Witold Kaliński   »

In search of another horizon

Witold Kaliński’s graphic works made in the last few years seemingly belong to two different artistic spaces. One of them encompasses numerous black and white graphic works made in the traditional technique of linocut, the other includes colourful digital prints. However, they do not make up a separate value, just contrary to this - they form a coherent semantic whole; they mutually complete each other, often originating from one another, they extend the range of artistic expression.

Attributes of Witold Kaliński’s monochromatic linocuts are invariably the same. Rows of flexible graphic lines as well as gatherings of points - with varied condensation and different course directions - build planes, more often diversified by tone than by contrast, making up a nocturne-like whole. The artist operates with a recognizable set of imagery motives. His graphic alphabet consists of characteristic signs and symbols, belonging to the same formal and thought horizon.

The artist creates an expression saturated with existential anxiety, placed in the unreal oneiric space of dreams, fears and imagination, and in a wider context - in space of common cultural content and questions raised by them concerning the sense and character of human fate. Therefore, the works often feature some traces of topos of the road, some extreme situations, the moment of transgression, the state of suspension, the moment of choice, presented in the atmosphere full of impressive tension. The very idea of wandering, the process of achieving a goal, are emphasised more strongly than the moment of accomplishment. The artist creates a drama of existence; the man is the main hero, the domain of his feelings and emotions.

Witold Kaliński always adapted his craftsmanship to the character of artistic expression, e.g. in terms of thinking about space, in the sphere of relation of figurative and abstract or symbolic forms, and also depending on the fact if he was inclined towards more personal enunciations, or he focused on general considerations.

In the latest linocuts the man goes on travelling along the paths of life surrounded by mysterious signs, he encounters obstacles and faces transitory situations; temporarily between the night and the dawn, on the border of different worlds as far as space is concerned. Boundaries he crosses are also inhibitions in people, and between people, in close or reserved relations - physical, emotional and mental. Apertures-passages - they are not only gates between the world of consciousness and dream; they are also cracks between different states: ability and inability, expectation and fulfillment, knowledge and ignorance, concrete and speculation.

These different worlds meet with each other in the space of artistic universe, in order to mark the whole area in which the man functions. Our dilemmas and fears, important questions can be obviously rooted in the land of dream and darkness, territories iconographically well-known to the viewer, traditionally presented by means of chosen, conventional motives, but, expanding the space which we more and more boldly enter, we can introduce them into a more abstract area - into the logos, the world of widely comprehended thought, awareness, in materially and even graphically elusive boundlessness. How to show a similar space in graphic works?

Witold Kaliński makes such an attempt in his colourful digital prints. We will find there imagery forms used before, their digitally processed fragments and - put into new contexts - quotations from the older linocuts or those that are just being made. What is tangible, physical in traditional graphic arts - also can also be observed here. The humanistic, personal aspect of the artworks becomes more profound thanks to the introduction of the author’s comments, admittedly reproduced yet initially calligraphed texts. The artist reconciles physicality, ‘humanity’ of artistic graphic arts with existential reserve of expression generated digitally. ‘Human’ encounters ‘inhuman’. Both, once distant areas: art and technology are combined in the field of the traditional artistic discipline thanks to the presence of projects made by hand and their images contained in digital graphic art.

It is not only the matter of technology, the use of new technical potential of the equipment that reproduces the artist’s concept. It is also a problem of an artist entering a new discipline, studied and characterized according to the same rules as everyday reality is, despite the fact that sometimes it is the world that has just been discovered or sensed, often virtual, projected, the world where, as scientists state, even 36 dimensions can be distinguished, or whose components might appear in two places simultaneously. Therefore, the artist can wander around the world which we are already familiar with, but he can also penetrate the surreal world, built from recognizable elements. What he has at his disposal are the worlds that are just being discovered, functioning beyond the range of sensorial perception.

This is not an area which we could define in any way and bring closer to the material world that is familiar to us. This is not even the sphere of myth which can be described by means of culturally accepted and established images. It is a projected space, speculated, hypothetic. The artist gained a new wider background for his considerations. Thus the scope of forms appearing in this space is enriched.

In Witold Kaliński’s earlier works anthropomorphic forms were transformed in a special way, depending on what message they conveyed, they were captured fragmentarily or multiplied. The human image was sometimes only suggested and devoid of realistic details. Suggestive pictorial motives quoted in new colourful digital prints change their character. They take a shape of amorphous, though still apparently organic forms. Going away from allusive imagery to a greater extent than before, the artist concentrates more on formal issues in this way.

Visual elements have a different, richer status of existence, they do not only depend on parallel - converging and diverging - bands of lines, or concentration of points building the form, they are more diverse, autonomic, some of them are free of the superior linocut algorithm. Like drawing aspects in the past, painterly aspects of works are to a larger extent emphasized now.

Amorphous objects, sometimes fragments of human figures, are juxtaposed with areas of colourful planes. Space becomes exceptionally deep - the distance between blurred colourful planes and sharp motives of the first plan seems to be enormous. It is increased by contrasting dull and expressive planes, bending the elements and introducing them into another dimension. In most black and white works Witold Kaliński looked for a sign of space, where the elements of topography were essential, allowing for qualification of directions of relations and movement. The space of emptiness is similar to the cosmos. Different forms, balanced as far as structure and colours go, affect one another in the space of colour.

It is a metaphysical colour, somewhat dimmed and dispersed, iridescent. In monochromatic graphic works the metaphysical character of space is mainly stressed by the existence of symbolic elements referring us to the irrational sphere, to the sacred, to the myth. It is also evoked here but, to a larger degree, with the use of colour and light as well as due to the vague, interpretable character of forms appearing in the space. It is as if we recognized a deity in visible symptoms of life, in accepted religious symbols, and now in more metaphysical air of mystery, in awe accompanying intuition, in an irrational fear or sudden unjustified ecstasy. The feeling of dynamics of seemingly static compositions derives from emanation of different shades of colour, from various directions of the course of impulses - vibration of light waves or the course of trails of shadow. In the process of perception the sight follows the light, activating further plans.

In Witold Kaliński’s works duality of thematic and formal motives is still strongly perceptible (also understood as symmetry, opposition, contrast). It is a feature of considerations in different terms - both theoretical, ontological, when it touches the reflection on the subject of structure and nature of existence, and, what is closer to life, when it creates the vision of various human dilemmas. In the first case it is an expression of the scholar’s awareness stressing duality of all phenomena, in the second - of the man aware of the fractional character of our experience and lack of knowledge about our future fate.

The subject of Witold Kaliński’s artistic expression is still a variety of existential situations depicted by means of elements of an elaborate language of signs and symbols. The artist tells us about everyday struggle with difficulties, the need to put an end to our yearning and fulfill dreams, about eternal expectations, about love, also sensorial, revealed in suggestive visual forms, about attempts to read out the sense of life from traces and situations given to us. In the past he more strongly accentuated fear of life mysteries, now he is more daring to enter the areas which used to evoke cautiousness.

Formerly the man tamed nature and appealed to it, now he overcomes his fear and reluctance to technology, he enters into its space - difficult, not fully comprehended, yet providing a great variety of opportunities. In the landscape of Witold Kaliński’s graphic works there is an image of a bird, which even becomes a modular element building some structures. It is a very meaningful symbolic motive, a mediator between two spaces: earthly and aerial, temporary and eternal. It seems to express the artist’s very personal desires to stay between Dusk and Dawn, Reception and Leaving, in a long journey up to the Second Horizon to experience - as a man and an artist - the feeling of Almost Entirety.

Dariusz Le¶nikowski

Transl. Elżbieta Rodzeń-Le¶nikowska