Łukasz Huculak, Ktoś Inny. Thoughts on the works of Paweł Baśnik
Jerzy Nowosielski, making no secret of his fascination with the art of Francis Bacon, has repeatedly found the emanation of evil (Satan) in his paintings. Many people have a similar perception of death or black metal – and that’s what Baśnik is listening to.
Similarly sinister atmosphere has a long tradition in painting – from medieval purgatories, through Bosch, Monsu Desiderio, to the black paintings in the Quinta del Sordo. Bacon himself could patronize last year’s exhibition of the Krakow group Wprost, and not only in the direct references of Zbylut Grzywacz. Note the splitting of Waltos’ bodies, Bieniasz’s distortions or Sobocki’s bold textures. Just before their exhibition at the Manggha Museum, in the nearby MOCAK, we could also see Medicine in Art. Both exhibitions boldly reveal the affinity of impastos and meat, spongings and skin so close to Bacon, and also known to Rembrandt (portrait of de Lairesse).
Generally: paint and body. The paint materials owe their mimetic properties primarily to the oil technique. However, the mimetic potential of pigments was already used in the ancient epoch of Fayum coffin portraits, painted with the encaustic technique, which is considered a prototype of a modern portrait (in Manggha one can see the “coffin” portraits of Sobocki). From the moment when art dealt a bit more with existential questions, since it complemented its symbolic functions with the ability to recall absentees, the imitative potential of organic binders became priceless.
These properties are explored by Baśnik, first evoking the presence of his characters, and then revealing their physical impermanence. This is not a purely formal procedure, it is not just about a visual effect. Like with Bacon, Sobocki, and earlier anonymous Fayum painters, Ghirlandaio portraying the old man’s wart-studded face, Giorgione painting his “old lady” or Viennese secessionists, it is about capturing a certain flaw, for some its beauty, for others: the drama. The questions of those painters are coming back today in the mainstream of new painting, in the bold use of paint and the painting destruction of Alexander Tinei, Adrian Ghenie, Michael Borremans and Markus Schinwald. They and Baśnik have one accessory in common: photo (presence) and the belief that there is a difference between a paint that expresses something directly and the paint that expresses it by illustration. Photography is a phantom, and paint reveals the truth, affecting the nervous system directly. Bacon painted, always using his photos and mirror simultaneously. There are not one Bacon on his self-portraits – there are many, multiplied, touched, blurry and fuzzy: I’m someone else. What do we see in Paweł Baśnik’s works? The eye is caught by the contrast between the solemn, noble poise, calmness and stiffness of the poses, and the dramatic nature of the damages revealing the inside of the body, the bottom of the face, someone else there – underneath. Baśnik began with painting, sometimes “aged” portraits and drawing studies, in which he experimented with the physiology of perception, splitting the picture into several overlapping and disorienting figures. In both these practices, on the one hand, the painterly tendency to emphasize materiality, and, on the other, the need to disturb the image – the dematerialisation of the presented object – permeated each other. Recent paintings intrigue the viewers with the combination of these searches; the power of their expression is built on the opposition of presence and absence, and perceptual flaws and destruction reveal the paradoxicality of visibility treated as a testimony. In The Trouble With Being Born, Cioran notes: if we could truly see ourselves the way others see us we’d disappear on the spot. Łukasz Huculak
fot. Miron Mattoszko, 2017