Michał Czub   »

The energy of a painting matter

Intensifying the reality, Michał Czuba affects our senses. He achieves it dealing with a chosen genre of painting – a portrait (and self-portrait).

The artist uses various painting techniques on a plane. Some fragments of a painting are almost dripping, not opaque, like in one of the varieties of glass painting in which, for example, tempera is used. Thus some parts of the plane are covered with smears of dribbling paint. Elsewhere, the coloured substance is opaque; the thick impasto reflects the author’s lively temper. We will also notice spots where the paint, enriching the living tissue of the painting, creates almost organic, clump-like clusters. Thick impasto layers or transparent planes have different functions from the point of view of the technique, yet they all constitute an equally important tool in the process of shaping the expressive values of the painting. One could say that the dominant feeling accompanying the perception of these particular works is their expressiveness.

Thanks to the applied technical measures, as well as due to the vivid, uncontrolled colour composition, surprising colour combinations, Michał Czuba presents his heroes as dramatis personae on an opera stage along with all the splendour of form typical of this convention. And he does it almost like in the cinematic close-up.

First the interpreted theme is kept under observation. However, even when the painting process is preceded by an initial sketch, the artist’s dynamic gestures are not subject to the discipline of the contour that restricts them. The effect acquires an analytical value, it is strengthened by the spatiality of the work achieved with original means of expression, by taking into account the role of the background located at a certain distance from the essential image.

The human face becomes a field of formal experiments. The artist passionately attacks the surface of the painting. He shapes his vision in an almost faceted manner, with deformations and image displacement. He prepares it as if he wanted to destroy it. Despite being transformed in the process of creation, likenesses are still related to the original. Does the painter ‘take it out’ on the model? Are we dealing with art blurring reality? Or perhaps the author of the artwork would like to tell us that a neat portrait in the traditional scenery does not make any sense today, that ‘an object is not an end itself. It is used to point to the general situation of things…’2

We also get an impression that the author shares Giacometti’s conviction that the painting cannot be completely finished and that the artist should perceive the world with all senses and describe it as a whole, not as a sum of particular elements.

Trying to place Michał Czuba’s portraits in a broader artistic context, we could definitely recall here the influences of various traditions, above all those that expose the emotional depth and the artist’s desire of self-expression, such as Abstract Expressionism or the new figuration.

In spite of being a reaction to meeting different people and personalities, the images make up one dramatic portrait of a human being. Figures rendered with expressive brush strokes define their existential situation. In fact, the artist creates his and theirs, models’ traces of existence in reality. Leaving such a trace does not require a fully developed, detailed whole. Once it used to be an impression of a hand left on a rock, an imprint of a painted human body on the surface of a painting, the effect of a sweeping gesture of a hand armed with a brush in the ‘live painting theatre’.

What strikes us in the paintings by Michał Czuba is a lack of relation between the object and the surroundings. As a matter of fact there are a lot of images that break out of the background. It is not necessary. The portrait itself is a sign, a dramatic message that sounds in space. It is made of molecules of colour and light. Nevertheless, due to the dynamics of form we do not forget that the figure does not exist only as a set of sensory elements. It is only the context that remains ‘out of frame’.

The use of a translucent panel as a painting support has additional effects resulting from the juxtaposition of the main motif and the background that is away from it. The colourful composition has an impact on the ultimate colour effect of the whole, extra fragments laminated in the background together with the layers of lacquer that break on the surface are a source of textural surprises. All these factors additionally strengthen the image’s dynamics, just like wrinkles, cracks and scars on the face sculpt its surface, making it more intriguing.

The transparent support makes us perceive the unframed painting as if it was part of the space that surrounds it, not something external. For other painters that kind of panel is only a palette, an auxiliary element where paints are prepared. In Michał Czuba’s artwork it takes over the entire expression of the artist’s actions. Traces of paint extend beyond the boundaries of the painting support; they ‘smudge’ the surrounding area. In a sense, the interior of the painter’s studio, the objects that fill it and the paintings themselves create unity.

The matter, which usually defines the existence of the components of reality, here as the physical component of the creative process, a tangible, strongly exposed layer of the medium transforms into an image in the dynamic process of creation – it becomes the essence of this space.

2 H. Ohff, Galerie der neuen Kunste, Gutersloh 1971, p. 43. As cited in Piotr Krakowski, O sztuce nowej i najnowszej, Warszawa 1981, p. 122.

Dariusz Le¶nikowski

Transl. Elżbieta Rodzeń-Le¶nikowska