Stefan Morawski: A Woman’s Touch of Form (1998)

 (The text was published in exhibition catalogue: Maria Pinińska-Bereś, 1931-1999, Bunkier Sztuki Gallery, Kraków 1999)


One often comes across the view these days that art, having undergone a significant change in the last two decades, has entered into a time of privacy, that is to say of free rather, unrestricted decisions concerning what and how to create. One needs to admit at least the partial correctness of this diagnosis, while the whole is to be found in the fact that privacy is multifaceted and is not comprehended identically. One may reconcile it easily with, for example, the dominating trend of present to commercialize art; the creator’s data include in the defined marketing-advertising mechanisms, and then according to its whim (of material and prestige calculations) withdraws itself in order to ‘jump’ into the market in a different configuration. Hence the absolute opposite of just such privacy is the privacy grounded in the search for the sense of existence, linking to it its very identity, especially language which would most properly formulate strife with the world, enable the appropriate discretion or brutally intensify the confidences from these sources. Such art, which may be termed existential, is characterized normally by unrest, questionability, a significant dosage of intimacy. In a way completely different than the former it severs with academic norms, the stylistic canon and also with the legislation characterizing the processes of birth and transformation of the avant-garde movements. The former is to be accessible to all, in accordance with the publicly accepted repertoire and financially viable; the latter does not respect ready-made solutions, or any recipes (whether for conformism or revolt), it is addressed in the name of its own shooting to a small gathering of recipients, on whom the resonance wants and can be relied on.

This former wants an art easy in appearances, the latter one that forces reflection. Maria Pinińska-Bereś’ work belongs to that family of creativity – in my opinion one of the most interesting and most ambitious – valued in fact in the context of actual cultural-civilization turning points which launches as the main principle the slogan ‘everything goes’.

The artist has practiced her art diligently in this self-same spirit since the end of the 1960s. She brought into existence her own artistic vocabulary and own iconography. She brought to virtuosity the expressiveness of her own qualities which cause her oeuvre to be instantly recognisable; i.e. of a defined colour gamut (chiefly of whites and pinks, in general of the values of the warm belt), of oval shapes, biogenes, snaky-curved, soft and spongy material, a range of objects according to the standards of the everyday world surrounding us in home interiors (cosily composed) as well as of elements whose symbolism is clear, or easily understood, associated with Eros. All of this makes up the setting aside of the elements of her femininity and through her femininity in general, that is of the primordiality which can be called uterine and which comes to the surface through ways which are unexplained. There is a certain mysterious aura which penetrates Pinińska-Bereś oeuvre. Her visible source is the ambiguity of the symbol which initiates. For the game of senses fulfilling her work (of the area which designates what is femininity and what its borders are) appears to be based on the counterpoint of bioforms and cultural forms. The bioforms are defended in an obvious way, the artist preserves a distance in the face of cultural structures. Bioforms talk of queenly dignity, which is a power equal to the king, for their thrones are in partnership. Bioforms blossom with flower-like infantas. There is in these not so much refined elegance, although its presence is impossible to miss, as invitation to some kind of radical, chthonic experiences, to chasms in which an initiation ritual may have taken place. Otherwise, it is with the presentation of one’s own charming little room with a tapestry, or the conversation of Two Graces. Accession is accompanied (in defense of this acute commonplaceness, giving a sense of being at home and safe) here by kind mockery; as if Pinińska warned against the banality, sentimentality, of the acceptance by women of the role assigned them. It is not known to the end (I have here hurried down various, contradictory paths) if the Well of Pink is threatened with overflowing, or can be an eternal source of energy; if the little whips on the S-cores are their own form of joke or also a memento of male and female elements (or about the two of them at the same time), perceiving that the meeting of penis and vagina is a matter not exclusively of wanton pleasure yet equally, and chiefly, a human matter of existence. This insinuated symbol of course does not represent any artistic defect whatsoever. In fact the opposite, enriching the work which is hindered with the most difficult of material, undoubtedly impossible for its satisfactory disentanglement.

This material and the mentioned counterpoint arising from it has been dealt with by representatives of the feminist movement for years – artists and academics (from the fields of philosophy, cultural anthropology, psychoanalysis etc.). This question – of the sexual and personal identity, and not simply of identity or ego, which is easier to deal with although equally never in a final sense – is the backbone of attainments upon human personality and the substance of culture. Pinińska did not join this movement, because this movement came to her. Within its framework fit her original testimonies on the struggle of the uterine element with the phallic. One would like to make use of Levinas’ idea of the dialogue nature of this collision, of the responsibility for the Other, opening up to Another in order to half open the door to the mystery which cannot be fully verbalized.

What surprised me from the first contact with Pinińska-Bereś’ work concerned the pink and white enveloping darkness on which encroaches the reflection aroused by her art. This dissonance is constantly present and newly discovered, because it uncovers by covering and vice versa. She indicates the femininity which in liberating its radical energy is forced to take on a self-defensive and simultaneously self-critical attitude. On the example of her artistic practice it suddenly leads towards the pre-eminence of sensuality saturated with perversity, towards smooth elegant colours, towards the provocation by the very surface of things as if by the bareness following the discarding of the dressing gown (which locates her in the course of the modernist tradition from Rops and Beardsley) to the collision with a completely different primacy – of primorial structures, soulful lust, depth where we set off after darkness, a return to the oldest of art. This collision fascinates and continues to make me test the receptivity of her work.

Will the artist consent to my conjectures and interpretations or will she treat them as a mere whim? It would be sufficient if my comments encouraged her to self-commentary for what she presents us with is no more the pure result of deep intuition as self controlling consciousness.

December 1998

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