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You cannot miss these paintings. The intensity and energy of their colour make you notice them from a distance at each exhibition. Even though Barbara Palka-Winek emphasises her Upper Silesian origin, interpreting her fabulous red and bold colour solutions through a stereotype of “black Silesia” longing for a colour would be a huge simplification. The more so because playing with colour constitutes only a fragment of her painting’s essence, an important one but still a fragment. Her search full of emotions embraces the entire painting matter. Starting from a delicate sfumato, she goes to a strong, thick texture, from soft, nearly fluid forms to hard surface. She uses non-painting materials and incorporates them fully into her composition. She lets her painting go beyond the canvas, attack space with shapes and colour, appropriate light and build shadows with sculpting textures. In her own, mysterious ways, she reaches this special light and glitter not only on the painting’s surface. Regardless of the nature and subject of individual series, Barbara Palka-Winek’s paintings always exude this special kind of joy – the joy of creation. They become a journey across the elements of diverse matter which is exciting also for us – viewers. The painter has already dealt with abstraction but she stayed with figuration – not necessarily literal one as she needs no literalness. No matter if we mean the “Screens” or “Obsessions,” Barbara Palka-Winek does not report the ordinary nature of the world to us. We can say (with a high degree of probability) that she paints mainly emotions for which she tries to find the most accurate shape, light and temperature of colour. Emotions by definition are not lukewarm. The emotions in Barbara Palka-Winek’s paintings are filled with red. Red is not only a colour with a definite temperature. It is placed, as she says, “in the middle of basic elements of painting thus dividing the reality of matter and spirit.” This painting’s emotionality makes it a very personal experience. If we are attracted by the exceptional intensity of colour, kept by the matter vividness and worried by the emotional strength, the unusually personal tone we find there will make us walk away with more than just a mark of a painting reflected on our retinas. (Jolanta Antecka)
Vision is the art of seeing things
invisible. (Jonathan Swift)
The leitmotif of the Barbara Palka-Winek paintings is a woman with her deep and complex psyche. The artist’s intellectual digressions that go beyond this subject function on its fringes in the form of painting issues of philosophical and metaphysical nature. In the phenomena that the artist examines outside her microcosm – femininity, we can recognise this basic and universal element on which the specific sensitivity of a man and a woman can be built. In many of her works, the artist took up a discourse in which she had to incorporate “the curiosity of the reason,” i.e. the capability enabling both men and women to “sail” outside their own bodies. The woman’s body is her home that she leaves unwillingly and on which she pins her hopes. Her body will always be the place in which the Mystery begins. It does not free her from looking at the stars and from several anxieties that turn into obsessions. These are the portraits presenting a woman as a mysterious, enigmatic creature, maybe even unknown to herself. And there is no more theology in it. These are not the portraits of a divine creature who despite being close does not show her face and we feel her breath as if she stood behind. These are the portraits of women staring into the mirror, studying their own physiognomy and depth. The face is therefore the mirror of the soul for the artist. Mondrian’s views on art subject to geometric logic and expressed by an analytical approach to colour constitute one of the main points for discussion. Barbara Palka-Winek’s painting is diametrically opposed to this rational art. It is distant from a measured calculation. Rather dynamic, vivid, exciting and overwhelming by the heat of fire.
The artist tried to maintain the compromise between the realistic “calligraphy” and full abstraction. While standing between these two types of artistic expression, the painter wants to avoid literalness and, on the other hand, she avoids ambiguity and unjustified speculations that result only from the emotional perception of a work of art. The painting luminescence is the artist’s major formal problem. She achieves this special, artistic effect thanks to her own painting technology inspired by the glaze technique with the use of a transparent polymer. The glazed and luminous form is an artistic impulse. It overcomes the “superficial” layer of a work of art and encourages you to enter it deeply with your own imagination. The Curtain (Screen) is a barrier to all theological and intellectual simplifications. The Screen enables us to reasonably and honestly interpret the visible world. This world we live in, while veiling what determines its sense, requires the right interpretation. If, as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry writes, “words are the source of misunderstandings,” we need to use another way of defining phenomena. This other way is painting that goes beyond the sphere of verbalisation.
Imago – Image is only a representation, a pictogram of the phenomenon for which a specific form has been developed. The closer the semantic capacity of an artistic symbol is to the essence of the phenomenon, the better representation it creates. Things exist in our consciousness according to their names – definitions. The paradox of art is that the great collective effort of people creating representations undergoes gradual petrification. The representation becomes a self-contained being and functions as an independent phenomenon. Art finds its justification in itself. In the subsequent painting series following the Screens, their author seems to get rid of “the appropriateness” when giving her works distinctive titles. This is because she uses expressions that do not describe a given painting but attribute a specific tone to it. Among the works from the Imago series, there are such titles as Flymuter, Angel, Ektoimago, Imago-metamorphose, White imago, Fluoroimago, Marabo, Imago Odonata, Red Imago. Just as in the Screens, also in this series, the painting background is the outline of a human, female figure. However, in the Imago series, it undergoes colour-oriented transformations. The leitmotif that introduces the subject of a human body into the painting assumes the form of a splash of colour well integrated in terms of colours and composition. White Imago is complemented by blues, whereas Fluoroimago is a “galactic,” shining area that becomes part of the whole painting’s fluorescence. These closed worlds are perfect as regards colour solutions.
Barbara Palka-Winek’s painting is closely connected with all the aspects of woman’s functioning. The subjective experience of her own feminine nature makes the artist use the models of femininity. These elements reflect the dynamics of human corporeality and psyche subject to transformation and development. The archetype embraces the divine element that originates a rational being, i.e. a human. In psychology, an archetype is a symbolic formula containing original images and behaviours. With its emotional charge, it is a reflection of instinctive reactions to particular situations strengthened by the experience of past generations. Between the archetype of a woman-Aphrodite or the Madonna and a femme fatale, there are many other archetypical, female incarnations and behaviours. Body, corporeality constitutes the space of the painting. For Barbara Palka-Winek, this is one of the main archetypes. No matter if artists choose the metaphysics by Philo of Alexandria or psychoanalysis by Carl Gustav Jung at the further stage of their work, corporeality will still be the materia prima for them. Female and maybe also male pheromones – Scents function in this bodily space, this is the place to present the Mental Imago as an archetype of feminine mentality. The unearthliness of a figure presented in an ephemeral and ethereal way in the white, fading space of the Archetype of a Woman can be perceived in an archetypical dimension in which the truth about a woman is expressed.
Barbara Palka-Winek’s Obsessions are a series of the artist’s most direct and personal expressions. Obsession is not a delusion but a state of consciousness in which feelings are selected. We want to free ourselves from some of them and oppose the other. Art makes an effort to meet the needs of this internal experience.The artist’s obsessions revolve around human affairs. The archetype of a woman reappears in this series as the artist herself is a woman and knows best the human pain a woman can feel. It is, however, not a series of human affairs expressed e.g. in social tragedies that is important for Barbara Palka-Winek but the “inside” of a human being. The artist records these phenomena and tries to give them names. They include Wild Orchids looking as if they were hidden behind a screen of a human body, Fobiotures “crawling” with fantastic animals, Tango penetrated by a vertical eye of a demiurge and Coconida – a woman tied up in a cocoon, the mirror in Little Fobiosa reflects her obsessions and Creatures present one of several women exposed to the wind.The original form of this record that embraces the artist’s all works makes us classify her art as a separate and special phenomenon in the Polish modern painting.
(Henryk Pyka PhD)