Tag Archives: books

Studying Art – Diary (12)

There is never enough of them – do you know this feeling? Books. Books. Books. You would spent your life in the libraries and your savings on purchasing yet another title with a delight, that an art collector enriches his ‘stable’ with yet another beautiful, desirable piece of an artwork. It usually starts very early in a childhood – once being firmly and passionately ‘hooked’, one can sense it over time, that there is hardly any w07ay/chance of escaping (and rarely one is attempting it either) from this quite unique, vast world of words, stories, concepts, titles, authors.

I remember time of a pure addiction when I had to have my room filled in tightly with the piles of books and I would never read one at the time, but four or five of different titles enjoying the interweaving of the themes, stories and styles the way the cocktails aficionado marvels at the minute transformations in taste/smell/colour of a drink once the one or another ingredient contributing takes over the rest. But there was also a rebellion time when all the questioning of the written word (or ‘word’ at all), its sense and purpose took place – I believed that one casual conversation is worth more than a dozen of invented stories. That was obviously a passion-boosting fight between two lovers and quite quickly I found myself simply unable to keep my hands of the printed pages and my mind of that very strong, existential need to devour their contents feverishly and with a wild enjoyment.

What is more important in terms of a self-discovery and my artistic research¬† is that I’m becoming increasingly aware of a strong link between my condition of being a still-born writer (or – never truly born yet, from different reasons) and my ambition of pursuing an artist’s path. It seems that I’m trying to approach and master that beloved universe of the human spirit – described, analyzed, transformed, invented anew and ‘written down’ in all the books I read (and tried to write in vain) from another – the visual aids-based angle. In this sense I share that struggle with many other artists/painters, who chose (or have been destined to) the liminal/boundary and cross-disciplinary spaces to function and work in, rather than to focus mainly/predominantly on the purely aesthetic, fine-art based exploration and display.

When I look at paints/art materials I see ideas to be embodied, when I listen to my work on its way of a development and a metamorphosis I sense its intense desire to become, to come to existence, to get the ‘face’ and a very distinctive, believable story – just the way, the would-be characters of my fiction have had… “Give birth to me”! “Help me to be!” – they would haunt me in a sweetly-sour manner, the same is true to my paintings now… the blessed curse, the cursed blessing of the life-giver, a creator – to be a midwife, a womb, a medium and to be entirely and for ever responsible for what has been helped to happen…

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To an artist – Giving birth to god…

God is being born!
Fire freezes!
Light darkens!
The Infinite One has the limits!(…)

These expressions of an ancient Polish carol, still being sung in a solemn fortissimo at the evening of the Christmas Eve in many Polish churches, tell us the whole story of how human mind tries to contain/articulate the inexpressible. I have it right before my eyes, very clear – the expressions on the faces – those of farmers, welders, butchers and those of university lecturers; with the similar determination to sing out loud the absolute insult to sanity, the audacious claims stretching out the common sense to a painful extent… God is being born… the Infinite One has the limits… And then – the oxymoron, the impossible performed by the powerful elements negating themselves… The religious story one can believe in or not – yet what it is in its essence – it is a tale about the creation of transcendence, about giving birth to a brainchild – an idea, an artwork, a deity. It’s being born, in pains – as the nature demands its share – in an unexpected places and times, out of a fertility of the human spirit…

Giving birth to god – the blasphemous task of an artist, never-ending Christmas happening in filthy studios, chaotic experiments, pretentious/clumsy/rude concepts and pompous exhibitions… Teasing the transcendence by pulling her plaits and peeping under her always-too-long skirt, wiping her off the picture with a haughty grin, ignoring her completely out of… ignorance, or sense of superiority, or free choice, or despair… What is always needed is the sense of wonder and magic – that special, intense concentration of mind and imagination the kids from the picture above have, when pondering over a mind-blowing mystery in the intimacy of their bedroom… What is always needed is the willingness to take a long journey into the unknown, the kings/mags from the image above made – out of a comfort zone, forgetting any privilege of a status/wealth/education; just being humble in abusing your sensibility, when you let that thing, you can’t even define to possess you and to lead you miles and miles away from your home, just by a twinkling light…

All those inner voyages you have struggled your way through, in order to learn a bit more about yourself; all those gods still-born/never decently conceived; all those Christmas days spent alone in the sweet-sour intimacy of your mighty imagination; all those creations of yours, mocking you by their denial to become/to exist; and finally – all those magic destinations you arrived at as a transformed one, all those gorgeous children of your spirit – still alive and kicking; and, finally, all those future works agitating your consciousness like a good wine… This is what it is all about – and much, much more… Do you sense, how rich you are;¬† are you aware, how undeservedly lucky you are – you, being an artist/trying to be one?…

P.S.

I use this post as an opportunity to introduce a fantastic site, I found, and where the images above are from. Liam Quin’s blog: Scanned Images, Engravings, and Pictures from Old Books

Truly fascinating, intelligent effort of a passionate and an expert. Well worth visiting. Thank you Liam!

Images (in the order of appearance):

Frontispiece: Too Old for a Stocking, from: Anonymous, Chatterbox Annual (1916)

The Star of Bethlehem, from: Yonge, Charlotte M., Religion in the Home (1913)


Jonas Bendiksen – ‘Satellites’

Jonas Bendiksen(b. 1977) Norwegian photographer, a member of the Magnum Photo Agency and certainly a rising star within the field of the contemporary photography; awarded with many prestigious awards ( ie. World Press Photo Masterclass/ 2001, Infinity-Young Photographer of the Year/ 2003). He had spent the last ten years (around 1996-2006), traveling trough the vast wilds of the former USSR territory, documenting life on the outskirts of today’s civilisation, taking pictures that possess distinct and impressive qualities.

In 2006 the Aperture Foundation has published the ‘Satellites’ – a book-album presenting Bendiksen’s visual attainments from that period. Beautifully designed and printed in a mysterious black/blue duet, personalised with the author’s introducing paragraphs and full of stunning imaginary this book is a delight to have and to use. Not getting that easy excited about the modern visual language of art I simply adore the work presented there without even having a temptation to be cynical or/and critical on any aspect of it, that’s pretty rare in my case… All due this photographer, I should say ‘an artist’, amazing ability to look at the world as almost nobody today dares to look – with sensitivity and longing for beauty and mystery, or even a sort of transcendence everywhere, yet not trying to idealise or/and dramatise the reality under rendition.

Bendiksen’s images are poetic and melancholic, deeply humanistic and admirably thoughtful stories about absence/loss, solitude, alienation, illusions of existence (‘the unbearable lightness of being’) and the ‘naked’ sore truths of existence (the unbearable fact of being – here and now). What is especially compelling that this young photographer, being only in his twenties, had conceived and executed in such a skillful way a complex concept of documenting life of ‘forgotten’ communities functioning without recognition at the margin of modernity. We travel then with him thousands of miles to meet self-proclaimed dwarf-states (like Transdniester), minorities doomed to pseudo-existence by unscrupulous ‘rulers’ of the empire (Jews of Birobidzhan) or scavengers claiming precious metals from still-hot, fallen space-objects (Spaceship Crash Zones in Kazakhstan)…

But how is it possible that in all that misery, ugliness, hopelessness and an authentic existential struggle what we often discover in ‘Satellites’ is pure magic and fantasy impossible to classify in any of above-mentioned terms… Or – not trying to fly too high, is this magic ‘only’ in ours – beholders’ eyes? Yet – how not to praise the artist who is able to spark outworld-ly impressions out of that most obscure, primitive, pitiful ? And yet – just look at the expressed respect, insight, reflection … Thanks to all this and to Bendiksen’s ‘dancing’ (energetic, full of movement) composition the shots tend to survive any kind of maltreatment, being reproduced poorly, stripped of the original colour – they still stand out to grab our attention, mind and heart. They live in our memory long after being looked at… What a talent and what a luck that we can participate in Jonas Bendiksen’s artistic journey…


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