Two artists, different in subject matter, expressive technique and generation,but who both belong to the great Krakow school of engraving. One, Krzysztof Witold Skórczewski, born in 1947; the other, Małgorzata Malwina Niespodziewana, born in 1972, present their only apparently opposing worlds, where the predominant theme is the human being, seen by both artists in highlyoriginal ways and expressed with rigorous engraving techniques. Malwina Niespodziewana is represented here by the fascinating works executed since 1998. The main themes are the body, the individual and the other, metaphors of a investigation of identity tenaciously pursued in peripheral zones with a complex sequence of episodes distributed through space and time. Krzysztof Skórczewski is represented by works executed for the most part over the past 15 years, where the principle themes are space, architecture and an unusual conception of nature. At first glance the two artists appear to have nothing in common. Malwina positions herself in a borderline zone where cultural aspects are isolated and transformed into symbols in which disguise combines animal, vegetal and human features to reveal an unnatural world, even though it originates from a familiar and often personal sphere. The artist disassembles culture into its constituent parts, then reassembles them freely into possible configurations that demonstrate a critical reflection on those socio-cultural constituents and, in some of her performances, spotlights her own body as well. The experimental component, free and spontaneous, provided by play, leads her to certain creative experiences that dismantle our collective imaginarium, recombining the elements into unusual aggregations that stimulate the mind-body. The resulting performance executes a drama, a project, an order, generating the new which, through psycho-physical action, leads to the completion of an action, later etched onto the plate where the social commentary is reflected in the miseen-scene of the body. Through the relived, one thus lives new experiences in unprecedented ways, at the same time reflecting critically on reality by exploring cultural symbols, while visual art moves ever closer to life itself, with all its themes: ilove, suffering, feeling in general, ritualized in figures often posed in embryonic positions that enclose the mystery of life and the struggle between the emotions of a human being in a constant process of renewal, not only in the physical dimension. What is revealed in these works is the center of an infinite existence where individuals, having left behind their individual nature, posit themselves in relation to others in a very particular way. Indeed, in the apparent simplicity of the lines that make up the person, this seems like an abandonment of one’s identity in favor of a deeper experience that reveals the other part of oneself in the other. It is not so much a question of isolated individuals, but of the many components of Being, as though all of us were an intimate friend of ourselves. This results in a conception of identity based not on our differences from others but rather on our relation to them, which harmoniously completes both. The symbolic aspects of hardness and immobility of Malwina’s characters evoke an interiority that wants to merge with a universal body, based on the alphabet of the emotions common to every culture. The artist’s special attention to the theme of physicality, therefore, is not an end in itself but becomes determinant for capturing the spiritual aspect, which would not be otherwise comprehensible without the experience of the body, locus of our every behavior and ritual. Fragments of a cosmic liturgy striving to penetrate the mysteries, the works of Malwina immerse us, through simplicity, in the silence of an Absolute shared by many, and not only Western cultures, guiding us back to a vision of life seen in its authentic nakedness, a life that asks to be lived without asking why. Giovanni della Croce said it best four centuries ago: “From the moment I embraced nothingness, I lack nothing”. Similar to the aural architectures of the chorales of Johann Sebastian Bach, the engravings of Krzysztof Skórczewski touch the stars and penetrate the depths of the earth and the soul. Once again we see the theme of rituality, this time in terms of time, which opens up on a cosmic scale through a series of archetypes and symbols, expressions of the collective unconscious concentrated in the image of the tower, located between earth and sky to indicate not only the time that passes, but also what is to come. Dominating these landscapes is a silence that makes us lose ourselves in the absolute, in an infinite dynamism which, like the cosmos, is in perpetual expansion. Not just dismantling, then, but a constant search for a reconstruction. A rebirth that opens to reality in its totality, merging it with the sacred. We thus get the impression of finding ourselves at the confines of the infinite, populated by powerful symbols of verticality such as pyramids, towers and mountains, which evoke the power of time and lift our souls. And because myth does not explicate but instead reveals, the engravings of Skórczewski open onto an eternal present that places the accent on the timeless time that distinguishes every myth. His worlds of earth hide a longing to find oneself at the heart of reality, to overcome the present human condition. Concentrating on the image of the mountain, axial pivot of all the ancient cosmogonies that refer to subterranean, earthly and heavenly realities, using the chromatic range of blacks and whites, the artist suggests through elevation a return to unity which brings with it serenity, devoid of all desire to induce conflict. From here he opens terrible abysses that obliterate all human certainties and within which prevails the mystery that breaks through all isolation, but in respect for silence and solitude, urging an escape from linear time in order to live in the fullness of the present moment. If we may sometimes be unsettled or astonished by the architectures of this artist, it is because they connect us to the sense of the tragic, that permanent structure of human consciousness, which in turn brings us to the myth of the unity of a lost center that ends - as Hölderlin suggests in his Hyperion - at the extreme contrast between the Self and the world, in order to unite us through nature to an infinite whole, whose flip side is the chaos of the finite. Symbolic landscapes and thus epiphanies of a mystery therein enclosed which never dissolve and which transmit in the work the value of truth and reveal the conflict between morality and selfish instinct, which in this case provokes vicious clashes. Wherever there is less attention to individuality, that is where a new disposition of the spirit blossoms, enabling us to renounce the trivial and embrace the great Totality, beyond the moralism that often insinuates itself into the concept of the sublime in art, as for example the theme of ruins, from which Skórczewski keeps a decisive distance. Only in this way, searching for an intersection of logos and mythos, is it possible to re-establish the harmony between individuality and totality, and restore meaning to human freedom. Once again “the flow of myth constitutes the blossoming of a past so remote as to be one and the same as an eternal present, and that flow generates the flowering of images chosen from those that constitute the latent past of the psyche”, as Furio Jesi wrote about myth some forty years ago by now. So, the worlds of Malwina and Skórczewski are opposed, it would seem, but only at first glance.
Marco Fragonara
Translation by Jeff Jennings