No 2 (94) 2013
April - June

Sensuality and Intellectual Control

Lech Kunka was on a grant in Paris in the academic year 1948-1949. At that time he was a student of the State Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź, and as a number of his colleagues, he was under a strong influence of Władysław Strzemiński.

Grzegorz Sztabiński

An artist. Professor at the Łódź University and Academy of Fine Arts. He publishes texts on aesthetics and art. history.

Grzegorz Sztabiński

NEVERTHELESS, IN PARIS he has not chosen the faculty run by Georges Braque (as suggested by the scholarship founders), but the one by Fernand Léger. This decision, proving young artist's independence, has been quite characteristic. Léger was considered a follower of cubism whose specific oeuvre clearly showed an interest in various visual signs of modern reality. Kunka proved similar sensitivity. However, he has not given up the teachings by Strzemiński. His Paris sketchbooks contain numerous analysis of pieces of art seen in museums, conducted with regard to the method of visual perception test that he had learnt from his Łódź Professor.

After he returned from Paris the young artist focused on the role of sensual impressions on one hand, and on the search for order - on the other. These were his most characteristic features. He generally pursued representative painting, nevertheless related to formal experiments. He has borrowed from Léger a thick black contour to outline shapes of the represented figures and objects. However, he did not limit color spots to thus marked areas. Colors frequently escaped the outline and lived the life of their own. Occasionally the artist introduced elements inspired with the collage technique. The most famous piece of this type is The Picture Painted with the Press. It depicts two young people. Their silhouettes show the titles of cultural magazines then published in Poland. Another example is A Farmer with a Hen. A female figure, located at the side of the main character from the title, carries a motive of a folk paper cutout. These pictures prove that the artist paid more attention to the painting solutions introduced to the picture plain than to an analysis of the presented reality.

Kunka had carefully observed and analyzed his creative progress. Most likely his last notes go back to 1957 (this is the last date mentioned) when he described his painting evolution process from the mid thirties. He accurately marked subsequent stages of his artistic transformations, looking for logical rules behind them. Final notes refer to new materials and techniques he started to apply. In this period he gave up black contours suggesting a reference to everyday reality. Further, he expanded and differentiated the painting matter. His pictures brought to one's mind associations with structural abstraction. Critics underlined evocative references to microscope images or views of the Cosmos as seen through a telescope. Kunka indicated this line of interpretation by means of the titles. The matter structures he created were governed by composition rules that (following Strzemiński) related to the proportions of the plain they were presented on. Considering intellectual prerequisites, one can understand the artist's decision, adopted in the early 70's, to shift towards abstract geometry. In this period Kunka rejected multicolored overflowing areas of paint, while preserving textural elements fixed onto his pictures, such as corks, screw tops, rubber wheels. This time, however, they were subordinated to strict geometric rules. An attentive look at his pictures lets one discover that besides obvious regularities, there are subtle visual effects - lightened or darkened areas, different look of the piece depending upon a viewer's position.

Continuation of the Butterflies series, initiated in the early 60's, is an evidence that sensual qualities have not lost their significance for the artist in the final stage of his work. These pictures provide a synthesis of geometric elements enriched with sensuality. Possibly the creative stand by Kunka can be summed up as the "geometry of a butterfly"?

Lech Kunka, "The Retrospective", the City of Łódź Museum, March - April 2013.