Adam Brincken review

Adam Brincken

The paintings of Bogusława Bortnik are firmly set in the genre of expressive, Polish and Krakow figurative art. It has always existed for a specific reason. Large canvases create tension by juxtaposing vast geometric planes with the organic human figure. Executed in a dynamic, strong line by an excellent draughtsman. For the most part, amplified by colour and the contrast of painterly matter. The figure that appears in them is, almost by principle, a woman; in some canvases there are several figures. Sometimes the figure has the artist’s features. Is she a self-portrait? Or someone wearing her mask/costume?

In dramatic terms, the fate of the person in these paintings is ambiguous. The surface geometry of the labyrinth of screens, walls, shop windows and corridors surrounds the individual, certainly creating tension but not danger. This state of affairs is alleviated not only by the energy with which the figure is painted. The harmony of contrasts; vast surfaces and a biological cocoon of swirling lines. Although the initial associations suggest an encounter with the works of Francis Bacon, the subsequent ones seem to deny this intuition. Because Bortnik’s paintings are not a dramatic cry of suffering, they are more about becoming accustomed, resigned to the loneliness of man? the artist?

Let me put it differently. After all, the generally warm, occasionally hot palette of these paintings encompasses both the emptiness of the geometric planes and the figure. The two realities are drawn and painted densely. One has the impression that they are making a gift of themselves, of their existence, to each other. In some of the pictures, light painted in sharp yellows creates the orange figure of a monk who is being watched by a dog. At other times, it does not create anything but is a kind of way out of a place you‘ve had enough of.

But in her recent paintings Bortnik seems to be looking at us, and therefore at the world, in a different way. In these works, flatness no longer denotes a dynamic meeting of planes. It is a distance, a remoteness, a looking from another perspective, from above. A rhythmic wall of the forest and her B.B. from the series ‘Portrety’ (Portraits). Rocks, projections from the ground surrounded by water become a chessboard in the painting. The figures of man and woman walking along it seem to be pawns, participants in the game. One played with fate? With each other? With themselves?

In the earlier canvases the wealth of pictorial means seemed to be a device, a method for taming the tension or a search for a happy complement. Here, in the painting Małżeństwo M.G. (Marriage M.G.), the silence of what is practically a single palette of grays and browns allows me to perceive a new, different tone of this art. New, surprising and full of ideas.

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