It is said that in the beginning was the word. Outside of the biblical aspects of this dictum, there is, perhaps, a reference to the realm of art – in particular, the art of Michał Budny. The starting point for many of his works and projects is often an idea or a word, which the artist then transfers into a corresponding physical or spatial equivalent. Budny’s latest exhibition ‘Żywica’, has been prepared especially for the space of the Raster gallery, which provides the blank canvas that he typically begins with. However the particularities of this specific space make for a unique approach to the project. Budny spent a week at Raster, working on various layers and variants for the exhibition, experimenting with different materials as he strove to establish his presence here in the most organic way possible.
The title ‘Żywica’ (‘Resin’) demarcates an area that is essential for the artist’s intuition and his associations, which go beyond the primary sense of the word. The mere sound of the word spoken is significant, with the hard consonants in English creating a very raw connotation, while the Polish word żywica is drawn from the word for life –życie – inferring something very much alive. Then there is the smell of the substance as it flows out of the tree and the organic process of accumulating layer upon layer. Resin is also a substance that ‘enlivens’ a seemingly lifeless surface and in the process takes us onto another level of perception. This is the sense behind Budny’s intervention: to draw out the architecture and natural aura of a place.
The exhibition changes throughout the day, affected by varying aspects of daylight and the weather. This bright, wide space is contained on one side by the glass display at the front, high ceilings and white walls made of subsequent layers of paint, plaster, tape and foil. The artist has softened the surface of the walls, creating a surreal softness about the gallery. He has created an ‘enlivened’ space, yet it retains the enigmatic ‘white cube’ character of the art gallery. Budny also introduces the element of time into the formula – each layer of materials applied to the walls indicates a particular sequence of events, leading one to ask what had come before and what might come next. The initial imperfection of the walls and their curvature become a natural part of the artist’s project and the story he is trying to tell.
Much like his earlier works, Budny’s ‘Żywica’refers to the human presence. It drives and strengthens our sensibility towards the architecture surrounding us. The warm minimalism fostered by the artist also reflects a large degree of rigour set against the seductive nature of materials that appear elementary on the surface, yet manifest a certain intensity. ‘Usage’ would be the most apt term to describe the careful, inquisitive, controlled approach of the artist to the materials and the space at hand.
For those familiar with Budny’s work, this latest exhibition may come as a surprise. For the first time he has refrained entirely from sculptural objects and individuals works. He has created a unified environment in which there are no obvious points of reference or focal pieces. Everything takes place ‘in between’ the word and reality, the gallery space and the consciousness of the viewer – much as was the case at Budny’s exhibition last year at the Kunstverein in Dusseldorf – titled ‘In Between’.