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Against the Stream

‘ A man becomes a king when he can dream, and a clown when he starts thinking.’ In this single sentence Hoelderlin said – and especially to artists – much more than knowledgeable treatises or programmes. Especially nowadays these words sound like a warning. A red light flashes over the disciplines of contemporary art. And it keeps pulsating …

Oh, how irritating and boring have become all those critics-halberdiers ready to rush to intellectual rescue of the authors of formal ‘abracadabras’.
Games with a message, biting your own teeth on the message, endlessly repeated formulas regarding transgression as the most important criterion, and disdain for tradition-based emotions are but the initial elements of the game played on postmodern playgrounds. Spontaneity, sincerity, joy, affection? What for?

An artist or critic who does not put inverted commas around these words, and naively tries to assign meaning and importance to them will almost immediately face an ironic ‘oh, well…’. Dissonance-embarassed superiority: ‘oh well … amateur art may still cherish such anachronisms’; this is some kind of exoticism from beyond the strategy of the game. Obviously, the game itself is based on noble and tragic awareness of exhaustion, new metalanguage, and critical preaching on the ruins of traditional aesthetics …

I deliberately use some grotesque while presenting this, unfortunately, quite real phenomenon; the pompous style of experts and their proteges becomes more and more piteous in those closed spaces, in exhibition rooms, the addresses of which slip the memory of the public, who, additionally, seem rather uninterested.

Let us gently add that the public is not necessarily narrow-minded, naïve and spiritually dull as the depositaries of ‘art synthesized at a higher level’ might want to believe.

***

Georgij Safronow’s painting draws from impressionist inspiration, which becomes transformed and complemented by a personal touch. Landscape, absorbed with all of the senses, plays a particularly important role; it is relished in the details as well as a harmonic organic whole. Classic easel works, a plunge into the mood of the moment, and the lights of some reminiscent rather than still existing phenomena. During the years Safronow has always convinced me with his passionate strive to overcome and negate the elusiveness. Some intrinsic vibration, haste as well as hunger or, one might want to say ‘a greed’, to touch the world and (its) light are inherent in his brush. This painter can begin with a wide spot to camouflage general shade and contour only to harmonize the so depicted phenomenon with a luscious, actual and real shape. Thus, very characteristic and genuine tension appears; something like counterpoint in music, the absence of which erases emotions and ambiguity. Safronow’s city landscapes, with diverse colour poetics and shape harmony, are also worth attention. His city is either an expressionist metaphor, ominous and disturbing (‘crouching’colours, violet and red combined with grey) or – as it recently happens – picturesque contemplation of the beauty of backstreets and tenement houses gently spread between the tree-lined ends of bridges: Paris, Prague, Kazimierz, Sandomierz, Pszczyna …  Oil paintings, water-colours, and drawings slowly develop a story about quiet beauty with a tiny taste of melancholy at the bottom.

***

However, Georgij Safronow does not narrow down his work to the above outlined spaces. His relation towards the realm of imagination, intuition and dreams is equally interesting.
This is indeed unusual to artistically incarnate fascination with extrinsic impulses simultaneously creating an unreal world of an assemblage. A wide collection of fine water-colours that the artist has been presenting for some time now does not leave doubts about how effectively he had mastered the technique in his deep narrative analysis of reality. Yes, narrative, since  Safronow’s paintings are (in addition to painting-specific assets and flavours) a kind of nostalgic ballad about both passing away and paradoxically persistent comebacks of what has gone by. About ourselves merging into other faces, alien dreams, and mirrors. I am personally very fond of this component of Safronow’s works. He has been able to create          a coherent story on the borderline of myth – something of an erotic tale, something of a dream  (consistent motifs and forms, and the rhythm harmonizing it all). Those who look cannot see a single trace of intentional measures. Only genuine inspiration can spontaneously create severe, wild, and naked analogies.

 

***

In the end I feel I should also mention Safronow – an Artist Photographer. For years now he has presented extraordinary skills in this field, both as a sensitive and attentive traveller (and he has visited a large part of the world) and a poet of the camera. It would be a truism to say that his photographs reveal the painter’s soul of their author. What is worth emphasizing though is the subtlety thereof. Today, when almost everyone can take thousands of pictures adding to an apocalyptic rubbish documentary of an already monstrous size, when concept photography has lost its intriguing potential – Georgij Safronow is a source of energy and attentiveness. His aim is not to comment, unmask or deconstruct, but to arouse feelings. To overcome our lethargy with a winter dawn in the park, serene smile of a Petersburg tramp or sunlight reflection on the floor.

***

Simplicity, joy in creation, emotion, and the inner child walking against the stream of a river that dies … I know such an artist. His name is Gosza Safronow.

 

Maciej M. Szczawiński

July 2007