Rafał Bujnowski’s newest paintings are set in the dark of night. The artist, with his characteristic reticence and precision, constructs paintings using the most basic means – black paint and white chalk. The enigmatic Arsonists of the title pan out within the fire they themselves alight. Then we have the intriguing, moonlit nocturnes upon the environs of his family home and his studio – across the ponds of Graboszyce in the Małopolska district of Poland. As light hits the canvas, it draws out of its darkish depths a scene of remarkable metaphorical tension.
Bujnowski’s works strike a singular balance between his means and his subject. Upon observing their technical brilliance, one might suspect that this particular technique determines the subject of his canvas. And yet the opposite is true – each particular subject calls for a special means and so in the ideal constellation of what we are dealing with, the applied technique reveals a deeper level of meaning within the representation. The unusual nocturnes of Graboszyce are an example of such maximal synergy, as the pale light of the moon creates the space of the nightly landscape. In the same way, Bujnowski’s perfectly monochrome paintings in black come to life before our eyes as they are illuminated by just the right angle of light.
Bujnowski consistently pursues the idea of the black canvas, each subsequent work forming something of a cosmological credo. White light and black matter (paint) come together in an active embrace. The artist’s gesture, as plain as can be, depersonalized, whittled down to almost a purely mechanical movement, gives way to the third main aspect of his works. The full scope of the painting is achieved using an absolute minimum, within the black “nearly nothing” there is “everything” to be revealed: light, space, time and history. Bujnowski actively evolves the traditions of painterly minimalism and conceptualism, creating singular works that are as figurative as they are abstract. Figurative with regard to the quotidian details, abstract with regard the principle guiding the world.
Alongside Bujnowski’s newest paintings, the exhibition presents an in situ mural created especially for the gallery space. The simplest act of drawing – chalk on a blackboard – casual and impermanent, is confronted with the destructive tendencies of an arsonist, whose act is just as simple, yet all the while mercilessly irrevocable. In both acts there dwells an obsessive fascination with the executive power of human hands. Seen in this light, art comes across as a kind of destructive beauty, an anti-social escape into the world of risky fantasies which the artist himself is ashamed of. And so he affords us the opportunity to easily wipe out his drawings in chalk.