To touch

The latest paintings by Irmina Staś are a further and deeper exploration of a painter’s description of nature. Records of fascination with the phenomena of organicity and cycles of life, getting closer to what is alive, pulsating, often hidden, inaccessible to the naked or insensitive eye. recording life in its constant transformation – growth, decay, rebirth, the processes of blooming and perishing, which run in parallel as an organic continuum. There is, at the same time, a kind of combination of the untamed joy of living and anxiety about its fragility and inevitable perishing running at an individual pace. It is painting of diversity, but also of subtle restraint: smooth watercolour areas and sections of calligraphic lines, soft splashes and carefully refined details that stay in balance with each other. One can also clearly sense the colouristic sophistication: bodily pinks and reds are accompanied with deep, glistening blackness, cold grey colours meet with beige-tinted yellow. A single luminous and intensive accent sometimes appears among subdued tones, elsewhere action takes place within a range of subtle greys. Colours find peace on a white background as they attune to each other, while on a black one they absorb drama, with the contrast and the temperature of their internal relations rising.

Organicity reigns supreme. Delicately drawn elliptical shapes, smooth lines of life, landscapes of body interiors, with a wealth of shapes and sizes of cells, with humidity of membranes, with a system of rivers of neurons and vessels, with graphic lines of bones. Forms suggesting movement, subtle vibrations and multi-plan “action” seem to refer to incessant changes in nature: villi and cilia moving anxiously in the foreground and soft, apparently rolling or vibrating ovals in the background. Apart from the inner areas of biology being revealed, we take a look at fragments of nature: drawings of roots, emerging buds, bulging flower cups, strong and firm shapes of boughs, fields of hairy cilia and animal hairs. We see those fragments of nature shown with restraint, clearly, a detail is accentuated here and there, while in other places – generality absorbs us, wholeness without excess in a tone of subdued expression. The mystery of organicity given in a surprising way, with interest, delight, a sense of something lurking under the skin, the inevitable decay and ending. Swollen forms, cells and buds brimming with existence, burnt holes, fractured bones. The joyous miracle of life. And its fragility, constant anxiety about it.

Irmina Staś’s painting is adjacent to the border of abstraction, expanding subtly, but with a very open gesture the area of realism. What at first glance seems to belong to the non-representational world, turns out to bear traces of perceived reality. It represents the inner, biological landscape or organic fragments in a nonobvious way, but at the same time shows this trace of real world in the aura of poetic allusion, in an oneiric phantasy. This permeation of reality and abstraction, nonobvious and full of suggestions, constant journeys between the real and the non-figurative, approaching the border of non-representation only to leave it in a different place and suggest real elements once again, is a conscious and consistent effort to deepen the visual area. It is the process of integrating an image caught directly in reality with what is purified and represented in the painter’s reflection and work. The process not only enriches visual experience and makes it possible to see unobvious solutions, but is essentially a way to create the autonomous, personal world of painting. The world that cannot be unequivocally called either realistic or abstract. The discipline and clarity of the last works seems to suggest a direction of changes.

Apart from watching nature, both the external one shown with clear references and the one hidden under the skin surface or beyond sensations the eye can directly access, Irmina Staś’s painting are nourished with the tradition and the present time of painting and mature as they become familiar with technique and master the secrets of the craft. The artist becomes familiar with technology to strengthen the impact of colour, deepen her scales and tones. The experience of work with Leon Tarasewicz and large scale mural painting practice cannot be overestimated here. But it is not just to touch Lena Wicherkiewicz 6 technology that seems to be the fruit of this collaboration. This artistic experience probably had an impact on her way of representing nature – seeking to represent it in a concise way, by means of simple and also very expressive forms. At the same time painting in a smaller scale and using a different watercolour technique remains important, as it lets her capture such phenomena as fluidity, permeation and lightness, gives her liberty and gesture. The artist is in her atelier every day; it is a sign of character, but also her conviction that creation requires discipline and regularity. If she does not paint, she studies closely reproductions of works of any classical and modern artists that are important to her. Even though we won’t find any direct, obvious references, when we look at her paintings we might think about Hieronymus Bosch’s phantasy and botanical fascinations, meticulousness in representing organic or quasi-organic details, everything in which an attitude to the world of nature is reflected, combining delight, surprise, incredulity, a sense of dealing with singularity with a shadow of anxiety and awareness of elusiveness. Irmina’s painting remains close to the oneiric and disturbing world of Erna Rosenstein, in some of her works one can notice a dialogue with motifs known from the paintings of her predecessor and in other works – a similar colour palette. With Maria Jarema she shares fondness for organicity with its processes of infiltration, absorption, transformation and an aura of allusiveness. There are also close contemporary painters of “intensity” Marlene Dumas and Peter Doig… “Stakes” („Stosy”), a series of paintings by Tomasz Tatarczyk, has a special significance for her most recent paintings. It is not only about a formal affinity that can be directly perceived – using a shape of pile, bunch, armful, which gained a feature of soft organicity in Irmina’s works, while retaining the dramatic nature of life present in Tomasz Tatarczyk’s paintings. Reworking the pile motif, presenting different versions of collected branches or assembled bone-like shapes is a way to achieve a compositional union. It is a process of synthesising visions and purifying painting to gain the clarity of an artistic sign. The pile motif also seems to represent in the language of painting the phenomenon of touch, the essence of which is reciprocity and connection. Irmina Staś’s painting remains in a dialogue and a relation with the history and the present day of painting, but is also aware of its own, unique way. It respects and broadens the world of painting borders: between reality and abstraction, allusion and detail, materiality and sensuality of form and meanings contained in it.

There is one more aspect of this painting’s internal dialogue. Organicity can also be found directly in Irmina’s works, touching on the very nature of painting. Her practice seems to be an attempt to represent the world of biology in a painter’s alchemy. Delicate nets of cellular membranes infiltrate liquid matter just as canvas or paper is soaked with paint. Shapes and lines in painting permeate and transform, imitating physiological processes. As if actions of nature entered directly the world of painting, as if organicity penetrated some areas of the visual world, enriching it with marks of pulsation and variability, with shapes, textures and colours. This organicity has its discipline, its rhythms, its clarity. What is also common for her most recent works is restraint, a kind of concentration and consistency in introducing a composition order and rhythm. Moreover, in the case of oil paintings monumentality – touched by peace somehow – is truly moving. It seems that after images of the abundance of nature and its processes running quite abruptly, an equilibrium has been accomplished. Organicity and biological transformations have been captured in the framework of painting technique, pinned down with a paper and canvas format, form line, colour energy, with high awareness of painting. Nature retained and encompassed.

Touch is a motif that links her last works. It is a noticeable change compared to some earlier open compositions with their scattered elements. Now a closer connection of shapes can be noticed and sensed, revealing their mutual relations, their mutual gravitation towards each other. Touching until penetration and putting an end to separation. It causes the forms touched by each other to become a sign, a self-reliant motif. The connecting power of composition – overwhelming, encompassing, inclusive and sharing – becomes increasingly important. The power of Irmina Staś’s latest paintings manifests in it.

Touch – the domain of feeling creatures.

Touch is an expression of closeness and mutual exchange. Through touching we communicate without words and doubts, we connect for a while, eliminating borders. We are in a relation. In the organic world adjacency is a natural state.

Lena Wicherkiewicz, To touch, 2016