Fotograf Magazine

Rafał Bujnowski

The phenomenon of “new painting from Poland” was born more than a decade ago. And despite the fact that it does not cultivate any unified style, that it does not create a group and that it works in a diffused manner, on the international scene it is brought together by its special humour and high quality. The young artists‘ stances at first reacted critically to the prior periods such as social realism and also to the strong wave of conceptual art. In the mid-1990s a group of young students from the Cracow Academy outlined a contrary (protest) stance against their professors and the latter’s vague approach to evaluation. First and foremost Wilhelm Sasnal, Marcin Maciejowski and Rafał Bujnowski refused this flawless “pretty” pictorial diction from their teachers. It was after this term “ładnie” that they named their group and since that time a new era of Polish painting has become a term in and of itself. Although throughout the 1990s primarily conceptual art and video art were characteristic for the Polish scene. These (genres) used socially-critical installations to attack the conservative and strongly Catholic milieu. Pure painting was considered to be insufficiently critical and non-contemporary, and therefore even the new generation did not limit itself just to painting, but also worked with film and photography and created ironically-abstracted images.

Today members of the Ładnie group are now lone runners, who have conquered the international contemporary art market. Nonetheless one can describe their work as diverse, clever and refreshing, even if differently so from, for example, the realism of the “New Leipzig School.” Rafał Bujnowski (1974) is probably the most radical representative. His painting approach is consciously conceptual. The theme of his work, which in addition to painting includes objects, videos and events, is the blurring of the difference between the artist’s persona and the painter “artisan” as well as the conventions tied to the social role of the artist and artworks. He paints subjects – like homes, cars, marital scenes, children, windows, wooden rafters or the pope – many times over. Several fast, yet exact, sweeps of the brush capture everyday motifs. Bujnowski produces his canvases as if he had pressed the button on a camera. His borderline abrupt style of reduction comments the state of pure fact. Canvas after canvas he shows reality without depth or illusion, similar to his indefinite stance toward the state of society. Painted “replicas” of common objects have the artist’s approval but are at the same time a sarcastic response without further commentary and their meaning is disclosed in relation to their surroundings. The images’ seemingly lacklustre smoothness and analytical character count on the viewer’s active participation in the process of perception.

Bujnowski destroyed the romantic concept of painting. Aura and iconography play no role. Most important is the number of painted canvases. It’s as if his approach to painting had turned into a utilitarian gesture, or rather a necessary record of the normal aspects of everyday life. It refutes the principle of originality and reduces caricature to the level of absurdness. Painted series of isolated objects, placed on a neutral uniform background and balancing on the edge of the monochromatic, are as direct as possible. Yet despite this they expose an almost paradoxical complexity. In his painting Bujnowski purposely surrenders a certain dexterity so that each of his strokes will contribute to the clear definition of the content. It is the artist’s undisputable visual talent and painter’s exactness, besides his conceptual focus and subjects themselves, that follow the possibilities of expression.

Lucie Drdová