Leszek Danilczyk: introduction to the catalogue, without title (1992)

(The English version of the text was published in gallery catalogue: “Artyści galerii – Galeria artystów [Gallery Artists – Artists Gallery], Contemporary Art Gallery, Sandomierz 1994)


Painted plywood, sponge encased in canvas, tufted children’s quilts and swaddling. The whiteness of case and a bedsheet; the carmine rouge of pillow or that of lipstick marks against the white background… If perceived only in the perspective of its material substance, the art of Maria Pininska-Bereś might seem as transitory as the traces of human existence found among different configurations of bed clothes. And yet, in these works directed towards movements passing away, one can feel the presence of something that evokes thoughts of permanence. Where does this feeling originate from? The answer seems simple at first: that happens always in the case of a well-constructed form (believers in aesthetic apocastasis would say such a form will remain despite the transience of material). As has repeatedly been observed1Most recently Jerzy Hanusek in the introduction to the catalog in Koszalin, 1992., Pininiska’s objects possesses a real sculptures quality. They are well set and balanced with regard to their direction and physical mass, the play of vertical and slants. straight and undulating lines, geometrical and “organic” shapes. Due to the way in which they modulate the space around them, they can equally well function on their own (as sculptures), and in complexes partially meeting the criteria of contemporary installation art. Anybody who knows Pininska’s sketches as well will have no doubts that her belongs to a category referred to as “disegno” in an old (but still one of the best) Renaissance classification, denoting thinking through forms that can be caught in a drawing design.

That it belong there without being fully enclosed in it seems an obvious statement; still, we have to ask about the reasons for such obviousness.

When observed closely, the phenomenon of permanence will certainly prompt a conclusion that something which remains in it is beyond any considerations limited to the form only. Having transferred this sensation to the sphere of meanings, we will discover immediately that it must split into two levels: on the first more direct level we will not be able to find what we have been looking for. This first level has already been labelled as the existential plane. A lot has been said and written about it so far, about its poetics employing common attributes permeated by sexuality2Mariusz Hermansdorfer, in introduction to the catalogue 17 Biennale of Art, Sao Paulo 1983, ed. CBWA, Warszawa; compare also Jerzy Hanusek, op. cit. and transformed in an uncommon way. Along with marks of everyday intimacy, cast in the matter of an artistic work, Pininska’s dialogue (specially in actions) with the reality of politics and art, also belongs here. Needless to say, this dialogue enters into the artistic sphere of metalanguage.

The second plane is much deeper. In order to indicate the main trails leading to it (because of limited space, we will not be able to provide more detailed explanations), we have to say first that Pininska’s art, just like any art, despite its original and independent character emphasised, in fact, by all commentators, has its areas of reference. Surrealism is one of the most important ones, and not because the artist uses The Burning Giraffe or such images and commonplaces that inspired the surrealists (Mme Recamier, Charities). The affinity lies in the morphology of works, in particular tension arising between abstraction and figurativeness, in poetic situations resulting from objects being contrasted with titles and drawing them nearer the status of object-poem.

First of all, however, it seems to lie in the very process of creation – in the role of an “inner model”, built from elements of the individual subconscious as well as those accumulated in the deep layers of the tradition of visual archetypes.

Only in such a perspective Pininska’s art reveals the permanent presence of symbols, references and threads, often developed in subsequent works, engaged in a dialogue with one another. In the peculiar depth-thread which can be termed “an artist about an artist”, the subconscious (or the unconscious) seems to be represented by a screen, a well and a tent. The symbolism of elements – especially water, associated with the unconscious and the female component, is obvious here, just as the archetypic property the garden (hortus conclusus, the Garden of Love). To prove that numbers in Pininska’s works also perform a symbolic function would require a longer explanation; however, it is necessary to draw attention to the fact that a two and a three have a special importance. The meaning of colours becomes clear (though not unmistakable – nothing is unmistakable in the realm of symbols) if we assume that rouge is substituted here for red (the reader has to rely upon my word of honour as the only proof. Since ancient times, red and white have been the colours of man and a woman respectively. It has been sanctioned especially by the symbolism of alchemy.

I made no greater efforts for anything but showing how much cautiousness and cunning the desire can display while searching for its object, making its way in the waters of the pre-conscious: and having found it, what astonishing means it uses to let the conscious know it – wrote Breton.3L’Amour fou, cit. for Bożena Janicka, Światopogląd surrealizmu, Warszawa 1985, s. 15. Let us look at the Pink Table (1970), with an apple being cut with a knife. If not for two later works, would it have been easy to prove that it is a reference to a Platonic myth about a complete rounded human being – androgyne – separated into halve searching for each other ever since? That mutual search, with all the hopelessness of fulfilment which is impossible to achieve_ transferred into “life dimension” has been presented in Double Existentiarium. A slightly earlier work, The King and the Quenn belongs to the mythical dimension. It is an old alchemic subject-matter, denoting the principle of Creation, the Conjunction of the Sun and the Moon, the Spirit and the Soul and many other basic ideas. In each case, the core element is the hermaphroditic fullness. At the couple’s feet there is an apple – this time, a whole one. Persistence of desire untouched by painful realization it being doomed to lack of fulfilment.


  • 1
    Most recently Jerzy Hanusek in the introduction to the catalog in Koszalin, 1992.
  • 2
    Mariusz Hermansdorfer, in introduction to the catalogue 17 Biennale of Art, Sao Paulo 1983, ed. CBWA, Warszawa; compare also Jerzy Hanusek, op. cit.
  • 3
    L’Amour fou, cit. for Bożena Janicka, Światopogląd surrealizmu, Warszawa 1985, s. 15.
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