When I returned home after a few hours’ visit to the artist’s studio, where I had looked with genuine interest at her paintings and drawings from the period preceding and following her graduation and from the last ten years, I felt a strong urge to write down all of the impressions that had accompanied me during the show.
I must admit that this presentation of her works, enriched by interesting commentaries on the series of paintings, to a large extent made me aware of many new qualities of the artist’s temperament and visual imagination. I had previously not seen these qualities at all; for my own purposes, I called them ‘identifiers’, extremely important in Ms. Bogusława’s work. These features find a common denominator in the form of strong emotions fuelled by an equally strong inner anxiety. In Ms. Bortnik, it often translates into pictorial solutions that border on the indefinite and sometimes madly turbulent.
This anxiety, often accompanied by a deeply concealed fear, also translates into the deliberate mutilation and disfigurement of the main characters of the paintings. They are sometimes so badly mangled one has the impression they have been hit by an avalanche or put through some infernal rotating machine.
These paintings do not inspire optimism in the spectator. On the contrary, they provoke reflection on the sad and bitter aspects of life. On the bleak, stressful and disturbing regions of our existence.
My impressions can be illustrated by such compositions as Kama z aniołem (Kama and the Angel), Axa, A.B. and C.D. from the series ‘Dwoje’ (The Two of Them), Kobieta (Woman), and Gracje (The Graces) – a picture painted one year ago.
Although these canvases come from different series, they are in fact consistent in terms of expression and composition. What makes them homogeneous is the common driving force and the characteristic dynamism and tension.
Another common feature and a link that integrates and harmonizes Bogusława Bortnik’s series is the special arrangement of the space of the interiors in which these sometimes frantic painterly spectacles unfold.
But this time the above-mentioned pictorial space, understood also as background scenery, has its origins in an aesthetic territory that is different in terms of expression. A territory devoid of strong tensions, one whose pictorial aspect is calmer, decidedly toned down.
This different style, deliberately introduced by the artist into her compositions to spatialize interiors, is a means of ‘slowing down’ and disciplining the painting’s surface, which is clearly in need of artistic ‘construction supervision’.
The juxtaposition of pictorial solutions derived from such markedly different regions of imagination and expression within a single canvas results in an evident symbiosis, where one quality cannot exist without the other.
[…] At the same time, I want to congratulate Ms. Bogusława on her many excellent paintings that remain particularly vivid in my memory.
They include the painting C.D. from the series ‘The Two of Them’, Axa (the series ‘Moje psy’ /My Dogs/) and A from the series ‘Kobieta’ (Woman), which I value particularly highly.
The artist has clearly demonstrated in them how excellent her control of the composition as a whole is, how effectively she keeps a tight rein on the creative process.
These paintings are simply ‘sung’ without a false note.
I have indicated in my review that nearly all of the canvases exhibited in the spring of this year in Plac Matejko and the ones I saw in the studio are characterized by the use of two different conventions.
In the first element, which I will refer to as figural, artistic fulfilment is usually expressed through an intuitive and spontaneous painterly ‘spitting out ‘ of everything the artist has to say about the depicted figures.
The other element of the composition, or the second convention, is expressed in the paintings by means of pictorial solutions reminiscent of a multiplanar scenic design in which a well thought-out order is evident.
A scenic design in which items of the ‘decor’ are carefully selected and then placed inside the painted space.
The list of props used by the painter is not long. These objects taken from the virtual property room have their own and autonomous hierarchy of importance. They also serve as an essential element in organizing the surface of the canvas. They are always in perfect harmony with each other and match the rest of the painting, i.e. the figures of the ‘first convention’. They are also its ‘accreted’ and pictorially attached partner and neighbour, background, foreground and far ground.
It is all done to impart the crucial quality of spatial depth to the composition.
The objects/props are faithful companions and participants in the artist’s painterly adventures. They are usually simple screens, chairs, stairs, a mirror, a balustrade, a floor and a window frame.
It is the above-mentioned ‘screen-partitions’ and ‘ceiling-floors’, strange and not always intelligible, deliberately and strongly geometrized into rectangles, triangles, rhombuses and arcs, that most effectively construct and organize the pictorial space of interiors in Bortnik’s works. To increase directional and spatial tensions, the artist occasionally uses an attractive visual device of introducing two types of perspective, linear and reverse, into a single painting. On the one hand, this device enlivens the work; on the other, it requires the viewer to carry out the admittedly uneasy task of deciphering the architectural structure of the bizarre interior.
With their clearly defined directions, these markedly different geometric forms lead the viewer to the centre of the action (the painting C.D. – ‘The Two of Them’), and sometimes, as with a picture from the series ‘Woman’, encourage him to go beyond the painting. Towards the sky visible on the canvas, towards a different space, open and bright.
In my review I have focused on a group of paintings which, in my opinion, best express the artist’s creative personality, her imagination, artistic temperament and marked interest in the problem of space. This interest is reflected in her personal statement, entitled ‘The Hidden Space’.
[…] I read her personal statement with interest and found it very useful because it revealed to me, and to a large extent filled, the gaps in my knowledge about the artist, her interests and artistic experiments, especially those concerned with the broadly conceived problem of space.
The personal statement is also a moving confession arising from the need to find the answers to a number of important questions put by the artist to herself. Questions that fall within a not fully identified realm of our existence, which is inextricably linked to that elusive, mysterious and indeed ‘hidden space’.