(Non)immediate Apprehensions in the Paintings of Bogusława Bortnik-Morajda

Witold Stelmachniewicz

Immediate apprehension is a term that comes from Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. The Königsberg thinker explains sensation, or a phenomenon apprehended immediately (at once as a unity, not by a synthesis of many sensations) as having a magnitude – not an extensive magnitude (i.e. quantitativeness, which characterizes spatiotemporal objects), however, but an intensive magnitude, i.e. a degree of influence on sense. I situate the recent paintings of Bogusława Bortnik-Morajda in a similar – though not identical – field of vision. To paraphrase: they are extremely sensuous, they have a seductive levitating lightness to them, but their sensational character is less a result of Kantian unity than of a synthesis of many elements.

I remember the artist’s pictures from many years ago; they featured figures or objects confined in a specific space, usually an interior. Between those works and the latest ones, there were also three-dimensional installations, produced for exhibitions held at the Krakow Brewery. I think it was those objects that allowed the artist to move away from building the structure of the painting in the way that enclosed it in a predictable motif of interior. Her predilection for accumulation of elements remains evident in her latest works, but what is striking now is their openness. The space of the individual paintings is often a landscape, shown from a distance or from close up, but generally serving as a field in which the artist introduces the props important for her narration, such as flowers, children’s shoes and the huddled figure of a woman. A balanced colour scheme, deliberate – now subtle, now pronounced – use of value contrast, and precise drawing are the strong points of these pictures.

Let me admit here that I like this treatment of painterly matter much more than the characteristic stylization of form that marked the artist’s work in the earlier period. In this context, what seems important is the aforementioned lack of continuity, which might involve a slow metamorphosis of Bortnik-Morajda’s artistic language. But after her experiences with in situ installations, she returned to painting with a completely different way of seeing, reinventing her practice as it were. Because I once did a similar thing, I understand this kind of consciousness of one’s habits particularly well. There is now a multiplier effect to Bornik-Morajda’s painting. As I have already said, the constellations of motifs form narratives that convey a message far from any ideology. This art has a lot to do with assignment of universal meanings to the above-mentioned props, even though the artist treats them in a distinctive and subjective way. It may be peculiar to the writer of these words, but apart from the aesthetic aspect, which is particularly attractive in Bortnik-Morajda’s case, the method of composition used in her latest paintings makes me think of William Burroughs’s literary cut-up technique. The corrugation of one plane into another, the interruption of these surfaces with motifs/accents that often crop up in unexpected places. In this way, even the most fragmented structure of the picture can be an instance of growth, which is balanced out by the invisibility of the principles of aggregation. Like an expert tailoress, Bortnik-Morajda conceals the seams, emphasizing the tones that are a synthesis of a plurality, to refer to the concept with which I began this reflection, to parasite off Kant. Hence her latest apprehensions are (non) immediate but full of tender sensitivity.

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