No 3 (59) 2004
July - September

Memory Traces

The art by Tomasz Struk has always dwelt on the problem of memory. His unexpected, premature death in Berlin made the artist himself a trace to remember. His artistic heritage will be still present though the author has been gone.

Roman Lewandowski

Theoretician and art. critic. Curator of the Baltic Contemporary Art. Gallery in Słupsk. Lecturer at the Cracow Fine Arts Academy Inter Media Faculty.

Roman Lewandowski

This truly nomadic artist – living in Berlin, Paris, Katowice, however the list of his places of habitation is much longer – has left for ever at the very moment when it seemed that his creative space has been following his biography and its geographic directions. As early as the late 70’s, the works by Tomasz Struk pertained to the discourse between the time and the memory printed traces. In the Mnemozyne space reconstruction process, the absent has been recalled in the form of an engraving, an imprint, a raster. An authentic ability to trace the very essence of the memory routes, and to locate them in the human eschatological order has been striking in the creative effort by Struk. This has been already visible in his earliest works. Looking at it today, one can say that “The Absence Traces”1989 project – organized jointly with Roman Opałka and Loic le Groummellec in Katowice – was the very first complete implementation of his own program. The artist’s concept – as Bożena Kowalska wrote – was to contrast ancient history, going back to the human culture relics, with the contemporary art”. Here, the category of “repetition” was a method to recall and differentiate the past codes. In the screen processing series, pertaining to the topos of water (mostly sea), the materialization results in extremely subdued and symbolic repetitions. One has been faced here with the panta rhei quality. In turn, the time function has been written into a hexagon figure (known from the so called funeral portraits). In the later installations, entitled “Memory State”, Struk further used this figure to develop new base upon which he placed the wooden, streamlined forms. An original form of the funeral portrait has evolved to acquire new meaning connotations of the “boat”. The artist has been persistent in transforming his objects, thus constructing new aesthetic qualities. The Aristotle mimesis has given in to the pressure of the structure saturated with memory, thus – as the artist defined – this is the model that determines the form, as a result it becomes a representation, as well as an element of the communication game with the audience. Another method applied by the painter to re-establish the space and gesture was to recall “the former beings”. This has been specially true about screen processing raster, where Struk put “an image of a plank of wood” upon a wooden surface. This has been the escalation of the matter torn out from beneath, out of the tree rings. Further, the unveiled material worldliness has been visible in the “Without Title” series of works (1995-96), made in mixed acryl and clay technique on canvas and paper. The ground base covered surface has been polished by the author to reveal the time frozen within the painting structure. The complimentary method showed the genealogy of gesture, material and memory, since – as the artist noticed – “a model has always assumed the form evolution – this is the matrix that is prolonging its own existence”. Thus, a chain of constantly changing meanings has been projected in front of the viewer’s eyes, proving the matter memory. Nothing, however, has been conducted painlessly because all procedures are taking place within the language and its imposed rules. Tomasz Struk has been fully aware of this. By the same token, a deep consideration over the medium and its matrix has been a vital part of his creative effort. This is the observation formulated after watching his series entitled “The Raster” which was a type of the recycled offset technology. Besides being preoccupied with his art, Tomasz Struk was a curator of artistic events and collective exhibitions. “The Berliner”, an international exhibition – that I had an honor to co-organize with him in the Sektor I Gallery (Katowice) and the Kronika Gallery (Bytom) – was one of his last projects. The artist is present, through his works, in numerous museums – Warsaw, Szczecin, Bielsko – Biała, Bytom, Katowice, Kyoto, Seul, Frankfurt, to mention some of them; and in many Polish and foreign galleries. He was a winner of many awards, including the Katowice Polish Graphic Art Three Annual Exhibition Grand Prix and the Cracow International Graphich Art Three Annual Exhibition Grand Prix. He passed away at the prime age of 52.