No 2 (90) 2012
April - June

Buffalo Skin of the Artist

The exhibition of works by Ryszard Grzyb, covering the period of recent eleven years, put up at the Wrocław Arttrakt Gallery, is small, showing less than thirty pieces. Several pictures, and first of all, works on paper - watercolors, drawings in coal and in dry pastels.

Lena Wicherkiewicz

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

Lena Wicherkiewicz

THE PIECES, SELECTED FOR THE WROCŁAW EXHIBITION, illustrate well the "decorative" trend and exploration of pure painting values, present in the output by the artist as of early 90's. These are compositions at most times reduced to a single motive, frequently animal oriented, refined with regard to both, the palette and structure. These features show, regardless of the applied technique: painting, watercolor, drawing in coal or pastel. Simultaneously, every technique reveals different face of Ryszard Grzyb, an artist. As a painter, he is mainly a sophisticated colorist. The same applies to his pastels, the palette is still important here, nevertheless, the compositions and backgrounds offer a rich selection of details, while the drawing gains more significance. Watercolors are most reserved. These compositions have been reduced to a single motive, colorful emblem, a sign; in most cases an animal shape "decorated" with an ornamental pattern in color. He is a calligrapher - surrealist, as far as drawings in coal are concerned. He develops animal - human hybrids and mysterious phantasmagoria visions. The subject matter of works by Ryszard Grzyb has remained unchanged for years. For a long time one has been faced with his bestiary of shelled rhinoceros and turtles, deft hares and deer (many would like to interpret these as symbols which the artist strongly denies), as well as creatures unknown to biologists. Further, there have been other recurrent motives, such as death, the Artaud theater of cruelty and Eastern elements. This painting repetitiveness, the motives - rhymes ever present in his series have been the path leading to perfection, development of an artistic "shell" or "buffalo skin".

The latest works by Ryszard Grzyb have acquired the clarity typical of his poetry. The paintings and drawings have been playful and concise as a haik, characterized by the synergy of form and palette, but first of all, by energy, the latter feature has been unchangeable. Nevertheless, for some years now these energy vibrations seem to lead in different direction than earlier. Utmost, towards what used to be called the "painting culture". The artist has been constantly developing and mastering painting oriented solutions. The earlier dominating expressive bluntness and strong impetus - that frequently defined the form for a contemporary subject, though not always presented directly - have been transformed into the vital force full of energy and the joy of creation, the creation, in a sense, for the creation own sake. Certain features of the artistic attitude by Grzyb has been sustained for years: nearly childlike joy of creation, and uncompromising approach. And laughter. The special skill to look at the reality with happy detachment that protects one from taking the painting easy.

Ryszard Grzyb has returned to classical painting topics, i.e., still life. He would not have been himself, however, if he had approached this classic theme classically. Individual elements of the composition have been fixed and blown-up, as though in photography. This has been the case of "Confucius and Rhinoceros" (2009) where the silhouettes of main characters have been presented larger than life, so as they lost a connection with their respective prototypes. The impression of "not being real" has been intensified by means of an abstract background. The composition has been turned into a study of form and color, the expression of a very material, sensual, vivid vision of the world.

Further, contrasts, ambiguities, paradoxes belong to the matter of his poetry. Talking to Leszek Czajka about motivations for his artistic efforts, Grzyb stresses that he has a strong need to talk about reality in not abstract manner. It is hard to overlook, however, that even though figuration is a dominant quality of his art, the motives and forms seem to be independent, seen mainly from the artistic perspective, deprived of direct links with reality. In the above sense, they have been related to the abstract way of thinking, the thinking in terms of pure painting qualities. There have been many other "abstract" threads in the painting by Grzyb: backgrounds, free ornamentation, planes of an intense, local color.

The most recent works by Grzyb have offered a symbiosis between the poetic vision of the world and the world of visual forms. He has released the poetic, autonomous quality of shape and color. Eeach time universal and clear.

Ryszard Grzyb, "We Can Talk Everywhere by Means of Gestures", the Arttrakt Gallery, Wrocław, March - April 2012.