Brave Thoughts of Leszek Bartkiewicz
Games, competitions, rivalry, records and knock-outs, the idols and anti-idols of sports - they are very fashionable and keenly exploited topics nowadays, as it turns out, also in modern painting. However, the paintings by Leszek Bartkiewicz are not a direct comment about Euro 2012 or the 30th Olympic Games in London, both of which could be considered the most important sports events in recent months. His works are rather an authorial reflection on the condition and the moral standards of the society at large, living here and now, as well as on the role and meaning of an individual, continuously fighting for his or her social and economic position, for their professional status, for success and respect.
This fight should be considered on at least a few levels, and sport seems to be its most adequate metaphor: sport understood as an incessant struggle with one’s own, not only physical, weaknesses, as a collective activity where everyone works together in order to succeed, and finally as a merciless competition which allows for all kinds of grips and blows, including those way below the belt… We will find all of the above in paintings by Leszek Bartkiewicz, an artist from Łódź deeply concerned about the problems of modernity, who comments on the surrounding reality in an uncompromising way, especially as far as its wicked aspects are concerned.
These issues could be already seen in his early works like Figury kreślone [Drawn Figures, 2004], paintings that used the grotesque, deformation, bright colours, clear contours and strong geometric distinctions that underlined an eternal opposition of Nature and culture, of Nature and civilization, of instinct and reason - which is the key problem for Leszek’s art as a whole. Another of his series is called Kobiety i Sportowcy [Women and Sportsmen, 2007], and here Leszek showed his full technical and intellectual ability of a dynamically developing artist, fervently looking for his own place in art. In the works from this series he uses ready-made objects, like the boxing gloves that inrease the faithfulness of the message: art, like human life, is a constant STRUGGLE. Struggle for the truth, for independence, honour and certain principles - which also goes for painting.
The peak point of such an attitude was Leszek’s uncompromising manifesto Malarstwo obchodzi nas wszystkich [We All Care About Painting] - it was his artistic creed, a daring demarcation and definition of the goals that this young artist has set for himself (and for art as such). One might think that in time the form and contents of his subsequent works should naturally quiet down and soften, because entering middle age, as we call it, Bartkiewicz (born in 1976) ought to accept the shortcomings of human nature and the imperfection of this world. Fortunately, this did not happen and Leszek’s brave thoughts were again expressed in Obrazy sportowych splotów/Obiekty dziecięcych wzruszeń [Pictures of Sporting Weaves/Objects of Childish Emotions], which make up a series of his works from 2010-2011 and are continued in his latest paintings. Grotesque sportsmen of maximally deformed proportions burst the frames of these large-format canvases, struggling with the invisible force/matter that leaves them helpless. Their Sisyphean struggles take place in a kind of bizarre timelessness, stressed by an abstract, usually flat background, set in broken, dirty colours.
The author plays with form, experiments with colour systems, inscribes his models within strange geometric structures and violates the proportions between the model and a prop, intensifying the expression of his works - and he does all that deliberately and consistently. Therefore, Bartkiewicz offers us a technically fine kind of painting which, its aesthetic values notwithstanding, makes the viewer reflect, but also act, because the author unambiguously urges us: Forward! Get up and fight!
translation: Maciej Świerkocki
the exhibition: Sports Competitions.
Paintings of Leszek Bartkiewicz + KROKE live in Łódź
Lobby andel's Hotel Łódź, 7-20.09.2012
the text published: exhibition poster, 400 copies, andel's Collection
more about the artist:
The Collection of Pollock-Krasner Foundation, NY (2004)
EXIT. New Art in Poland, No.1 (93) 2013