WarsawTomek Baran: Claustro
Conditions in abstract art have been rather cramped lately. For many different reasons. First of all, everything seems to have already been said about it, and some have actually given up on it, up to the point of calling it a “zombie.” In fact, such a judgement may not be surprising at all. No one has ever heard a zombie talk. Painters, and abstract painters in particular, are rather taciturn people who simply show the things they want to say. Others, therefore, have to speak on their behalf. This creates more problems. Abstract painting is not about stories, narratives, or anecdotes. No wonder, therefore, that art criticism and art history have been hard pressed over the last hundred years to say anything about abstraction. But compared with the broad painterly gesture, the very surface of the support, or even the brushstroke itself, language has always proved insufficient. Too narrow, able to address only part of the issue. That’s perhaps why, in their exasperation, those writing about abstract art resorted to ultimate means, having it oscillate between two extremities: wannabe metaphysics and hollow aestheticism. So how to talk about abstract painting without lapsing into weird mysticism in the vein of Barnett Newman or Kazimir Malevich or boring formalism?
We don’t know if the frames that Tomek Baran has painted on the gallery’s walls are a joke aimed at the narrowness of language (which probably goes hand in hand with a narrow-mindedness of art critics). For that’s how they can be interpreted: don’t rack your brains, don’t strain your eyes, those are frames here, I’ve put myself in them, thank you and good bye. So if this were a joke, it would be quite a good one. Especially that it is not just a dud prank. For all those who wish to speak about abstract painting, Tomek Baran makes things much easier with his dictionary, complete and created over the course of several years. So if someone wants to speak about abstract art, or at least that variety of abstract art that Baran practices, they should become acquainted with expressions such as alkyd urethane paint, Hammerite Hammer Effect, bronze-shavings spray, plywood, old table received from a friend, furniture parts found on the street, self-made irregular-and-convex supports, and returning home at night. Using those few terms (Baran will surely make several more known to interested parties), one can precisely describe each of the twelve works featured in the show. Admittedly, the succinctness of this terminology is extraordinary, and its flexibility no less than striking. It should suffice for those smart enough, while those less insightful will be at a loss even with the help of comprehensive treatises.
all images © the gallery and the artist(s)