so I had to define my attitude to all those coils, cylinders, phallic
emblems and whatnot. Landscape is obviously three-dimensional by nature,
but we somehow tend to transpose it onto two dimensions, and then all of a
sudden you get three dimensions again... that never fails to surprise and
inspire, and it's not merely a question of that aesthetic force where
observation reaches beneath the surface of things. In that sense the
objects the artist hints at are transparent. It's, you know, very sensual,
it can be touched, you can almost smell and walk among these "landscapes."
It is new and it is fun - it has always been like that with Pruski: he has
fun, and you have fun looking at his pictures; he enjoys his work - and it
all smells of lakes, reeds, sweet flag, it is Mazurian in its mood and
he is a Picasso, drawing a nude with a single line or tossing off erotic
"shenanigans" on the paper. Another time he is a Dubuffet,
inspired by ritualistic African sculpture when he covers kitchen planks
with black geometrical patterns or when he sets his "Two monks"
in rhythmic rhombuses. He can be a WOLS when his line becomes nervous,
delicate and creates wholeness and meaning as if against its will. His
views of the lake-land are a response to the "concrete abstraction"
of Leon Tarasewicz not only because his pared down idiom renders the
landscape of northern Poland with no less compassion than the Belarusian
painter does the beauty of its eastern borderlands, but also because both
artists take landscape painting beyond two dimensions: Tarasewicz fills
interiors with landscape by painting directly on adjacent walls, Pruski
lends a vicarious, parallel existence to landscape within the object - a
pipe, a block, a solid board covered with the speculation, the suggestion,
the veneer of a landscape. He does not treat minimalism as a means to an
artistic end: it is a value in itself which in his Mazurian landscapes
achieves a unity of representation and atmosphere - for how better to
capture the silence, calmness and ascetic greyness of the misty lake, the
island outlined in rushes and reeds, or the intuited shoreline? Only by
showing yourself unsure that they exist, especially in terms of form,
tangibility, and susceptibility to being put in models and patterns.
Pruski is no stranger to this hesitation, so befitting the methodological
sceptic: "Maybe it is. Maybe it isn't. Maybe this way, maybe that.
What does exist is my doubting in the obviousness of the you see it all,
the way you see me, my art, our undoubtedly beautiful world!"
I don't care whether his affinities are elective or accidental, and
besides you can't paint as if no one had ever painted before, and reading
references to predecessors into an artist's work is like stringing beads
onto the necklace of culture. Just assume that he's become another Hakuin,
that those bricks and pipes of his are just a Zen joke on the inability of
showing the blinding light of the real - like a phenomenologist, he only
grants true existence to that which appears to him in direct observation.
I accept your sublimity but I prefer listening to the silence of these
paintings, to the rustling November silence on the bank of lake M.
reeds on the
shimmers within me
You said there
was no point writing about art? Not about trivial art there isn't.
Well, I thought Jan Pruski had calmed down and settled down a bit, after
all those dramatic warriors, his “Teresas” and his “Sickheads”,
and that he'd finally got the urge to take it easy and say to himself 'time
to put my feet up for a while.' I thought he'd be contemplating his calm,
refined landscapes - or rather his echoes of landscapes - not only his
canvases, but also his three-dimensional forms, cylinder surfaces and
But what have we got? An eruption of distaste for the world. Hammering of
fists on the table. His new cycle 'Klatki' links with the ancient theme of
the dance macabre, morality sobbing over the wretchedness of the world. It's
a whole little theatre, full of dolls on wires, folk in prison,
incapacitated, bound together with string and wire, packed in tin can
coffins. Here's a couple tied together for good and bad, from birth to the
grave. There's a gaggle of people packed together in a cage; unhappy
wretches, restrained by strong fetters, they remain motionless in the
eternal ritual dance of life and death; and among them saunter spectres,
their names emblazoned on sashes: Deceit, Jealousy, Hate, Gossip.
And what are these three figures doing, with their smart ball gowns and white crowns, like masks from the Carnival of Venice, strutting a step of the gavotte from Mozart's Don Giovanni? One thing I know. I wouldn't have wanted to get in our Jan's way while he was creating his little world of theatre. The load of phlegm and fury carried here is enough to strike you down with a thunderbolt from a substantial distance; his anger bears the power of a Voodoo curse.
Landscape materials. Means of recognition.
Jan Pruski is on intelligent artist.
Watching him work I was struck by his concentrated, decisive approach. His
whole body paints - his intellect marks out the direction, he reconsiders,
re-forms earlier work and takes, from the many possible paths, the next step
forward. Each stroke is emotional, impulsive, passionate, his artwork verges
on brutality. All these intermediate steps are, though, a result of Pruski's
reflective, ruthless self-focusing. An impulsive process of creative thought
and energy is apparent. Pruski wants, I think, to create in us, his viewers,
a certain reverie and intelligent appreciation, together with emotions
bordering on obsess/on. His works are not 'art brut’ as we know it
from the works of Dubuffet or the psychiatrist, Prinzhorn. We may talk here
of the classic understanding of the landscape form, of mystical primaeval
shrines, fantastic drawings - fantastic because they are born from a fantasy
of complex structures with secret entrances - not a copied form but an
archaic prototype. In Pruski's work rocks become inhabitable apartment
blocks. His works are not reflections of himself, not memoirs or a
description of the state of things. These are prototypes, pictures within
pictures, to me they are a source of the most important questions; who am I
- where have I come from - where am I going? Who knows? Pruski does not
completely desert us, leaving us alone with his artwork, but he offers too
little help in the learning of his alphabet, giving us too much freedom: he
allows us to conceive our own images - he himself looks on, distant,
reserved, reticent. Wild thoughts' of the kind described by Claude Levi
Strauss, are provoked by his artwork. The beauty of his visions of nature
soothes, and induces contemplation - such visions there certainly are - but
at the same time these visions portray another aggressive, threatening side
of nature. There is a palpable hunger for freedom, exposing us to constant
discontent. This dichotomy is disturbing.
forces himself on his budding creation like a demented warrior, like a punk
wrecking his guitar. Brutal strokes, violent lunges, clawing, stabbing. His
use of soft brush strokes is rare. His raw material: cement, glued paper,
cardboard - he rips it off, sticks it anew: again and again. He cuts thick
gashes into the picture, fills them, like dry needle technique, tarry
blackness, smearing, rubbing the whole work, constantly repeating the same
manoeuvres. Suddenly very subtle, delicate forms begin to emerge,
landscape, elements of countryside, which nonetheless fail to hide their
scars, their painful inheritance, possessing beauty without illusions,
respected, untarnished. Like cult figures in rites of passage. Eventually
one can discern filigree boats, boats, or perhaps only sails and masts,
those elements Indispensable for sailing away - boats in the distance, in an
uncertain and yet hopeful future, Finally he reveals to us his one real 'means'.
Jan Pruski, the intelligent artist shows us the means, processes, thoughts and actions - but not the banal.