No 2 (82) 2010
April - June

About Leśniaks

If the essence of art has always involved the visual horizon expansion combined with the progress and protection of spirituality, then this benchmark fits the output by Janusz Leśniak sustainable developed from the early 80’s to day.

Krzysztof Jurecki

B. in 1960. Art historian, AICA member. Lecturer at the Łódź Academy of Arts and Design.

Krzysztof Jurecki

In his case, photography is not an artificial "laboratory" entity, but a dreamy world reality, nevertheless true  and authentic. Has this been a manipulation? I would rather say that this has been created over and over again, and made meditative. As though searching for its own final confirmation.

The beginning of the project, defined by a neologism "the leśniaks", goes back to 1985. An interesting photo entitled "Zakliczyn" was taken in 1989. Shadows of several characters (it is an exception that more than one figure has been shown) - "disturbed" with regard to the composition - have been hidden in the reach texture of a wall; thus resembling the arrangement of the one of the Photograms by Bronisław Schlabs. This has marked a start of poetic mixture of the real with the unreal.

The art by Leśniak has been certainly influenced by visual photography, also referred to as "photographic" or "straight", as well as illusionist and abstract painting experience. He has focused on exploring the shadow structure and its various arrangements in order to achieve diversified types of perspective. Thus created image either hides, or reveals, a shadow of the artist, occasionally, a shadow of his wife. The shadow has been registered in a number of forms, including the "suspension", as though it were a ghost spread over the water. The artist has faced a challenge - like Lee Friedlander, a famous American photographer in the 70's - attempting to multiply his own self which has been reduced to a minimum, nevertheless rendering as much as possible.

In the 90's, Leśniak has expanded his scope to include color, and by the same token, to complement the shadow real aspects and to show the existence of man in more trustworthy manner; providing one assumes that the new approach to color increases the message reality. Undoubtedly, this has been the tradition of humanistic photography, based on the belief in spirituality and the prime mover of art. There is no place for pessimism, rather for a moderate joy of life. It is worth stressing that the photographer has paid a great attention to natural structure of various types of optical sets offered by window panes. One of the 2001 photographs from Łańcut, gives an impression that one of the photographed shadows is three dimensional.

A subsequent stage of his creative path started in 2006. The artist consciously turned to mandala forms and arrangements and their protective role. He applied the movement and their focal length, thus achieving incredible dynamics and an extremely diversified palette. It is hard to decipher there the arrangements of reality  transformed into dematerialized sets; charming and ephemeral. This is the photography intentionally deprived of conceptual qualities to achieve the unpredictable, nevertheless possible to curb.

Leśniak has followed a long and consistent artistic path. The question remains, where will lead his  creative intuition next? Is there an area that can be still included into his shadow formula? This is the photography - described by Marek Jańczyk in the text Man is the Dream of a Shadow - that refers to night dreaming as Man Ray did. It is obvious that a dream cannot be photographed, nevertheless its atmosphere can be rendered. On the other hand, as in the output by Stanisław Woś - Leśniak has not been mainly preoccupied with a night dream; this would have been too simple. He has focused on a formula close to meditation and universalistic transcendence leading to man and nature sacralization. The artist has neither described, nor copy the reality. Instead, he has merely suggested how it looks like. He has presented his own state of mind, contemplating the natural world combined with calm down of his own psyche. I am happy that there exist such artists as Leśniak. Our life would have been easier within the framework of his approach to art. His output being an evidence that the art in Aristotle and Plato sense does exist. What is still lacking in this photography? Possibly, this does not show the drama of life. On the other hand, one can argue that the artist has been liberated, passed this stage, and he does not need it anymore. He is a representative of the art beyond the defined place and time. In this respect, he reminds the concept of an Orthodox icon. And this is very valuable.

Janusz Leśniak, "Man Is a Dream of a Shadow", the Photography History Museum, Cracow, November 2009-January 2010.