No 1 (89) 2012
January - March

The Power of Connections

The feminine power has been a distinguishing feature of the pictures by Olga Wolniak. This has been visible in the powerful palette of her ornamental forms, decorative patterns of fabrics and laces, softly folding tapestries.

Lena Wicherkiewicz

Historian and art critic, curator. She publishes texts on contemporary art.

Lena Wicherkiewicz

THE FEMALE RELATED MOTIVES HAVE BEEN LONG PRESENT IN HER OUTPUT - from the first pictures illustrating women busy with housework and everyday chores, through the "You Will Never Escape from This" existential project prepared with Bogna Gniazdowska (the Dziekanka Gallery, 1992). This time, the "feminine element" has been presented in more symbolic form, not as straightforward as earlier. Olga Wolniak has brought back traditionally female areas of art through the pictures that offer fragments of handmade decorative items - carpets, tapestries, embroideries, laces. Feminine handcrafts - weaving, embroidery and - to move further - singing, storytelling; everything - objects, words, sounds that cover female tradition and genealogy. Culture reserved for women a second place in life - it deprived them of their surnames, their history and mother derived genealogies, skipping the history of women in the world history. In art alike, women take a secondary position. Olga Wolniak - by means of repeating in her painting anonymous gestures of the authors of carpets, embroideries and laces - has elevated their efforts to the rank of art, and unveiled their nameless life stories. The feminine painting by Olga Wolniak does not seem to be "rebellious". She has rather aspired to develop a plane of understanding, to speak up for the female road, the language of art and sensitivity.

Decorative tapestries hide meticulously handed over truths of life and the primeval, symbolic order. The fabric reveals, and simultaneously covers, a mystery - the "archaic ontology". Today most signs, mandalas, solar symbols, genealogical trees are undecipherable, one sees them merely as rich, intricate compositions. Repeating the ornaments with a painting gesture, Olga Wolniak has made an effort to read their meanings and bring back long forgotten senses. It could be that her painting, in its deeper layer, stands up for the roots of art which - according to the essay on the root of art by Wiesław Juszczak - remain in the religious image of the world. Original role of ornamental compositions and patterns was not at all decorative; the logic of order and geometry hid symbolic, spiritual contents.

The repetitiveness of an ornament had something ritualistic in its nature. Symmetry and order reflected stability to counteract the changeability of the world. Why, after her first expressive, figurative series of pictures, has Olga Wolniak moved towards nearly abstract, meditation oriented painting? Color might provide a clue. The color as a medium of an element and power. Scrupulous rendition of a pattern, a certain type of copying, have not been the main purpose of this painting. Painting renders legible contents in the most direct manner through its palette, as she has written in one of the texts describing her work.

The power of painting by Olga Wolniak refers to inter human relations, personal links and connections. Tensions and feelings. Her pictures provide specific types of portraits; they convey an individual aura of persons and related situations. The "tangible qualities", double present in her painting, refer to personal aspects. First of all - the process of painting itself, as a work done with hands; secondly - a reference to the way fabrics are made - the tapestries and carpets being the topics of her pictures are handmade. The reality and emotions are tangible...

Interpretations of the work by Olga Wolniak most frequently refer to Eastern decorative art, mainly eastern carpets. Luxury items that hold a symbolic value and mark space. If one follows this track, it is worth mentioning the symbol of carpet as a reflection of Paradise, and the legend how it was dispersed. Thus, an arduous effort by the artist - to trace and record ornamental motives and sequences borrowed from various cultures - could be approached as an aspiration to reunite the scattered fragments and bring back the image of paradise; a search for the absolute beauty.