Ewa Herniczek review

Ewa Herniczek

The paintings of Bogusława Bortnik-Morajda, marked by a clearly defined personal style, revolve around recurrent themes and issues: the opposition of figure – space, biological form (especially the female body) – abstract structure, identity – strangeness, integrity – disintegration. The principle of opposition is evident more or less constantly in her works from the late 1980s to the most recent ones. ‘Although existential references […] concern human nature in general, they are also a projection of the artist’s personal experiences. . . . However, they form the basis for paintings as dramatic as they are aesthetically refined, leaving a trace of “beauty in the drama”,’ Romuald Oramus has written, focusing primarily on the formal and aesthetic qualities of the artist’s canvases. However, it seems equally important to determine the broader context of Bortnik-Morajda’s works, which reveals the deeper aspects of his work.

[…] The ‘bodies’ recurring in the artist’s works are not aesthetically treated nudes. They are entities emphasizing their separateness from what is outside of them. For all their sensuous character, there is no denying that they have an expressiveness focused on extrasensory definition of their essence. ‘This permanent requirement – to distinguish between the internal or proper sense and the circumstance of the object being talked about- organizes all philosophical discourses on art, the meaning of art and meaning as such… This requirement presupposes a discourse on the limit between the inside and the outside of the art object […]’ Jacques Derrida wrote (Derrida, The Truth in Painting, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987). Thus, the analysis of the motif and its presentation in the artist’s compositions leads to the determination of the basic level of interpreting her works. It is primarily the level of semantic definition of one’s own identity and the identity of everything that is external.

By our nature, we experience ourselves and the world through and in the body. The limit between the inside and the outside remains clear to us; sometimes the division is so sharp that it cannot be transcended. The constant necessity of confronting – as a being, an individual – the aggression of the impulses of external reality becomes an apparatus that accurately describes the dividing line. Superimposed on this conventional boundary between ‘self’ and ‘non-self’ is another division based on biological and social differences between the sexes and the specific features and roles assigned to them. The series ‘Dwoje’ (The Two of Them) and ‘Kobieta’ (Woman) describe that dual context explicitly. The vocabulary of motifs used by the artist leaves no doubt as to her awareness of the conditions that determine the binary opposition of the sexes (elements of the female body, high-heeled shoes, bed, the explicitly biological structure of forms). At the same time, there is a discourse describing the need to define oneself as an individual by accepting, rejecting or redefining the existing system (Matka i córka /Mother and Daughter/, 1992; Gracje /The Graces/, 2007). The recurrent motif of image, reflection, mirror can be regarded as an expressive symbol of questions about the nature of one’s identity. To what extent is it possible to define it independently in view of the frames and formal models constantly imposed on us that are so difficult to transcend? This question may also be posed with reference to the nature and identity of the painting, and ultimately to those of art.

It should be noted that the issues related to personal efforts to bring out one’s ‘singularity’ and define the inner identity are not addressed here only on the narrative level. The discourse conducted by the artist is resolved on the level of pictorial forms, primarily through compositional solutions and the structure of forms. Another aspect is that of colour experiences, indicative of a high degree of painterly sophistication. The elements of value and colour are used on an equal footing to define light – a light that is often peculiar. Its pictorial structure is certainly one of the central elements of Bortnik-Morajda’s formal explorations and clearly serves to emphasize the absolute primacy of light in shaping our image of space and the form present in it. The problem of the coexistence and interrelation of these ‘primary’ elements of empirical reality constitutes a separate discourse, whose ‘silent existence’ can be seen in almost all of the artist’s works. The nature of light and the nature of form seem to represent separate areas of interest for the artist. These issues touch upon the subtle regions of metaphysics and as such resist methodological analysis. But the traces of their presence in the artist’s oeuvre can hardly be denied. Perhaps we will see another attempt to confront questions of this kind in her work?

As Bortnik-Morajda writes: ‘One has to […] paint generously and without hesitations, risking mistakes and errors.’ This intentional generosity is also evident in her latest works, whose form is clearly evolving. Among other things, they have a distinct narrative element. It helps to create a specific, painterly vision of time in which the figures and forms seem to be immersed. (Małżeństwo /Marriage/ , 2007). And there are similarities in the construction of some portraits, in which space seems to identify the model more definitively than his facial features. This valuable ability to create an expressive spatial context is also one of the characteristic traits of the artist’s canvases.

Scroll up