Bożena Kowalska

Exhibition catalogue “Hommage a Morton Feldman”




This previously uninhibited series of paintings by Mieczyslaw Knut is dedicated to Morton Feldman. It has been kept in a very constant and specific character of the artist’s creation, which is subtle and ascetic. The canvases from this cycle do not vary form the other of artist’s works because his creativity emanates form his personality, resulting in markedly similar works. This series was not inspired by the music of Morton Feldman. Its qualities – of art and of music – were existing independently in different places and different times. Feldman and Knut met by coincidence more than twenty years ago when one of Knut’s friends from Berlin mentioned the similarity between the Feldman’s music and Knut’s creations. Knut had never heard of the composer, but led by curiosity he found some of the American artist’s recordings. By chance, he also found out that Feldman was a close friend of John Cage, so he started listening to his music. Feldman’s compositions are monotone, sublime, and nearly inaudible. The many repeated phrases, filled with mysticism and meditativness taken from the far east, convey a sense of Zen. It should not be surprising if same words were used to describe Knut’s paintings. And it is worth noting once again, that the accuracy of that description should not be time bound, it is relevant for the whole of Knut’s artistically active period, from before he knew Feldman’s music to well after he became fascinated with it.

The series dedicated to Morton Feldman was created between 2005 and 2006 and consists of 17 canvases. While painting the artist was listening mostly to Feldman’s music, and this is how it become some of his favorite. This music is not a kind that demands concentration, but it brings peace and balance. It creates an atmosphere of nostalgic reflection. This climate of quiet nostalgia and mystery is to be found in Knut’s paintings as well.

The Feldman’s cycle is not a homogeneous whole piece, even though all of the canvases are in the same sizes (65 x 50 cm), of the same more or less regular rectangular shape, and filled with structure of a canvas deceptively painted on a smooth gray backgrounds which are very bright, sometimes even very close to white. Nine out of the seventeen are basically monochromes with rare, sophisticated and barley noticeable hints of pink, but still every one is differentiated by nuances of intensity and brightness. Some of them are uniformed along the whole area of the painting, on the others there is a thin stripe of intense, or even opposite, illuminated color. This effect seems to intensify the artworks’ lightness. In some of the paintings the structure of canvas is barley visible when on the others it is easy to see, even from the distance. In one of the creations there is a streak of light running through the middle of a canvas, just as if it was a path of a white light separating it in halves. On one of the other pieces, just in its centre point, there is a complement to a dark stripe under the top edge that exists just as if the artist left an unspecified touch of a darker tone.

In this inhomogeneous series of seventeen canvases for Feldman, there are five gray paintings, which are similar to the pink ones in that they are distinguishable by their brightness levels. Their surfaces are slightly moved, as if the wind were shredding apart clouds on them. These are the paintbrush marks. Next to the artist’s perfect, almost machine like precision, there is a visible hand move left. Maybe the artist wanted to leave it for stating not only the spiritual but also physical presence.

There are three other canvases from the Feldman’s series apart from the fourteen described above. Just as subtle, spiritual and mysterious as the others. They are perhaps the most beautiful out of the whole cycle, and definitely the most expressive. These are dark compared to the other bright pieces. One is nearly red and there is a very strong false image of the structure of canvas on the two others. There is also a delicate yellow glow shining through the structure. It is visible only through a thin stripe at the top edge in both of the paintings and trough the left edge of the third, almost black painting. In all three canvases, the light stripes are very strong in creating a powerful brightness. There is an illusion that light shines out from the painting, just as if a light was shining from behind and being dimmed by the canvas, and only getting through in a thin streak at the edge of the canvas. It blends with the dark matter of false structure of the fabric in deliberate way, only seemingly carelessly dispersed. Seeming to come from the depth of a space, this unusual light effects a stronger mystical mystery and reveals the spiritual message of the artist even more emphatically.

The same kind of magical character is present in the series ‘De Profundis’. This cycle is made with 14 small canvases sized 30x24 cm, painted in 2007. Similar to the Feldman series, it is shown to the public for the first time on this occasion.

The ‘De Profundis’ series is kept in black, grays, and whites. Though not always visible, the main theme creates oblique shadows of a fragmented crossed beams, one wide horizontal and the second, a thin diagonal. The shadows are creating a form of an asymmetric cross. Read in a different way, it presents a wide highway, which becomes narrow in the perspective and is crossed with a thin cross road. The concept of the series revealing the fourteen next scenes of cross way stations, is leading from such a deep darkness that on the first canvas the painting theme is not visible yet. On the second one it appears only in its outline for it to get lost again in the illusory structure of a lightened canvas of the second to last painting. This ambiguous symbol gets more visible within the next phrases of gradually lightening gray and it gets more concrete as well. Just to melt in stronger and stronger light, until it dematerializes completely.

This enigmatic cycle can be widely interpreted as a symbol of processes that embraces everything. Everything what has ever existed and everything what exist, every material existence and all immaterial phenomena. Because everything has its beginning coming out of non-existence and everything ends up falling into nothing. This is only one of the many possible interpretations of Mieczyslaw Knut’s mystical cross. There can be many more, and they may be very different.

Both series of paintings are very far from the fashions and trends in art and theory of everyday life, where everything is all allowed because it’s free of any rules and orders. But Knut’s creation is compliant to very strict and unchanging principles he imposes on himself. When the outer world accepts following examples of others, it starts to convert artistic formulas and neglects the idea of individuality. Here the artist creates a unique and very individual language of expression. He has created his own consistency for his own personal use. When the modern world rejects any existing orders and concepts of beauty, he comes up with the perfect order and his own model of extremely sophisticated beauty. When there is a cacophony of people trying to out-scream one another, very often through drastic, vulgar, and obscene actions, to attract some attention, Knut’s work can only be described as quietness, discretion, and sensitivity. When entertainment and providing strong experiences has become a goal of all of the arts, here the artist is only concerned about the most important issues of existence. Just as described by Ortega y Gasset, who was defying the art of the highest profile; the art ‘was transcendent in the most noble of its meaning, firstly because it was dealing only with the most important problems of the mankind and secondly because it was representing potential power, giving people dignity and justifying its existence’.

The creative value of Mieczyslaw Knut paintings is not only the most quiet and subtle, the most noble and gracious one, but led upon the depth and universalism of its message. It is all about the meditative influence of his works as well as the many possible interpretations.

Bożena Kowalska