"The art begins, where the reality ends."
I have long realized that all my pictures share a common, easily-recognisable style. Yet I never tried to create my own style in painting. Each time, painting a picture was like creating an entirely new world, like embarking on an expedition into an unknown land. I frequently felt that my pictures were so diverse that I would not be able to compile a coherent exhibition. But more and more people were telling me that whenever they happen to see my work (in either the real or the online world), even if the picture is unfamiliar, they have no problem identifying it as mine. That sounded a bit strange because, during my initial years as a painter – many years, I couldn’t see any common features in the pictures. At the same time, I was becoming increasingly convinced that my pictures were so original that, despite a long search, I was unable to find anything in the world’s art that would be similar. Once, I even announced a competition and said that the person who finds an artist who paints (or painted) pictures similar to mine would win one of my works. Years passed, and no one came for the prize.
On the one hand, I was proud that my work was so original, but on the other, I felt a bit lonely as I could not join any artistic group or meet a “partner” on my creative path. Slowly, I was becoming an Einzelgänger, to use a German word.
However, in the history of art, there are many artists who I see as my masters, with who I frequently try to converse in my pictures, or I treat them as good friends on this demanding artistic path. They are not only painters, but also composers, writers, and poets, for instance Giotto Di Bondone, Jacobo Tintoretto, Georges De La Tour, Artur Nacht-Samborski, Piotr Potworowski, Mark Rothko, David Hockney, Luc Tuymans, Albanian painter Edi Hila, Oliwier Messiaen, Witold Lutosławski, Paweł Szymański, Marcin Masecki, Witold Gombrowicz, Witkacy, and Thomas Bernhard. As regards theatre, certainly Tadeusz Kantor, Krystian Lupa, Joanna Szczepkowska, and Willi Bernhart.
It was probably only during my 2018 retrospective exhibition at Warsaw’s DAP (Dom Artysty Plastyka), where I presented almost all the available pictures from the forty years of my work, that I concluded, with great satisfaction, that I had managed to develop my own, easily-recognisable style. At that exhibition, in a few cases, I paired pictures that were twenty to thirty years apart, but, to my surprise, they “corresponded” with each other and did not disturb each other in any way.
The definition of style
In many of my texts, I often tried to define my style. First, I tried that in the 1993 text entitled “Rhythm and Relativism,” written in German. Later, I wrote the text “Relativism in Art” (March 11, 2001), which was a translation of the German text, slightly modified, and included it in the 2001 “Pictures and… Pictures” catalogue. In my catalogue “Transcendence of the Picture,” I included the latest version of the text. Its main motto was my statement that
Another text where I attempted to define my art was the 2003 Pictures and… Pictures, in which I presented different aspects of perceiving and understanding pictures and pointed out there is a huge difference between what is objectively seen and what is subjective to be seen – tainted with one’s knowledge of a given topic. This text is also included in the “Transcendence of the Picture” catalogue.
In the 2007 text entitled “Szpary, Pęknięcia i Zasłony,” for the first time, I tried to define my pictures from a purely visual perspective as I had realized that all of them contain three elements. This text is also included in the “Transcendence of the Picture” catalogue (see page 50). All the texts can be found on my website at www.niksinski.com
The last text that I wrote about my art is the one dedicated to my retrospective exhibition “Transcendence of the Picture.” It is also available in this exhibition’s catalogue However, my style is so capacious that all these texts only define it to a certain extent. Therefore, I will now try to present it in an attempt to create the theory of my new style with rules understandable to anyone.
My style’s fundamental feature is the combination of tradition and avant-garde, that is, knowledge of and respect for what happened in the history of art, and trying to find my place in the succession of old masters by using traditional painting techniques and methods while attempting to create my own, individual language. My painting is about a constant balance between realism and abstraction where what is realistic – I relativise by making it abstract, and what is abstract – I try to move towards realism. I do not hesitate to use all possible means in my painting if I associate them with a given theme. Often, a picture is the product of discovering a new technique or painting materials that I had not known before. Usually, to start painting, I need to have a ready image. It can be a photograph (taken by me or someone else), a black-and-white or colour photocopy, or a computer print. It happens I paint on other artists’ pictures or recycle my old paintings. But I never cover the original pictures; I largely use their original content. Sometimes, I first paint a realist picture, to then add my artistic commentary – I extract my visual essence verging on the abstract.
In my art, I want to show the specific picture of the chain of our subconscious. We remember all images and all situations that we see only fragmentarily, without a million details. Gradually, each image and each experience makes up a characteristic, individual chain of associations in our mind, linked with our experiences, sounds, smells, and other features of the image; only a few of us realize that when recalling situations or images of people and places, we only see the details that we find most important, drowned in chains of associations. Therefore, when thinking back to the particular situations or pictures that inspired me, I try to comprehend the essence of these associations and memories; each of my pictures is a specific record of these chains of thought. At the same time, I escape obvious associations with nature because, for us, nature is only abstract until we learn that a tree is a tree and a mountain is a mountain. Still, nature remains an essential source of my inspiration. Most young painters don’t paint what they see but what they know on a given topic. For instance, when looking at a person’s hand, they cannot paint or draw it because they know what a hand is, which clouds the picture of this particular hand (which, naturally, differs from all the other hands). When painting a hand, I discard all the knowledge about it and try to sublimate what I consider most important in the picture. When painting a realistic picture of the hand, I factor it and arrange the blocks from the start, using my own handwriting. That is what all good realist painters have been doing for centuries. But the painted hand seldom remains unchanged in my picture. This happens to all realistic images that were initially featured in my works. They become a starting point for the specific quest into the unknown.
Once, when in plein-air, I spent long on painting a forest – which I could see before my eyes, then, suddenly, the forest clashed with a summer which I had spent in the Bulgarian village of Varvara, where I photographed a large, strange stone to then accidentally bring the black-and-white photocopy to the said plein-air. The photocopy emerged suddenly and dropped onto the forest, which gradually disappeared. I continued painting as if in a trance, giving in to transcendental emotions and switching off reason. The result was a picture featuring a forest, my balanced thinking about the plein-air, and my sentimental returns to Varvara. (see the reproduction)
For a long time, I wondered whether my painting created an entirely new style in art, and I am very close to saying YES!!!
I called it:
Interestingly, I believe that the criteria of this style pertain not only to painting but also to music, film, theatre, literature, and poetry. In all these artistic fields, one can encounter artists who don’t disregard the past tradition but profoundly respect the creations of the old masters of painting or music. But they do not copy the masterpieces of painting or composition; based on tradition, they try to create their own contemporary language, dreaming of “pushing this trolley” a few centimetres forwards. For example, when listening to Paweł Szymański’s Bach-like piano compositions, one may be taken in because they sound exactly like Bach’s music. However, if one then listens to the original Bach, there is no doubt that the piece was created centuries ago. At the same time, Szymański’s music, despite its archaic language, sounds very modern and individual and, most importantly, is by no means a poor copy of Bach’s style. Paweł Szymański called his style Surconventionalism, yet I believe I could easily add him also to my style, ABSTRAREALISM.