Byzantine Nostalgia

Address ul. Jazdów 2, Warszawa
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Curator Viktoria Burlaka

Byzantine nostalgia – this is how Tadeusz Kantor poetically described the intentions of the work of Jerzy Nowosielski, whose birth centenary we recently celebrated. His painting, fascinated by the bizarre co-existence of two dimensions – sacrum and profanum, spirituality and corporeality, mysticism and rationality, the desire for the absolute and intense erotic experiences - became the starting point for the explorations that led to this exhibition. Nowosielski was one of the most important metaphysicians of the twentieth century, and this metaphysics was born at the intersection of Eastern and Western cultural traditions.

The idea of the Byzantine Nostalgia project is to search for similarities between Polish and Ukrainian art and to find their common sources in culture. It is not so much about the style of the icon, the way of painting, as it is about the pull towards a metaphysical timeless reality. In the past, directing towards it was the main task of art, today this is no longer the case. Contemporary art is a carrier of meanings relevant to the moment - from philosophy and politics to psychoanalysis.

However, the need to "look behind the scenes" remains extremely strong – like the basic instinct that drives art. We feel compelled to ask ourselves what or who is behind the painting. If God was once there, who is there now? The void? The Great Nothing, as Kazimir Malevich claimed? The main aspiration of the avant-garde was not, as is commonly believed, formal experimentation, but the search for a 'higher reality', the true one. At the origin of avant-garde trends - from suprematism to surrealism - lay the conviction of the primacy of the extrasensory world over the material one.

Mid-20th century modernism – from abstract expressionism to minimalism - with its idea of the 'tautological object' abolished the notion of the image. It came to mean that a work of art does not reflect anything, but simply exists. Thus, the idea of mimesis, which has driven art since antiquity, seems to have come to an end. Henceforth, self-defining art was to become God, to replace the absolute. Aesthetic fundamentalism, which assumes that the deep essence of a work is 'the work itself', is one of the dominant beliefs today. Postmodern metaphysics, according to which the whole history of art, an endless labyrinth of allusions, is hidden in the image, is also popular… These considerations can be continued for a long time – the understanding of the 'fullness' of an image may vary, but it was the concentration of the metaphysical sense that was the main criterion by which artists of different generations and currents were selected for the exhibition.

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