The World between Light and Dark
text: Magdalena Boffito

The Great Vaudeville

It is impos­si­ble to under­stand Winiecki with­out an under­sand­ing of his poet­ics based on irony and metaphor. Winiecki con­stantly plays with con­ven­tions in the spheres of images and lex­i­con. This world is the reign of Momos who enjoys Chimerics, Vagaries and the won­der­ful joy of being non-​literal.

This stance results in the adop­tion of an aes­thetic sys­tem best sym­bol­ized by Gor­gon. It seems that the beauty of Gorgon’s snake hair drew Winiecki more intensely than the obvi­ous beauty of any real woman.

When words cease to be vehi­cles of mean­ing that can be trusted, the man-​creator cre­ates the world anew through a re-​reading. “The life of a word con­sists in its strain­ing, tens­ing up and reach­ing to the thou­sands of links, like in the leg­end where the pieces of the cut up body of the snake search for one another in the dark.”7

Thus, we are left with some tropes that are to encour­age us to float over the waves of imag­i­na­tion. Quite often, we do so in defi­ance of words, fol­low­ing Winiecki’s jokes or provo­ca­tions, as in the fol­low­ing works: “My stom­achache,” “Skin­ning,” “Fan­tasy After a Long-​Lasting Absence.” A good exam­ple of Winiecki’s per­verse strate­gies is “One Aim,” where the epony­mous unity is jux­ta­posed with the dou­ble­ness of form, show­ing in the sym­me­try of black cir­cles and in the dou­bled pupils of the eyes.

Winiecki seems to be say­ing that if forms are not fully rec­og­niz­able and the object evades our per­cep­tion, the titles must then reflect the feel­ing of alien­ation and being lost. Here, Winiecki seems to put Breton’s phi­los­o­phy into action: “For me, their [the images’ – A.Z.] great­est virtue, I must con­fess, is the one that is arbi­trary to the high­est degree, the one that takes the longest time to trans­late into prac­ti­cal language.”8 The Pope of sur­re­al­ism believed that poetry should “bear within itself the per­fect com­pen­sa­tion for our mis­eries” and that it should be “prac­ticed.” Sur­re­al­ists loved to pro­voke and check the sup­ple­ness of lan­guage in all pos­si­ble ways. Their seman­tic bold­ness lead them through numer­ous exper­i­ments and games to extra­or­di­nary results. “The exquis­ite corpse will drink the new wine.” “Words, fur­ther­more, have fin­ished play­ing games. Words are mak­ing love.”9

One must remem­ber, how­ever, that the efforts are by no means aimed at pok­ing fun at, or mis­lead­ing, the viewer. They only tran­scend cer­tain mech­a­nisms, are a means of escap­ing con­ven­tion. In “The Light­ning Rod” Bre­ton writes that intel­li­gent humour can sum­ma­rize every­thing with an out­burst of laugh­ter, every­thing, includ­ing noth­ing­ness. It is thanks to humour that we can dis­tance our­selves from every­day absurds; humour and irony pro­tect us from the non­sense that gov­erns the world.

This is why in Winiecki’s works there appear the fig­ures of the jester, the joker, the mime and the homo ludens, or ”the play­ing man.” Strange titles are an invi­ta­tion to dia­logue, they give us the free­dom of asso­ci­a­tion, the free­dom of choice and inter­pre­ta­tion. The clashes of images and words throw us off the beaten track. This is a world where any­thing is pos­si­ble: there is a place for the Fern Eater, there is time for Autumn Frol­ics and in the Sun Val­ley one can acci­den­tally meet a harp tuner on a golf course. How­ever, in order to fully under­stand Winiecki one must con­sider his atti­tude towards Evil and the world. The themes of dance and strug­gle are very com­mon in his work. The world of chang­ing forms and con­stant move­ment appears as a “chain of birth and death, a chain with burst­ing links.” A per­son con­stantly faces the rift between his or her auton­omy and the fer­ment­ing mat­ter. Winiecki’s thought tries to account for both dimen­sions of human life – on the one hand, he wants to fore­ground the sin­gle exis­tence; on the other, he aims at show­ing the melt­ing away of the indi­vid­ual in the mul­ti­plic­ity of beings.

Winiecki adopts a stance of con­stant vig­i­lance, the writ­ing down of events and images. Evil can­not be iso­lated, it is born within the mat­ter itself and every new form is tainted. The move­ment of mat­ter is not always pur­pose­ful and har­mo­nious. Hence, the appear­ance of forms that are dyshar­monic and hybridic, sit­u­ated at the extrem­ity of being. The melt­ing away of shapes and the lack of cor­re­spon­dence between the inner and the outer world are the sources of exis­ten­tial mad­ness. The cease­less muta­bil­ity shakes the feel­ing of one’s integrity. The recog­ni­tion of one’s iden­tity is only pos­si­ble through a strife for authen­tic­ity but the con­stant changes of roles and inter­per­sonal rela­tion­ships pose a dan­ger of los­ing one­self in the the­atre of lies.

The feel­ing of strange­ness and non­be­long­ing cre­ates a dis­cord. The anx­i­ety the artist feels (the same anx­i­ety that was felt by the Roman­tics) results from the strife for authen­tic­ity and trans­parency com­bined with an impos­si­bil­ity of set­ting the indi­vid­ual free and of dis­card­ing the mask once and for all. The feel­ing of estrange­ment is strength­ened by the lack of author­i­ties and a feel­ing that one is being mis­lead or manip­u­lated. Winiecki points to this con­flict by pro­vid­ing key words and giv­ing rather enig­matic titles to his works: “A Forced Prophecy,” “Prophet,” “Crusade.”

At the same time, the need for a Hero is born. Winiecki aims at restor­ing and dis­cussing hero­ism. He often refers to his­to­ries whose pro­tag­o­nists are rebelled indi­vid­u­als tran­scend­ing the roles assigned to them by their cul­ture and the soci­ety. He sym­bol­i­cally brings into being his “Ambas­sadors” – a cycle of char­ac­ters that become vehi­cles for his ideas, mes­sen­gers of imagination.

Cre­at­ing his own space in the realm of art Winiecki seems obsessed with the dreams that pro­pelled the actions of the Roman­tics, i.e. he wants to cre­ate a mythol­ogy to fit his times. Winiecki strongly crit­i­cizes the ratio­nal world-​view. The essence of his work is the absolute ele­va­tion of imag­i­na­tion (there is no oppo­si­tion between that which is real and the fig­ments of imag­i­na­tion) inher­ited from the Roman­tics by the Surrealists.

Through his cre­ative dar­ing, and his casual ref­er­ences to het­eroge­nous sources (Greek and Roman mythol­ogy, the Bible and the Sumer­ian cul­ture) Winiecki estab­lishes a link between the past and the present; he is try­ing to make under­stand­ing pos­si­ble and he is look­ing for ways out of the cri­sis. Winiecki hero­izes his pro­tag­o­nists and gives them a spe­cific heroic majesty: “The Grain King,” “The Gate Man,” “Anna Mother Inn.” More­over, char­ac­ters tra­di­tion­ally devoid of nobil­ity, become mon­u­men­tal in Winiecki’s works: “Jester,” “Joker,” “Gnome,” “Cannibal.”

Whereas the majesty of rulers is taken for granted, the mon­u­men­tal­iza­tion of indi­vid­u­als usu­ally mar­gin­al­ized by the soci­ety is sur­pris­ing. It seems that Winiecki acts like a medieval ruler, one that would eas­ily and extrav­a­gantly make his jester or musi­cian his adviser. That is why, in the same por­trait gallery (the Ambas­sodors cycle), we can see, next to each other, a king and a jester.

One can come to the con­clu­sion that the extrav­a­gant choice of char­ac­ters and sub­jects and the ten­dency to hero­ize events are in Winiecki’s work an echo of his long­ing for the times when all deeds and events were felt vig­or­ously and intensely, and life oscilated between cru­elty and won­der but never was dull.

Inter­est­ingly enough, it seems to me that in this world there is no place for tears. In the ancient times peo­ple did not hide their tears; cry­ing was not a priv­i­lege of women or mourn­ers. Deme­ter, Androm­eda, Ari­adne, Pyrrha, Niobe, Calypso, Eos, Io all cried as well as Marsyas, Achilles, Odysseus, Her­a­cles and the old Priam. In Winiecki’s world tears are invis­i­ble and eyes are dry. All the ten­sion is shown in the expres­sion of the out-​of-​scale pupil, in a con­vul­sive gri­mace or the pos­ture of the character.

Je né puis m’empecher de rire, me repondrez-​vous; j’accepte cette expli­ca­tion absurde, mais, alors, que ce soit un rire melan­col­ique. Riez, mais pleurez en meme temps. Si vous né pou­vez pas pleurer par les yeux, pleurez par la bouche. Est-​ce encore impos­si­ble, urinez;

‘I can­not help laugh­ing’, you will answer me; I accept this absurd expla­na­tion, but let it be a melan­choly laugh, then. Laugh, but weep at the same time. If you can­not weep with your eyes, weep with your mouth. If this is still impos­si­ble, uri­nate.”10

If Winiecki’s pro­tag­o­nists do not have time for tears, they cer­tainly have time for play – the danc­ing motif is very com­mon. Let us look at the evo­lu­tion of the form and the approach to this sub­ject. “Dance” from 1966 is built on the con­trast between black fig­ures and shim­mer­ing back­ground; the whole is based on the dif­fer­ences in the den­sity of the mat­ter. On the left one can dis­cern three danc­ing fig­ures, devoid of indi­vid­ual fea­tures; we can also see a group on the right. In “Dance” from 1967 the fig­ures are joined together. Their only indi­vid­ual fea­tures are the sim­pli­fied, mask-​like, face con­tours and the draw­ing of eyes and lips. “The Great Vaude­ville” from 1969, “Dance 9” and “Dance in a Tent” from 1977 are much more dra­matic – the scenog­ra­phy is denser, the form more com­pli­cated, there are more planes and details, the pre­sen­ta­tion of space is changed and the nar­ra­tion becomes more com­plex. In an enyg­matic way, the dance motif evolves into a sort of danse macabre. Even though there are no unam­bigu­ous req­ui­sites, one feels the pres­ence of death. The mys­te­ri­ous move­ments of the fig­ures change into a Bac­chic pro­ces­sion, it is dif­fi­cult to make out the shapes of indi­vid­ual dancers in the tan­gled shapes, indi­vid­u­als blur with the crowd. More­over, the approach to the body changes – it is mod­elled by the chiaroscuro, and naked­ness appears.

The same year, 1977, Winiecki prints the lith­o­graph enti­tled “Mask,” a work that is closely linked to the ear­lier “Dances” through its tun­ing of the undu­lat­ing form and rhythm of the lines build­ing the space. This is also the last work in the series that poses ques­tions about identity.