Jan Niksinski in the gallery Zydikat/ West-Berlin – Hatto Fischer 1985.

            Programmes on Polish poetry and literature complement Jan Niksinski’s exhibition at the Zyndikat Gallery. On the evening of 1 March 1985 there will be a reading by the author of the book “Pole, who are you?”, Witold Wirpsza. The Zyndikat Gallery is increasingly focussing on Eastern European artists in connection with art that has to fight against political censorship. In April there will therefore be an exhibition of photographs by the Polish artist Anna B. Bohdziewicz, who has captured changes in everyday life in Poland over the last four years. The Zyndikat Gallery is thus setting new accents, but without wanting to overstretch the concept of “dialogue with the East”. What is important at this former site of the squatter scene is that familiarising oneself with Eastern European reality is part of the left-wing scene’s efforts to inform itself and will therefore lead to other cultural and political perspectives for the future.

            At first I thought his graphics and drawings were actually fragments of light above roofs. Light, once broken out from behind the chimney, produces less silhouettes, existence in the shadows, but rather fragments of light of departure, becoming light in the morning and therefore rather an expression of hope for peace, and yes, also for delicacies. Unbiased hopes of the mood and yet fragmentary references to bitter life. Since 1981 and the onset of a cold winter with martial law. The cold winter, including martial law, travel bans and other restrictions, has made itself felt in the living conditions and work of Polish artists. Their material is deteriorating and the refuge of optimistic themes is increasingly obstructed by reality. This makes the current exhibition of prints and drawings by Jan Niksinski at the Zyndikat Gallery all the more astonishing. They express what fragments of light mean in the morning rather than in the evening: friendly messages, carried by strong voices like strokes, so as not to be captured by a reality that remains negative because it has become bleak. This strength becomes apparent on a second look at the pictures. The theme of “Light Above Roofs” gives way and instead I become aware of his mixed techniques, which allow spaces to be combined with photomontages or geometric forms, both in terms of colour and graphics. In some pictures I think of crumpled paper, once again unfolded and smoothed in order to grasp the tension wave of his optics for lines at all. Further contemplation is required to understand the “labyrinth between us”. In almost all of his drawings, the theme of “lines” is articulated, above all by means of what makes a mark, especially where one line overlaps another. In English, this would be called “overlapping”, while surfaces, once lined up, suddenly emerge from a “fish dream”. The themes, and especially the abstract degree of his graphics, illustrate the symbolic “art languages” that Jan Niksinski (first in Gdansk and later in Warsaw at the respective academies of art and also in his urban environment Praga, a district in Warsaw comparable to Kreuzberg) has developed. And all his works illustrate the high level of art that has continued to exist in Poland since 1981, despite and perhaps above all because of this.

            What is shown by Jan Niksinski are series of pictures consisting of abstract symbolism and graphic configurations. In almost all of the pictures, he combines two different techniques, that of graphic art and that of drawing, in order to work on themes such as labyrinths, suicide, house fronts and fish dreams by means of this mixed technique. In some of them he shows very directly his preoccupation with cityscapes and the fronts of houses in his immediate surroundings. He intensifies the frontal view of the house fronts with geometric shapes, whether triangles or squares. A simple hint of painterly skill is then given by the presentation of the whole, for example when a green film tone runs across the front of the house, suggestively impressing at the same time an indirect perception of human habitation from the street.

            His mixed media can be divided into three groups. In the first, he uses scraps of fabric in the picture itself, thereby changing the spatial concept. In the second, he uses this indirect alienation of perception, which has already been described above, to reproduce reality partly true to the mirror by means of a photomontage and partly alienated by deliberately emphasising geometric reality. Finally, the third group is characterised by those pictures that strive for a symbolic dialogue between form and line. All three groups form an “Experiment mundi”. Jan Niksinski attempts to follow lines in order to find out what happens when they cross large surfaces, deep shafts, etc. And in the course of his adoption of this experiment, he always emphasises the transition from realism to the abstract. Where previously, the perception was determined by a reduced layering of everyday structures (because they had become inattentive), resulting in diffuse images, he solves this problem in his graphics by attempting to give spatial depth or expansion to the sensual expression. One picture that he has cut through the centre is particularly exciting: On one side, we are looking down a street and looking directly at the front of the houses from the early 1920s. Jan Niksinski suddenly extends the relief between the ground floor flats and the first floor towards the centre by leading the line of the relief into an abstract space, and from then on the movement of the line appears expansive in the empty space. The retracing of the line must always break through the silent dividing wall between concrete and abstract space.

            And so the lines dominate in all his pictures – sometimes weaker, sometimes stronger, sometimes like fragmented ice or like fine tree bus sticks leaning against each other. Sometimes the pictures appear flat and abstractly strong, and then again dark and lost.

            In this way, the artist reflects the angular interplay of light and politics in the sense of testing his own existential possibilities. Emotions become decipherable in this way. Crumpled paper, once unfolded, can remind us of past anger. All this permeates the mental horizon. It colours’ the mentality. And once the feelings have been addressed, these images move downwards, upwards, along the lines, and into the floating of dreams, until suddenly the laughter of the dreamed fish sounds, last philosophically, in the sign of the rising light.