Andrzej Kostołowski: A Stone Into The Water (1988)
(The text was published in exhibition catalogue: Maria Pinińska-Bereś. Objects from the 1980s, Krzysztofory Gallery, Kraków 1988)
In the era of the so-called Post-Modernism, it is worth looking once more at modern art which presents timeless achievements and play on appearances a little more clearly from this perspective. One of the features of modernism is the all-present dissent thinking – a stream of dissatisfaction with various forms of the status quo in life and art. The constant questioning of the current or binding artistic ideas has been accompanied by criticism of social patterns or xenophobia which modern artists have rightly considered to be morally suspicious. The direction of this train of dissent has usually been towards freedom in life and art. Transgression of the stifling alienations has often been followed by eccentricity of art forms and the ways of presenting them to deliberately intensify the impression of their being crucial. However, when almost everything has been tamed and almost nothing can surprise us, it is time to make strict selections. We are beginning to notice in modern art many contextual tricks which have lost their topicality and blurred the acuteness of the proposals. Post-Modernism develops and enhances this attitude of dissent and encompasses modern art itself. However, its representatives often fall into the trap of too-obvious cynicism, and what used to be a real discovery in terms of modernity seems to turn into a stone thrown into the water: we can only hear a splashing sound while the effect sinks. The acuteness of dissent ceases to be any acuteness if it is not associated with real problems of people.
Against this background, the work of Maria Pinińska-Bereś seems to be a significant exception. In its apparent emerging from modern art and in the motif of developing the idea of dissent, the modern art in the artist’s works is not the subject of juggling mimicry while the poignance of her questions is subjected to the strictness of ethics. Many of Pinińska’s previous works contain some criticism of the domination of one sex over the other and this makes her a forerunner of the feminist art. The beginning of the 1980’s brought into her art various elements of dissatisfaction with the distortions of life in this country. Today, it is a mature reflection which is not subordinated to one topic. It has never been commenting since the sculptures-comments have been supported by many ingenious applications of spatial shapes, literal and abstract forms of what can be touched or sensed. The artist’s extraordinary ease with which she uses methods of imitation or forgery has made the artificiality of her art its main asset. Her collages of wood, plywood or metal and fabrics, mattresses as well as various „ready-made” objects are combined by means of colour unification. These are obvious instances of subordinating the idea of sculpture to a painting-like effect of the whole. And one more thing: her works are always beautiful in the literal sense of the word. It is often the beauty of lipstick: Pierrot’s make-up to cover bis pain. Sometimes it is the beauty of blood: the liquid adorned in colour but dramatic when it is shed in public. Simulation in Pinińska’s works reflects the intricacies of life and art she has been involved in; with attempts at visualising the existential knots by means of litmus papers or mimosas into which she magically turns everyday objects and activities. The stream of pink quilt welling out from The Well of Pink (1977) is both a soft pink ribbon you can lie down on or cover yourself with and an image of metaphoric lava of pink which is welled out in large quantities like water from a well. Stone into the Water (1981) is a work of dramatic expression which features an ordinary stone lying on a patch of real sand, surrounding a pink plate which imitates waves. This strange circle that surrounds the plate can be extended by means of the sand to include the parquet floor of the gallery and ourselves. The stone which indeed is in a worse plight than a real stone sinking in water seems to rumble on the plate and floor. It is a tragicomical object. Very much like the context of our lives in recent years.
Slip-covers [Throws] (1982) is a work which is equally painful in perception. It contains forms of various shapes, weight and consistency; the forms that might be used in street-fighting clad in pink slipcovers give an impression of tangibility and its subjugation at the same time while the inscription: „the art of touch” intensifies the impression. Hot Tears (1982) are even more permeated by the passion for imitating and its use to tease our senses: the white quasi-snow plough with bandage-like fabric and flaming red kettle stuck on a pole. The white stones caught by the plough are covered with red drops. As beautiful as blood.
Building up her world of dissent, the artist has used pink as an auteur colour and a „feminine” coat of arms. During her memorable performances of the 1970’s and 1980’s she used to wave her auteur pink banner. At the turn of 1982 and 1983, she created a work in which she seemed to confess with repentance: And I used to paint the world pink (the title of the work). It features a banner, tightly rolled and covered with white, stuck into a soft ground. We can only guess that this used to be her banner. And on the white threefold form of 1983 there is still a The Last Ray of vanishing pink. In the works that follow, pink remains only as a colour element and loses its dominant position. There follows End of the Feast, the Boat is “wounded”, there appear and vanish erotic hints ever present in Pinińska’s art. In Greedy Dreams (1986) several shades of pink accompany our impression of being swallowed up by our dreams (the dreams are pictured as elements of bedclothes). This is not so much a note of optimism as a maturing outlook on the world which might be devoid of hope but still remains the unavoidable place to live. This is where we have to hustle following Heidegger’s instructions and accompanied by objects. And it is these objects, the furniture we stumble over or use for one purpose or another that are the constant motif of Pinińska’s work. Now they seem to take on a new meaning. My Bed on an Island (1985) bears clear marks of a threat. The Couch has a mattress askew – it seems to be comfort (consent) gone wrong. Two „humanized” armchairs in King and Queen (1986) are a way of standing at a distance from obviousness even though the artist concentrates on object forms of the quasi-furniture. They stress their constructivity and strange Wróblewski-like anthropomorphism. The two figures-objects act out their relations not by means of words or gestures (they have neither faces nor hands and feet) but through a dialogue which is carried out by means of purely artistic elements such as size, angles of inclination, position, proportions, surface attributes, colour shades, etc. The pink ball between them seems to epitomise an attempt at emotional relations (?). All this is a more significant comment on the problem of male-female coexistence than any other work on the subject since Moore and Giacometti. Besides, I think that King and Queen is one of the main masterpieces of Polish sculpture of the last half a century and can be placed alongside the works of Kobro, Szapocznikow, Krasinski and Bereś.