2017 – 2019
Doctoral dissertation – The Strength of an Exhausted Gesture
The gesture and expression in painting as an inexhaustible source of the artist’s identity. Associate Professor Dominik Lejman,
University of the Arts in Poznan – Department of Painting and Drawing
The Power of an Exhausted Gesture
My doctoral dissertation, The Power of Exhausted Gesture. The gesture and expression in painting as an inexhaustible source of the artist’s identity, devoted to theoretical studies on gesture, understood as an active means of voicing emotions in human development and his creative expression. The result of this research is reflected in my thoughts on the effects of 20th-century artistic expression on contemporary art. I am also referring to my personal artistic practice. In exploring the issue of „ruthlessness of the gesture” and „exhaustion of the gesture” in today’s art, I wondered whether the „expressive gesture” itself is an integrated attitude of the artist, an expression his internal world, or just an exhausted one that imitates the artistic strategy of the past years. Describing the processes of the formation of human emotions and their expression examined in the last century, at the same time looking at the creative development of man from the first cave drawings to the development of the child’s own self in the expression of children’s’ art, I focus on various aspects of experiencing gesture, amongst others I also took interest in the relation of psychological, unconscious currents in the act of creating and disclosing the hidden content of the human psyche in art. In the following chapters of my dissertation, I will outline selected issues related to the expressionism of the 1980s appearing in Polish, European and American art. Those trends had an impact on me, also growing up in those times – in the culture of neo-expressive art and Orange Alternative happenings and the first social graffiti, influenced my artistic choices in a high degree. In particular, I draw attention to the so-called anti-art, understood as an avant-garde opposition to fashionable aesthetic trends of that time. In my work, I also take into account the importance of honesty in an artistic gesture, its transformation (understood as a redefinition) based on selected contemporary artistic attitudes, relying on on spontaneity or premeditation. My considerations are a selected fragment of a wider phenomenon related to the need to create art and the reasons for expressiveness. Investigating and describing the „beginnings” of the creative gesture, its emotional „first fruits”, allowed me to broaden my knowledge on expressiveness in art in general and in my work in particular. Thanks to this, I understood more broadly the sense of shaping my inner world, my psyche by merely experiencing the „expressiveness” of intentions and the manifestation of emotions. The threads discussed in this work are very important and close to me. Moving the subject of expression of the 80s of the 20th century, with a strong emphasis on Polish art of that period, allowed me to understand my personal artistic rebellion and even place it in creative independence and expression itself.
I grew up on Polish expressive culture, alongside the activities of the Łódź Kaliska group, concerts and exhibitions of the Leeeaże Community, and I participated in happenings of the Orange Alternative movement. The perverse title of my dissertation: The strength of the exhausted gesture and its ending: „Tseg” – the word „gesture” read from the right to left, is another testimony to my artistic attitude. I do not quite care about understanding what I feel during the act of creation and what great emotions accompany me during painting. As I splash paint on the canvas and paint using gestures, immersed in my world, trying to discover internal emotions, so in writing about art I attempt to understand myself again. At the same time, I agree with Georg Bazelitz, who thinks that writing about painting is NONSENSE. The artist speaks through a work of art, through a gesture – this is the way he communicates with the recipient and the world. We do not live in a void, however, that is why I analyse myself and my work in reference to the title „power of exhausted gesture” and this dissertation is also a story about it. I am interested in gesture exploited in the history of art and in the new creative conventions. Gesture can become a kind of new dialogue between the artist and the environment. At the same time, I came to the conclusion that, in the old convention, gesture was adequate to the times in which the Neue Wilde and neo-expressionists lived. Gesture is therefore associated with the social problems of the modern world, and on the other hand it is closely related to the artist’s identity. In the last century, emotional, expressive painting worked on the imagination and feelings of the artists themselves and recipients of art as a convention of counterculture, rebellion against art and authority. However, it eventually underwent repetition and mythologization in playing on the same emotions . One of the most important conclusions I reached when writing this dissertation is the deep conviction that in my opinion the expressive gesture in painting has not exhausted all its possibilities, it can still be transformed, but using it in the convention and context of the 1980s is inauthentic. Therefore, the issue of the honesty of gesture that I raised in my dissertation requires a new reformulation of this concept in the message of artistic expression, creating new emotions and tensions, in a process of constant re-evaluation. Of course, we can talk about „gesture after gesture”, in which case the concept of reconstruction appears, the sense of which is again to look at gesture in a new role, assuming its use in the form of a quote. While researching the history of art for the purpose of this dissertation, I noticed that this is particularly the case in the context of feminist and postcolonial art and abstract post-expressionism, described in my work on selected examples of artistic attitudes in which the expressive gesture itself assigned to the „male” dominance becomes a new narrative exploration. In my dissertation I also examine the concept of „the death of painting” as a crisis of this medium that has exhausted all its workshop and substantive possibilities. I am also wondering if the only sincere gesture can we return to primitive emotions, to a philosophical search for depth, where the abstract gesture becomes a salvation from the excess and surfeit of contemporary reality (especially the ubiquitous mass media and pop culture dictate), gaining new meaning and bringing order to the world. Thus I came to the conclusion that we should return to the original energies, to predict the stage of human development. The rescue could be found in the neopositivism of gesture as a reaction to the state of modern culture.
The conclusion of this dissertation is therefore that an autonomous, not entirely predictable artistic gesture can be anything and nothing! A gesture in painting is an individualized act, fetishizing action, an iconographic trace, a child’s expression, a magical, but also mechanical procedure, a gestural tire impressed on the canvas, an individualized expression.
Indicating that the Autor, however is alive.
Obviously, these considerations were not completed with the thesis, I would describe them as an open creative process which is a constant source of inspiration for me in studying my own artistic identity and translates into painting activities and my creative attitude.
2016 – 2017
Ambroziak definitely stopped using symbols, spirituality, sexuality and malformed bodies. He doesn`t comment on reality in his own, individual way. He doesn`t criticize, but he wants to face reality. Urban jungle woke up a wild animal living inside him. This animal pours the paint, breaks, teases canvas and uses techniques connected with “street art” and “painting of the matter”. His paintings do not express devious meanings, but they become an emotion in itself.
Ambroziak`s neo-expressionist paintings are predatory art of gesture. The artist discovers again the power of colour and spontaneous gesture which are full of expression. For him it`s a new way to express himself. His art doesn`t use symbols and ideas but focuses on jiggy gesture (without any painting rules).
His works are inspired by urban space which is full of information and doubtful meanings. It is also a “wastepaper bin” for culture. His works are painted with a thick layer of paint, damp patches with elements made of spray paint. They are similar to scratched walls of urban jungle full of graffiti pictures.
Ambroziak`s paintings which are like these graffiti become palimpsests, so you can`t recognize the meanings of the layers. In this urban cave the message emotion and impulse matters. So Ambroziak becomes a urban shaman and vandal, who attacks the canvas.
Painting by Piotr Ambroziak is a multi-layer journey through human subconsciousness, the world of archetypical symbols and ideas, desires and fears. A walk through an area of cultural determinants, leading to the ego and pre-sources, to what has been unchangeable and primal in the humankind for ages. The exhibition titled “Angels and Aliens” is a kind of a peregrination combined with a search for an answer to the question about the role of a man in the universe, about his free will, about counting on higher powers, about the existence of the Highest Power.
“So far, the humankind has only recognized exclusive worlds of art, how exclusive religions are; our art is the Olympus, where all gods, all civilisations speak to all people who understand the language of art (like science speaks to all those who understand its language…) Each civilization had its sacred places; now, the humankind is discovering ones of its own. […] All of this is combined for the first time in the world, where dying fetishes are granted life they have never known before; and this world of presentations which was juxtaposed with the time by human creation has gained victory over the time for the first time.” This colourful world of beliefs, myths, and legends comes to life owing to paintings by Piotr Ambroziak. Time and space are of no importance here; what is the most important is the element which decides about our humanity, spirituality, handed over like a life-giving spark. Like overlapping photographic plates of consciousness, the paintings summon our demons and desires to connect with the Creator, to fill the mysterious emptiness and loneliness here, on earth. Angels and aliens, extra-terrestrial beings, messengers who connect the real with the supernatural. Dr Michael Rappenglueck found the image of the sky from almost 17,000 years before in images of animals and hunting scenes covering the Lascaux caves. Our ancestors also turned their eyes to the sky, which, for them, was inhabited by animals and spirits-guides. This is the first planetarium known to us, the evidence of longing after things that are mystic and impenetrable.
For the modern civilization, the beings living in the outer space are transformed mythic powers, the religion dressed in robes of modernity, the legend of a civilisation.
The fascination of the artist with extra-terrestrial spaces has nothing in common with interests in cybernetics or modern technologies. For Piotr Ambroziak, the outer space is a primal energy and today’s “aliens” are born of archetypes, myths, and legends. The First Mother and Father, Adam and Eve, assume forms looking like ones from primitive cultures, but why not to find them alien. New ideas are born based on what is known; they are a specific kaleidoscope of experiences and notions which have accompanied humans for ages. When mixed, they change constellations and create new patterns.
The primal energy is present in the artist’s gesture of expressive creation itself. The works emanate internal power; they seem uncontrollable, going beyond the space of a painting. Impulsive strokes of a brush and freedom of treating the painting matter encapsulate the primal wildness in the works. Bold colours and dynamism decide about their power of expression. Ambroziak’s art influences the senses and summons dreams. According to the artist, the emotional charge is the essence of art itself, the most important thing he believes in and stays faithful to. What is important is the primal energy, hunger of experiments, and constant questions…
Marta Kowalewska – art historian, curator of exhibitions, university teacher. The author of a series of interviews with eminent Polish artists, including Stefan Gierowski, Wojciech Fangor, Stanisław Fijałkowski, Roman Opałka, and Gustaw Zemła, and critical works published in professional journals and exhibition catalogues.
An integral part of some paintings are manually made texts, which allows us to read new contexts out of the traditional images. The connection of an image and a text reveals a more specific content and also finds connections with the contemporary world. Thanks to the text which on the one hand explains the content of the paintings and on the other is often a witty comment by the artist upon reality observed, Ambroziak’s works are an answer to a surrounding reality, which the artist strips out of metaphor and illusion. Ambroziak’s paintings are universal, but the artist refers to his own experiences to situations he presents. He is a careful and courageous observer and in his statements one can see a sensitivity towards important, although sometimes uncomfortable topics.
Quite important in Ambroziak’s art is his casual juggling with the patterns rooted in culture, reaching the sub-consciousness, imagination, dreams. The world presented by the artist is grounded somewhere on the border of reality and fantasy, reality and dream, experiences and desires, sacrum and profanum, universal and individual message.
Ambroziak also creates objects. Some of them resemble totems, others – much smaller – evoke associations with magic items associated Earth worshipping. Petty forms made of semi-transparent materials are often back-lit and the light whose source is not visible for the viewer is situated underneath. In this way the artist achieves an effect of the emanation of light, referring to the role which it fulfilled in the middle ages especially in religion but also in art. Through reference to the cultural and religious meaning of light, Ambroziak gives an illusion to art which fulfils a role in religious cult or magic. The energy which one feels when looking at his artworks does not allow the viewer to forget that we are dealing with art and not with the objects of cult – in spite of their great force. Therefore the entire power of artworks, if we assume that they have it, comes from the artist. The artworks created by Ambroziak allow the visualisation of primary forces. They become a kind of a frame, marking the borders in which they can be expressed. Piotr Ambroziak very scrupulously and successfully fills the opportunities which art gives him.
Sharp forms, bold contrasts of colours, a decided gesture and the deformation with which the artist operates in painting, are excellent measures to present the energy of life. Similarly as with the small objects of organic shapes and natural, neutral colours, which direct the attention of the viewer to the hidden powers of nature. In both cases Ambroziak is able to express the energy, but, what’s important and valuable, he avoids allegory and personification. In his works he often contrasts opposite powers: the active and passive elements, masculine with feminine, hot with cold, pagan with Christian, primary with contemporary, but contrasting the values in his works looses the element of opposition and becomes complementary.
In Ambroziak’s art there appear references to various cultures, religions, and historical figures, but always the images are filtered through contemporary times and provided with a current comment. In his “search for the sources of power” the artist does not hesitate to reach for the sub-consciousness and even to reveal its dark side. This way the artist uses his own metaphors, with which he describes the contemporary world.
Jolanta Ciesielska about the artist:
Piotr Ambroziak briefly said is very good painter,shaman,and participant of artistic societies: Active Culture and Open Exhibition One of more important and in my opinion not sufficiently appreciated representatives of expression in Polish art of 90ties.Strolling among culture nooks from Celts and Hawaiian Voodoo, Indian Kamasutra, biblical reports of Catholics and Jews there is no particular goal or plan established for him.Artist living on quiet outskirts of city of Lodz persistently is looking for power resources ,something able to pull him out from too calm urban existence deprived of exciting adventures to reach relevant spiritual independence what can help to cope with universal problems of recognition between right and wrong.He will pay every price including religious ostracism in order to get to know all dark mysteries of magic ,and conjurations on own fate and ability to recognize all personal incarnations and secrets of not only own soul.
As an artist living in Lodz he is quite isolated as far as expression patterns and spiritual adventures are concerned.Lodz was not a place where Professors of German expression were creating or University students of Jung and Lacan were not giving lectures not mentioning even Baudrillard or Derrid.His idol remains deceased for 20years trans-avant garde New York artist Jacques Basquiat almost his age-mate, who is legend street art culture of New York,synonym of totally fate surrender, and human being liberated from existential bonds, brilliant artist,who out of night glooms and narcotic brainwaves of the day created amazing epic poem of the city where it blends with irrational beliefs and where LSD was taken for oriented brainwave and being yourself afterwards.
On one painting Ambroziak has paited magical figure of Nikifor ,Matejko from Krynica’ as it written onthe painting is the author’s true idol. Also anegdo erring to this painting as the painter has bought own Nikifor at allegro auctions site,which as few thousand other copies available on the market and hanging in our houses turned to be forgery. His father kept on saying: if you don’t learn you will become Nikifor”.this doubtful thread seems to be his pursuit these days. Amroziak hates academic correctness,fashionable poses and features also not being envy about other realizations of arts projects,where cuteness and goal pursuit are more important than sensual values. His desire is to stay(if possible nowadays)as straightforward,sensitive painter with vivisection inclinations,whose painful and rather rare encounters with own emotions on the canvas constitute unassignable part of his metaphysical existence and whose paintings bear witness about excavated emotions,indecisions,question marks,possibilities to define good and evil of internal,individual one as well as of such beyond own case. Criterion for artist’s sensitivity combined with courage to formulate questions about normativity and rules of this world are paintings such as ‘Paranoic Schizophrenia’,,”Artists like Prostitutes,’Dog on’. Monsters,physical anomalies,strange animallike creatures frequently settled on his paintings testify about inclinations to build symbolic metaphor in place of psychoanalitic portrait and also to intensify searches for emotional outlet with help of imagination filter. Psychologically interesting painting held in similar convention seems to be painting painted at the moment of surrender of freedom ideas entitled “Physica curiosa”. Illegible,blurred woman figure and a white horse most probably incarnating artist himself dripping with bloodlike scarlet of the background. The title is referred to richly illustrated medical magazine first published in Europe and issued from 1651 by physician and naturalist Philip Jacob Sachs from Wrocław. It can be evidence that author passionately reads original blogs,where soulmates and similar sensitivities can be traced. ‘World tied upwith cord of absurd’daily toil of fighting with dark side of own soul,world full of demonic perversions and slightly mythical devils and demons are subjects of another compositions of this painter.
Piotr Ambroziak’s painting express constant fight between loftier and low,mundane things,between animal nature of human being,and need of soul contact with upper form of being,angels and nether worlds,heavenly Father colloquially known as Dad. Paintings such as ‘Angel Guardian’, ‘telephone to Dad’ or ,I Will not call you, contain diversified emotions from doubt,anger,revolt to sentimental need to be back to painting remembered from childhood,where sense of being safe came from simple icons hanged above bed.
Affirmation of weakness represents negation towards cultural patterns of worrior and martyr. Worrior focused on fighting and conquering all difficulties is afraid of own weaknesses and disdains all the weak. Martyr type while accepting weakness of others,keeps it away from him and taking care about others must prove strength,stamina against stress and self-abnegation-writes Jerzy Prokopiuk in Soul Labirynth. It is hard to ascertain which prefiguration is closer to the artist,especially when looking to non-orthodoxically interpreted motif popular in the Middle Ages of St.George’s fight towards an evil. On this painting St.George(who however after ages has been declared by Vatican not to exist)is naked and the only weapon is swollen masculinity what is shocking to dragon standing in front of him. This painting contains double auto-irony dose and natural sense of humour.
As a person our painter is wearing a mask or an armour of the worrior being founder sametime of worriors’squad for dozen years now and is cultivating fighting tradition of knighthood of matured Middle Ages. Fitted head to foot in shining metal,equipped with sword or axe conceals laboriously from external world an opponent ferociously fought and most difficult to conquer –An Artist Himself.
Jolanta Ciesielska-notable art critic,specializing in Polish contemporary art,curator of many projects and exbititions presenting contemporary art home and abroad.Multiple chairwoman of Jury,reviews,contests of paiting and the most important Painting Biennale,Bielska Autumn,Curator of II International Art Biennale, Łódź Art Center 2006.Author of many censorious texts,publications and school textbooks.