For centuries people have been puzzled by the question, how are we different from other creatures. Clergymen without hesitation would reply – immortal soul, scholars would reply – reason. But no one has ever proven the existence of any of those. It is hard to contradict however, that our natural instincts are suppressed by logical thinking and norms of behavior and, that our mood improves when we do something nice to someone. Another distinguishing feature of humankind is art – an activity which is not necessary to satisfy life’s material needs, however consequently created by people, for a couple of millennia. It stems from magic rituals, so maybe it is a particular source of cognition, a different view on the world and ourselves, than offered by science, philosophy or religion.
Andrzej Michalik searches for the spiritual element of a human being through art, along with the tradition of Biblical motifs, the symbolism of numbers and geometrical figures contained in European artworks and architecture, especially the ones studied in the middle ages and the renaissance. In Michalik’s stance one can also see the echoes of Kandinsky’s theory, that art fulfils a metaphysical function. Kandinsky also highlighted the connection between visual art and music. The series entitled Overture (2009) is based on this relationship. An overture in music is an introduction to the piece but may be also independent. Overture by Andrzej Michalik is a series of pen-and-ink drawings in black. The works are abstract at a first glance, but from a tangle of strokes there emerges the blurred silhouette of a man. It will take a more defined shape in the series Doomsday.
In this series of works the artist reflects on the relationships between the bodily sphere of a human being, subjected to the laws of nature and the spiritual desire for immortality. The starting point to create the series was the painting by Hans Memling Doomsday. Michalik in this series uses a stamp technique. The module is a silhouette of a walking man, which symbolises the road of life. Creating is a kind of meditation or contemplation. Graphic compositions emerge through the multiplication of the silhouette of a man, and through a more decided or lighter pressure of the stamp, which creates 3-D effects and different values.
By overlaying the silhouettes the artist achieves a motion effect. By turning it in various directions, he dynamises the composition. The possible variations are endless. Michalik in this series also arranged the space – hung and rolled out in the gallery a roll with an open, stripped composition, placed the silhouette of a man in black boxes and transparent containers with magnifying glass and created mobile sculptures. Apart from a human silhouette in some works from the series, there are geometric figures – both flat and circular or square and 3-d forms – sphere, cube, quadratic prism. A circle or sphere symbolises godly perfection, infinity, a square means a Globe and body.
The story from the New Testament that Jesus left the image of his visage on the shawl of a woman who wiped his face and in this way made a graphic print of Christ’s face, inspired the artist to create the series entitled The Vernicle. A blurred image on the border of the recognisability of shapes and at the same time very concrete – and made by copying, fascinated the artist. Michalik copied the drawing of a face using a silk screen printing technique and hung the prints in a way that their edges touched each other. Looking closely one could see a vibrating drawn matter. When looking at them from far, the image of a face appeared. The series of prints of the face the artist contrasted with a triptych in which he wrote a cross on a sheet of paper. The cross expresses the idea of connecting opposites – top and bottom, left and right, the vertical expressing the transcendental and active element with the horizontal which symbolises nature and passivity. The triptych made in a wood graving technique refers to the relationship between the material and the spiritual element. Warm colours and soft sensual closed forms in the first of the geometric shapes symbolise an organic world of matter. Another emits a clean white, meaning the spiritual sphere. The third – a grey shape of “rough, scratched structure” shows the moment of transformation. The works relate with both form and themes, to the series of black and white crosses by Kazimierz Malevich.
Most recently the author undertakes a reflection upon the contemporary ways of creating images; painting in traditional, material form and creating images generated digitally. The works from the series Registered paintings, contrary to what the name suggests are 3D. These are recycled art objects made out of old works. They have a coarse texture, which provokes one to touch. Despite their materiality and specific sensuality, the works have something virtual in themselves –information contained in the fragments of old works. It is hidden in a different shape, just like the 0-1 code which creates a computer image, but which we don’t see on the screen. Andrzej Michalik’s objects one may watch in two ways. They resemble photoplasticone – they may be treated as sculptural objects, but it’s worth taking a look inside, where the artist has placed for example diodes, a mirror, a magnifying glass.
Although Andrzej Michalik’s stance may be described as existential, searching for one’s own response to the fundamental questions, the artist is not deprived of a subtle sense of humour, which is proven by the work Certificate. During an exhibition under the same title, the artist placed in the corner of a gallery, a solid figure similar in its shape to a pyramid. The object hung in the air suggested however a certain weight by the way it looked, which caused an disturbing impression. Next to the work the author hung a certificate issued by “European Art Certification” which informed that Andrzej Michalik uses a system of keeping the quality of his artworks, according to ISO norms. The artist winks at the viewer, mocking the various experts who showed up recently and their various kinds of evaluations, which usually are evaluations for evaluations’ sake.
The artist is also a teacher, he runs a studio of drawing at the Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź, organises exhibitions, workshops, after work he returns to his house which is located in a forest area far from the city noise in a village Budy Grabskie.