Until 27 January 2019
Graphic art arises from the understanding of the material, the specificity of the process and the character of the matrix. These factors, migrating between the medium and the meaning, influence both its ways of depiction and the code of its perception. Today it is the dynamics of the material and the digital discourse, with their references to the changes in the forms of reality and materiality, that shape both the reception of and our relation to the real. Decoding these changes in our own terms and in terms of the places to which we remain attached is still the main field of interest of the graphic art.
The 10th Polish Graphic Art Triennial is an attempt at mapping such individual “ways of seeing” and the contents of contemporary matrices with their dynamic nature and new sources of energy that flows out of them.
Technological development opens to us new dimensions of reality. The emergence of innovative ways of digital imaging – including the form of simulation in virtual, augmented reality – has opened up the space which, on the one hand, abolishes the necessity of the image’s screen, on the other hand, opens the possibilities of multi-sensory interaction and communication. It expands the scope of the concept of the matrix, which, being also immaterial itself, imitates or creates its own reality. The increasingly advanced recording instruments are helpful in this process and become natural tools for graphic design, outlining a new space both in terms of the meaning and the media. It is manifested, among other issues, in the attempts at breaking the primacy of static visuality in favour of responsive images along with the entire code of interactions regulated by various types of input-output, changes in the relationship between the observer and the observed (frequently also observed by high quality and resolution cameras) as well as multisensory experiences.
The strategies of conceptualising the in-visibility find their instances also in the sphere of the physical materiality of the print, frequently exposing its flatness and planeness. At the same time, they radically reduce the image and pose questions about its current status, its scope and the limits of the possibilities of seeing. All this is especially apposite today in the times of unprecedented technological possibilities, but also of the widely sensed surplus of chaotic and aggressive, even though superficial, visual messages. The screen – and, to invoke the other meaning of the word, the curtain invites a highly relevant question about the possible alternative to the visual culture which surrounds and overwhelms us. The surplus of images, reinforced by the potential of their boundless repetition, is a model theme for contemporary graphic art and it finds its distinct representation in the exhibition.
Scrutinizing the matter is also discernible on the level of the identification of the trace – “a fundamental operatic value” and “an anthropological paradigm” of the graphic experiment. It is so particularly in the attempts at analysing its nature within the process: when it is simultaneously an echo of what has been or of what is to come, or, being neither one nor the other, it remains a context of some kind, a fragment of the cultural sense. A fragment, which once used to be merely a part, is elevated to the role of a visual representation constitutive of an ecosystem of cultural icons.
Such a structure of representing signs requires, in turn, an orderly pattern which creates various private repositories and cabinets of curiosities. They are expressions of aspirations to amass knowledge of the world (which today are materialized in digital means of processing information), but also to search for some order, often on one’s own and for one’s own purpose.
To some extent it is also an answer to the cataloguing craze that is widespread nowadays and to the readiness to document everything. But that is not all, enumerations, repetitions, and accumulations lead to the pursuit of some kind of principle, an algorithm suitable to describe various phenomena. Tidying the archive becomes the aim and the method.
Reinterpreting the space as a framework allowing to grasp the state of reality is a very widely problematised issue, from the extremely abstractly expressed “dimensions” of the space of perception and relation, through references to specific addresses and stories, to scientific geometry. Today, however, space in graphic art makes us aware of the importance of direct feeling. The influence of space and an intimate contact with places is something extra-sensual, something that we experience with our whole selves on the border of conscious experience. The space thus experienced transports us – in a sensual, intellectual, or spiritual way – to the sphere of memories, emotions, and associations. Imagining, experiencing, discovering, and shaping space is one of the main areas of reflection.
Digital reality has altered our attitude to subjectivity which, predictably, renders the idiom of traditional graphic art no longer transparent. Connected with it is an obviously new aesthetics construing this process of viewing and a processual character of graphic art which more and more often gains the meaning that is equivalent to the subject of the work. The expertise in the so-called “noble techniques” indicates a concrete line of interpretation – it is a conscious invocation of a specific code of imaging. Following the dominance of digital images, manual skills become “a new technology” again – traditional, analogue, real, and tangible.
For the graphic artist, the cultivation of classical techniques is first and foremost a form of an intimate contemplation of the world. It fills up the entire sphere of one’s internal life, attempting, through practice, to “purify the door of perception”. It furnishes a path of cognition based on graphic experience with all of its “limiting” nature both as regards natural cognitive abilities and the postulated necessity to impose limits upon oneself – in terms of the surplus and mass inflation of images. The physical matter mounts resistance, thanks to which it safeguards our trust, it is a support, a foundation, and a point of reference for the excess of temporal visuality. Moreover, the archaeology of classical graphic art, associated with leaving traces and imprints, will always be a starting point, creating a reflective horizon for all of its contemporary operations. It is, therefore, an attempt at arresting the physical dimension of work, a gesture of entering the matter. Hence, it is a way to accentuate the materiality of the painting itself, created as an effect of the “power of touch”. The appearance of forms in the process of imprinting a trace leads to a rediscovery of the imprint as a gesture, understood as leaving an authentic trace and one’s individual identity, and not only transgressing, but effectively opposed to the routine of a craftsman.
Furthermore, by reaching out to the substances, techniques and skills which have been excluded by contemporary processes and which attest to its identity, graphic art revives the question of the status of manuality understood as a relation between manual labour and technological development, with its whole array of direct and metaphoric consequences.
The convoluted interdependency between images and reality takes us to their morphology – this term, bordering between aesthetics and biology, is an apt exposition of the dual nature of the presence of the painting: its artificiality (imagery) and reality (the actual subject). It probes into what is revealed to us, what is deformed, and what is veiled in the process of the contact between the gaze and the object. In a creative manner it violates the confidence in what the object of our perception is, proposing instead abstracts (notions), which are meant to rationally utilise this uncertainty. In this way graphic techniques are practiced these days as a lab for materialising reflection on images and the role they may perform.
As indelible intermediary in our contact with reality, images construct our sensitivity and imagination. Technology plays an increasingly pivotal role in this process, with its fusion of content, form, and medium. As it turns out, precisely because of its specificity regulated by the substance, process, and matrix, the artistic competences of graphic art have a lot to offer in this respect. What is more, these features predestine it to face the problems determined by the contemporary matters of reality.
– Grzegorz Handerek
*First and foremost however (and fortunately), graphic art contains within itself an intimate and private aura which eludes attempts at simple linguistic identifications.
The ungraspable nature of its traces is always present beyond the surface and is grounded in the truth of the individual experience.