to meeting like-minded people in clubs and cafe shops once such places existed…

At the continental Europe there was a huge tradition, especially before the wars – to gather in places in order to cultivate the intellectual and cultural exchange. Poets would have their own ‘bunkers’, artists they own, ‘intelligentsia’ will join them or flock in their own ivory towers…There was where the greatest thought and works would spark – from tobacco’s smoke and cutting wit of those nonchalant, yet deeply world-conscious people… The violence and a roller coaster of the cultural change would shatter that world to pieces – if it exists in any substitute form – its thanks to the Net…it’s here where we still can communicate in a way – we choose to believe – is comparatively free and uncorrupted. It’s our 21st century’s blacksmith’s workshop of ideologies and projects; our international, multicultural pot we boil our humanity to soften it, to make it edible…

The virtual status of all that fascinating phenomena seems not to bother us, at least not as much as it should have… It’s like telling a 6-years old mesmerized by the “Star Wars” – ‘It’s just a fairytale, it does not exist’ – He would never get the idea of ‘not existing’ if it’s accessible to his sensory system… Very much the same with the world created in an artwork – a piece of music, a painting, a poem – it’s the matter of believing -and once there is the belief – the Bosch’s creatures exist, Lord Jim might have been closer to meet in flesh than we’d ever thought… And consequently – my fragmented, in moments confused, sometimes exciting online exchange of ideas and feelings DOES matter, because it IS real in some sense – it’s a part of my contemporary identity and I cannot be fully divorced from it not losing my integrity to a certain extent…

Anyway – getting to the point: I cannot support “Art News” any more in the title of this blog – let it stay as it originally was – “Terra Incognita” – the unknown land of human creativity – not a hair width more ‘known’ to me after over three years of studies… Below are the links to other spaces (‘clubs’) you can find me. Thanks for your patience for months to stay with me here, to read and reflect on my shared world…

‘The Crawford ARTicle’ – Crawford’s students first platform of an exchange and share

‘Twitter’ – Katarzyna on Twitter

“Crawford College” – Facebook’s official site


A seminar with Francis Bacon …

Well – he has never taught art to others officially, and has never been taught art by others in such a manner

And while not being entirely sure, if just because or despite of that  – Francis Bacon excels as an art (painting) tutor. I found him so lucidly articulated, so continuously and deeply inspiring in his views on the artistic practice that I just couldn’t help not to present his ‘tutorials’ in a customized, yet systematic way.

Bacon took with him his mystery of how to talk about highly complex and irrational matters in an analytical and engaging manner.  And this very ability of his redeems his work, which could otherwise be easily classified as a tormented expression of an idiot-savant. Being himself deeply anti-theoretical he offers an impressive theory of his own oeuvre. With a certain force of authority, though never deliberately,  he shows that an artist’s journey is (should be) a continuous interplay between both challenges: ‘making images’ and making sense of them…

All points below are taken from interviews Bacon gave to D. Sylvester and while taking part in a documentary devoted to his work. They are extracts of the artist’s more elaborated statements. To access the original talks get a book and watch the movie (links below).

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You have to decide, that you are not going to be afraid of making a fool of yourself.

One needs to find his subject – otherwise one will be tempted to escape into a decoration. Most of the problems of the painting now result from the fact that painters don’t know what to paint – they are short of images.

The better the techniques of recording the reality become – the more inventive the painter needs to be in his ways to lock reality into something completely arbitrary. Going back to figuration in a more accepted sense is weak and meaningless.

The image – its power and integrity matters more than the beauty of paint.

Narration speaks louder than paint – avoid telling stories, unless you want to.

Aim at a highly disciplined work, even though the methods of pursuing it need to be ever- experimental and deeply instinctive. To make an image one has to control it.

Use secondary imaginary as a compost which will breed you images.

Painting (if successful) is a process of unlocking sensations and feelings on as many levels and as acutely as possible.

Painting is a ongoing interplay of luck/hazard, instinct and one’s critical sense.

Your technique needs to be as subjective and unique as your sensibility is.

‘Fresh’ image is the one which has a ‘foam of the unconscious’ still locked around it…

Make your forms memorable – otherwise they will exist only as ‘blobs’ on a wall…

A chance is more important than a conscious intellect because I made images that intellect would never make.

If you going to capture something REALLY REAL – it will be painful…

The most important thing for a painter is – to paint – nothing more…


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D. Sylvester, ‘Interviews with Francis Bacon: The Brutality of fact’, Thames and Hudson

Francis Bacon Documentary’

Here: preview of a new exhibition of Bacon in Dublin: ‘Terrible Beauty’


Contemporary Art (9) Nathalie Djurberg

Nathalie Djurberg (b. 1978 BirthLysekil, Sweden) – young multimedia artist, lives and works in Berlin. She has won the Silver Lion for a Promising Young Artist at this year’s 53rd Venice Biennale. She was awarded for her multimedia installation “Experiment” (above – first photo shows the work still in progress).

Gothic, rich, visceral and provocative work of this girl could not to leave any mark on the viewers’ collective and individual consciousness. I met people who hated it, yet still remained under its dark spell respecting the way this artist had teased their common sense of civilized, dignified beings.

Djurberg’s theater of absurd – devil’s Eden of huge, colorful wax vegetation was seasoned with caves of screens where the true drama of life, lust, violence and death went on over and over again. Sounds were those of some tribal ‘mysteria’ inter-weaved with some primordial  sub-resonance of deep earthy tones which went on creeping into one’s unconscious. Child-like fascination with this chaotic, pre-rational microcosm battled with one’s impulse to treat the entire spectacle as pure fiction, a theater performance with no or little valid reference to the ‘real’ life outside that extravaganza…

Nothing more deceptive… Djurberg’s worldview is hyper-real and indulgent in parts – indeed – yet it’s much more realistic in its portrayal of the human nature and the Nature in itself than many works of so-called ‘Realism’ in art, where polite and dull landscapes or family portraits were given to the public as the ‘truthful’ depiction of life and man…

‘It’s a strange world’ and ‘Owls are not what they seem’… Let’s Breughel’s, Goya’s, the Romantics and the Surrealists’ dreams go on …


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