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Harmony and Tension: The Art of Jerzy Nowosielski and Woman as an Existential Medium

The exhibition The art of Jerzy Nowosielski: a woman, a beach, an instrument of torture, a street…. presents 20 serigraphs by the artist from the 1990s and is organized by the Polish Institute of Rome. The curator of the exhibition Maria Anna Potocka writes:

Jerzy Nowosielski it is an ark of the alliance between Orthodox and Catholic cultures. He has reworked the rules of both religions to his advantage. He took from each of them what was sublime and mystical. He was not afraid of sin. He was a sexual dreamer. The woman, in her various incarnations, is the protagonist of his art. She appears as a saint or goddess, sometimes as the commander of a ship or a gymnast, in the most extreme versions as a traitor or victim. Nowosielski loved women and tormented them, because they aroused in him mystical ecstasy and physical desire. The woman in his art is an existential medium. Behind this artistic charm lies a spiritual passion derived from his admiration for female beauty and perfection.

There are, for those who want to dabble in the obsolete art of writing, some moments in which writing becomes a need, not just a pastime, at least if intended as a meditation. One of those moments is now running through my veins, as happens especially when I approach contemporary art, I feel an increase in salivation that pierces the cell membranes, running without inhibitions from the amygdala to the carpal bones of the wrist and then down to the phalanges of the index finger and thumb. This makes me flood the printed paper on which I rest my pen, as I think can be understood from the useless introduction that has just been written.

However, when I entered the hallway of the Polish Institute in Rome, where the works, silkscreens from the 1990s, were on display, I immediately realized that I was in close proximity to an artist destined to soon become a classic of contemporary art, even if notoriety is not yet widespread, known mostly as he is in his homeland or among art history buffs. Jerzy Nowosielski, born in 1923 under the constellation Capricorn, led a profligate life, although he was an academy professor several times, first of fabric decoration and then of painting. The artist's life was plagued by alcoholism; Jerzy lived intensely until his death recently in 2011. It was not uncommon to find him in bars, exchanging a painting for a bottle of vodka, according to the testimony of critic Maria Anna Potocka.

Jerzy Nowosielski
Jerzy Nowosielski

Moving on to the art criticism of his work and why he is leaving a mark in the history of contemporary art, Jerzy Nowosielski's style is relatively young. We cannot place him in the prevailing abstract pictorial style of contemporary times but not even in a classical figuratism. His is a synthesis between the two conceptions and interpretations of reality. Nowosielski moves between these two ways of representing and, his distillation, is the summary that a layman could make of the duality of the sacred and the profane, but which not by chance masks his soul by finding refuge in the iconicity of the Greek and Orthodox religious .

His path moves on a vision that betrays the expressionism to which at first glance we feel we associate him to move towards a pictorial surrealism of religious iconicity, of Orthodox inspiration but of Catholic culture and which finally inclines towards Rothko but without completely saturating the aesthetic vision. His abstraction stops before the mystique of his sexual dreams, in the act of personal and critical denunciation that he moves in his paintings, the need to be understood is evident. For this reason, his painting is authentic and sincere, because we can see a personal need for expressiveness which finds its concept in his muse, the femme, motive and self-sacrifice. For him, woman is an outlet for his compulsions, he has a unique artistic vision, parallel and opposite to the pictorial one of Modigliani, whose sphinx-like figures in his eyeless paintings still preserve a soul. It is as if Novosielski were living his incarnation in the salvation and martyrdom of Christon the canvas, pouring out all the admiration and jealousy he nourishes, in the appearance and compassion of his passion which lives like a slow and atrocious agony.

Jerzy Nowosielski
Jerzy Nowosielski, swimer, 1998

His figures are silhouettes, without eyes, mouths and ears, channels of communication with the outside par excellence. The erotic-mystical dimension places emphasis, through a classical exposition, on femininity in art. Breasts, hips and heels are accentuated, as if to bring the woman closer to God in the power she has over man, but only showing his erotic, not personal side. The artist does not paint anything else recognizable, as if she did not want to admit a present subjectivity. The figure of the woman therefore becomes a hostile absent presence, which excites him, but does not welcome him. In the history of modern art it is not so usual. While still placing them at the center of a religious and spiritual vision, the women portrayed are dark and phocomelic, as if they were portals to a mysterious beyond of consciousness, viaticums to which the painter entrusts all the hopes and guilt that life has provided him, but which do not promise salvation for the male individual except indimension of their instinctc. Icon of Polish art, Jerzy Nowosielski, portrays the message with the medium he uses, his color backgrounds are flat, without depth, perspective or nuances, almost to indicate the poverty and simplicity in which his work is placed, but also to recall the classicism of the original religious icons, as they have always been depicted.

Jerzy Nowosielski's international fame will be based in the figurative abstraction of which he is an exponent and will give artistic immortality to Polish culture and the contribution it has made to art in the 20th century

Pier Paolo Piscopo



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