Exhibition in Wystawa Gallery, March 2016.
The above quote is an excerpt from Raymond Queneau’s novel Pierrot mon ami (in Barbara Wright’s translation) in which the innkeeper addresses the eponymous protagonist, Pierrot. I wanted to lift some weight from the “irreversibility” that appears in the title of Wojciech Tylbor-Kubrakiewicz’s exhibition. In Queneau the lightness and humour result from the fact that – as we might well guess – the innkeeper has no idea he is quoting Heraclitus. Contrary to Queneau’s protagonist, Kubrakiewicz is very well aware of what he is doing. Yet, in both cases, we see an attempt to translate the language of philosophy into a different idiom – there: to the lively colloquial speech of the working class, here – to the language of printmaking.
The series was inspired by the broken statues of the Buddha the artist saw in Thailand: “Wat Ratburana is a huge Buddhist temple in Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Siam. The premises of the temple resemble a gigantic lapidarium where dozens of broken statues of the sitting Buddha have been gathered. Limbs torn from headless torsos, legs crossed in the lotus position. The numerous tiny fragments have been arranged in such a way as if the discoverers, rather than to bring the statues back to life, preferred to grant them a respectful burial.”
The initial idea is very simple, almost ascetic: one matrix, many identical prints that are torn up and reassembled anew, each in a different manner, but never in such a way as to look as they did before there were destroyed. The possibilities are virtually endless, and the process shows multiplicity that lurks in unity. As Louis MacNeice writes in “Snow”:
In a sense Tylbor-Kubrakiewicz’s cycle is a restaging of what happened to the Buddha statues at Wat Ratburana, so it is an attempt to enter the same river or – as Queneau would have it – to “wash your feet twice in the same water.” Yet the gist of this gesture is different (but even if the artist simply repeated what happened at the temple, it would not have been the same: anything that happens again, that returns, becomes something else, something new, by virtue of its happening in a different time and context). The artist combines here the traditions of the East and the West: on the one hand, there is Buddhism (and isn’t the tearing of the Buddha images similar to destroying a mandala, adeeply Buddhist gesture?) and Thailand, on the other – linocut, cut-up, collage. One could say that the works were produced according to the recipe expressed in the title of Simon Reynolds’ book on postpunk – “rip it up, and start again.”
And as neither the matrix, nor any of the initial prints (before they were torn to pieces and reassembled again) are shown at the exhibition, the audience feels like someone standing on the shore of the Heraclitean river – we can see it is flowing but we cannot see neither its source, nor its mouth, only the constant change, the flux:
(Louis MacNeice, “Variations on Heraclitus”)
Exhibition in Apteka Sztuki Gallery, November 2013. Warsaw, Poland.
The space of graphic art created by Wojciech Tylbor-Kubrakiewicz introduces us to a new dimension. Although we find familiar elements here, their combinations are random, suspended in space, cut with the linocut ruling, like raked gravel in the garden of Zen. Urban landscape with traces of the vanitas, a neglected yard, a store signboard – as their contours are blurred, all of these elements lose their recognizable purpose and sense of existence. They become only an image emerged from the chaos of thought, one of many free flows in our mind. It seems that the process of composing is never complete. It is accompanied by the wish to search rather than find.
The artist takes us on an internal journey, a meditation where each step leads to the annihilation of the reasoning intellect, at the same time bringing us closer to the internal transformation, calming down, balance, peace – similar to the Buddhist experience of satori.
An impulse for Tylbor is the journey to the East, made many times and yet never complete. It is accompanied by the Admiration of each mundane manifestation of materialized human thought, from commonplace everyday objects to architectural details or artifacts in a museum. However, there is also a feeling of estrangement, failure to fit into the world, cultural exclusion. This dichotomy limits the fully conscious experience. Only at home, in Warsaw, is the analysis of the sensation possible. The resulting distance creates the opportunity for synthesis. The forms emerge accidentally from the scraps of memory. The form is simplified, sometimes brought down only to a sign or symbol, and suspended in the empty space defined with the regular rhythm of the lines. Outside of time and without emotions, this is where you can find the moment – its taste, fragrance, delicate texture.# Material aspect of the world is immersed in the meditative state as in a dream. An old, abandoned fridge juxtaposed with the photographs from the astronomical observatory in Jaipur evokes the vision of a primitive space probe. The scenery resembles monumental scenography and decorations for the movies shot in 1950s. Giant stone constructions of the marble niches, under which a metal eye is suspended, defining the place of Earth in the Universe, further on the stairway to heaven flanked with enormous arcade wings and a demolished object of the meaningless civilization – the fridge. We are reminded of a sutra recited every day by the monks in Zen monasteries: “Everything is characterized by emptiness, nothing has a beginning or end, nothing is flawless, nothing is perfect or imperfect. In this emptiness, there is no shape or perception, names, notions or knowledge...”The energy of consciousness withdrawn from the sphere of content focuses on the void. Eyes guided into the image discover the limitless space and perspective evokes the uncanny feeling, the same as accompanies the viewer observing Tintoretto’s paintings – a silent, infinite depth.