Bożena Kowalska

New photo-realism?



When Knut went in for painting after his graduation from the Gdańsk College of Fine Arts, his pictures were not much different from those he is painting now. There were still human figures in them, though allusive and barely discernible, and a face would occasionally crop up, apparently torn by an explosion of light. Yet the main motif was texture and so it has remained. Textures appear in considerable variety, at times reminiscent of that of canvas, at other times of a gnarly wall, on which regular vertical scratches have imposed some order. There is also a painting evoking associations with a hoary window with thick water drops running down

At first glance, there is nothing new in it. Similarly subjects were tackled on a mass scale in the painting of matter in Poland in the late 1950s and in Europe in the early 1950s. Yet there is an essential difference, from a technical point of view. Matter painters created palpable textures and structures while they are only illusive. Knut”s paint-covered canvases remain as smooth as the surface of photographic paper. Yet the fundamental difference lies in the creative idea behind Knut”s work. His predecessors were anxious to reproduce an epidermis of something created by nature to be entitled to call themselves demiurges quite like nature. This why the pieces of epidermis that they called to live in relief from often with marked qualities of organic matter, were open compositions, which underlined their segmentary character of a fragment chosen at random from a whole spreading in all directions. In Knut”s paintings, the rough surface is confined to a field enclosed from above by a smooth arc. The outline and the roughness of the surface are similarly to those of tombstones. Texture was never as regular and neat in the painting of matter which was deliberately a-aesthetic whereas the young painter’s works are characterized by subtlety and beauty that should be sought in the products of refined aestheticism rather than in the epidermis of things met in nature.

Knut”s paintings, almost monochromatic, are in various tones of grey, each with different intensity. But somewhere from within, either in center or nearer the edge there is a breath, a shade of colour: pink, violet, or yellow. One is not quite sure whether the colour originates in the painting or is an after-image preserved in the pupil. Sometimes the uniform rhythm of the regular, rough wall-like surface is interrupted by a serpentine “cut-out”, an oblong piece of “fabric” stuck on it, a trace of a diagonal “bar” or a triangle “textile scrap” attached with minute stitches to the ”linen” surface. These perfectly illusive, small disturbances do not seem aggressive, and if they upset the balance of the composition, they do so in such a discrete way that they do not really destroy anything. Rather, thanks to the textural rhythm within these small forms, different from or opposing the overall rhythm, they concentrate the spectator’s attention on the textural nuance of those almost unistic surface.

Alongside series of canvases in which the shape and the colour of matter is the main motif, Knut creates “Portraits”. Small-sizes, intensely colored, they are not distinguishable as images of faces, these are only allusions, outlines of head fragments, at time with double contours: always evasive. The young artist’s paintings reveal his rare sensitivity to colour, to poetry of structures, to the nostalgic beauty of what is usually evasive, what the artist has unearthed and fixed. These works are not a reactied lessons, nor a remnant of fascination with another’s insights. His painting is contemplative and authentic. This is why we may expect his work to gain with profundity and value as time goes on.