Black Kiss or a Fantasy after a Long Absence
text: Magdalena Boffito

Hymn to Beauty

Did you fall from high heaven or surge from the abyss,
O Beauty? Your bright gaze, infer­nal and divine,
Con­fus­edly pours out courage and cow­ardice,
Or love and crime. There­fore men liken you to wine.
Your eyes hold all the sun­set and the dawn, you are
As rich in fra­grances as a tem­pes­tu­ous night,
Your kisses are a philtre and your mouth a jar
Fill­ing the child with valor and the man with fright.
Did the stars mould you or the pit’s obscu­rity?
You bring at ran­dom Par­adise or Jug­ger­naut.
Fate sniffs your skirts with a charmed dog’s ser­vil­ity,
You gov­ern all and yet are answer­able for naught.
Beauty, you walk on corpses of dead men you mock.
Among your store of gems, Hor­ror is not the least;
Mur­der, amid the dear­est trin­kets of your stock,
Dances on your proud belly like a rut­tish beast.(…)1

Ch. Baude­laire, Flow­ers of Evil

Black Kiss or a Fan­tasy after a Long Absence. Władysław Winiecki’s Lithographs.

When dis­cussing lith­o­g­ra­phy one should start by evok­ing the stone – the stone matrix is basic for the lith­o­graphic uni­verse. Stone is usu­ally asso­ci­ated with pas­siv­ity, heav­i­ness and immo­bil­ity (a list of words and phrases asso­ci­ated with stone could look like this: heavy, moist, indif­fer­ent, immo­bile, stone deaf, stone cold, stone-​like face). Para­dox­i­cally, how­ever, lith­o­g­ra­phy has noth­ing to do with stasis.

When I think about Władysław Winiecki’s lith­o­graphs other asso­ci­a­tions and col­lo­ca­tions auto­mat­i­cally come to mind: to make lith­o­graphs, to feel sad­ness and melan­choly. Some­times one would like to, just out of spite, change the set word order – after all, lan­guage is a sys­tem based on social agree­ment – and say: he made sad­ness and melan­choly, he felt lith­o­g­ra­phy. I think that in a per­verse way the new for­mu­la­tion defines his per­son­al­ity in a bet­ter, fuller way. Władysław Winiecki grad­u­ated from the Fac­ulty of Paint­ing of the Acad­emy of Fine Arts but quickly aban­doned paint­ing in favour of print­mak­ing. He made few lith­o­graphs in colour. The major­ity of his work was done in the print­ing tech­nique called ossa sepia that uses neg­a­tive draw­ing – the white patches are uncov­ered from the black matrix. After he aban­doned paint­ing it was black and white that deter­mined Winiecki’s cre­ative efforts. The direc­tion of his quest, his insis­tence on the pri­macy of black­ness against light, results both from the posi­tion of artists in the con­tem­po­rary world and from Winiecki’s feel­ing of unease and dis­so­nance. The key to the present is to be looked for in the meta­mor­phoses of the past. There­fore, Winiecki plunges into the dark recesses of the night choos­ing a route whose des­ti­na­tion is never defined and the jour­ney itself brings as much suf­fer­ing as joy. His stance can be seen in the choice of sub­ject and poet­ics, and in the slowly, metic­u­lously worked matrix – in the per­fect lines and the rich, var­ied tex­ture. Undoubt­edly, in his pere­gri­na­tions Winiecki is a gen­uine roman­tic and an heir of the sur­re­al­ists – he pur­sues his fas­ci­na­tions, con­stantly swerv­ing and quiv­er­ing, oscil­lat­ing between dark­ness and light, dereg­u­lat­ing his senses and stim­u­lat­ing his imag­i­na­tion. Władysław Winiecki pos­s­eses an excep­tional sen­si­bil­ity, a rare sense of humour and the capa­bil­ity to see nuances in spite of the changes of focus. Lith­o­g­ra­phy as under­stood by Winiecki is a process that is time con­sum­ing, one that requires pre­ci­sion, a per­fect knowl­edge of print­mak­ing tech­niques and, most impor­tantly, the con­sent to work in soli­tude. Mak­ing the draw­ing, going through the stages of etch­ing the stone and prepar­ing the matrix for print­ing – all these steps take time and can­not be sped up or eliminated.

Time is a cru­cial cat­e­gory for lith­o­g­ra­phy, remain­ing at once its enemy and ally. One can say that time is absorbed by the image dur­ing the alchemic process of matrix-​shaping. This is typ­i­cal of tra­di­tional print­mak­ing and absent from dig­i­tal print­ing where time is an insignif­i­cant fac­tor in the process of print pro­duc­tion. A dig­i­tal print usu­ally does not bear the phys­i­cal traces of mate­r­ial changes that take place dur­ing the process of matrix prepa­ra­tion – there­fore, one can­not ver­ify when a given dig­i­tal work was cre­ated. Lith­o­g­ra­phy is a tech­nique of plano­graphic print­ing: all the changes hap­pen on the sur­face but the stone retains in itself the sign of the trans­for­ma­tions – the draw­ing, and later, in the course of the print­ing process, yields what­ever mark the artist had left on the matrix.

As Fran­cis Ponge writes in his essay on Braque, lith­o­g­ra­phy is not about a wound, or a tear, but about some­thing much deeper that reaches the vis­cera, the ner­vous sys­tem, the cir­cu­la­tory sys­tem, the heart.1 To make lith­o­graphs is to digest cold­ness and bear in one­self the weight of a stone, to love with a hard love that calls for sacrifice.

The lith­o­graphic stone is a live crea­ture; it absorbs every­thing – its sen­si­tive sur­face can become oily even when we touch it and leave the lit­tle oil our skin secretes. The stone responds to touch, absorb­ing bod­ily heat. The entire process of prepar­ing the matrix and print­ing is much more com­pli­cated than the strug­gle between oil and water.

You do not carve the lith­o­graphic stone. The stone absorbs and keeps for­ever in its mem­ory what­ever we put on its sur­face. And under the press it gives every­thing back to the paper in a kiss of sorts (…) the lithographer’s ges­ture is exactly the ges­ture of a draughts­man or a painter (and can only be called pin­gere). It does not pen­e­trate the matrix in any way, and actu­ally we are not talk­ing about a matrix but about a kind of face (fore­head, cheek, per­haps mouth) and a vascular-​motor phe­nom­e­non. Is it not won­der­ful that the first draw­ing we have left on the stone is sim­i­lar to the one we have left on the face of another per­son through an (insis­tent or not) gaze? The per­son saves this gaze deep in their mem­ory, though the face shows almost noth­ing.” [trans­la­tion mine – A. Z.]3

The world of Winiecki’s lith­o­graphs is char­ac­ter­ized by con­stant meta­mor­phoses, marked by the pass­ing of time, strug­gle and, simul­ta­ne­ously, it is full of sen­su­al­ity, vital­ity, eroti­cism. An encounter with this artist’s work is like an invi­ta­tion to play a game or to par­tic­i­pate in a the­atre per­for­mance where one is both a spec­ta­tor and an actor. In Winiecki’s oeu­vre we will find tragedies and come­dies, tales of magic and pro­tag­o­nists who ignore the con­straints of time and con­ven­tion. This world is full of the mar­velous as well as fear, ter­ror, dance, jests, secrets, frol­ics, and laugh­ter – but there is no place for tears.

The major­ity of Winiecki’s works are multi-​layered struc­tures, or sto­ries within sto­ries. The lith­o­graphs present a uni­verse of gods, heroes and hybrid forms that blur the bound­aries between the human, all too human, and bestial.

Fol­low­ing the artist’s trail we can encounter a bunch of curi­ous char­ac­ters, fig­ures of majes­tic mon­archs and their accom­pa­ny­ing jesters or mys­te­ri­ous women danc­ing. In this world there is place for the Grain King and the Gnome. It is up to us to trust the Jester or the Prophet – we can never know what we will see on the other side, if we peep through the key­hole. As Oscar Wilde wrote: “All art is at once sur­face and sym­bol. Those who go beneath the sur­face do so at their peril.”

It is impos­si­ble to delve into Winiecki’s freak gallery and con­tem­plate the per­son­al­i­ties coldly or treat them merely as aes­thetic objects. His are most curi­ous visions, the fig­ments of a rare imag­i­na­tion that come into being on the bor­der of two worlds: the first – famil­iar, well-​known, and well-​tailored; and the other – dark, not fully defined, sub­ject to con­stant trans­gres­sions. In Winiecki’s world noth­ing is com­pletely what it seems. In this strangest of uni­verses the mat­ter keeps vibrat­ing in ecstasy and agony, giv­ing birth to form that spills over and keeps pul­sat­ing from the ten­sion. What is lith­o­g­ra­phy as Winiecki under­stands it? Is it a pre­mo­ni­tion? A smile of a lunatic in a pro­ces­sion of dancers? A night walk of a dreamer who suf­fers from insom­nia and needs to dream while walk­ing? And maybe it is the fruit of a dark love, a black kiss pressed on our cheek, like a fan­tasy after a long absence, when we can no longer remem­ber the details of a beloved person’s face but man­age to bring back his or her shape from the recesses of our memory?

1Translated by Jacques LeClercq, Flowers of Evil, Mt Vernon, NY: Peter Pauper Press, 1958,

2 ZSee Francis Ponge, “Braque litograf,” in: “Dwa teksty o Braque'u,” “Literatura na Świecie,” 9-10/2006, p. 290.