Janusz Bąkowski-creativity

The Old Town, Rose, Ball, 1973

In 1973 Bakowski created three series of works which further expanded upon the formal experiments first used in the earlier set titled “Marek”. The initial photographs were reproduced, then cut and montaged again according to a mathematical scheme of his own invention, different for each series. This is how, as the artist claimed himself, “through multiplication and reorganization of the photographic material according to a mathematical discipline” he strove to “change the perception of an object (theme), not changing the object itself, neither destroying nor deforming it.” From that point the principle of creating compositions according to a mathematical-logical scheme became the founding principle of works which Bakowski described using his own term as “photographic surfaces”. In the three series discussed here the artist pursued a study on changes in the perception of a structure of an object (“Ball”), a spinning motion (“Rose”), and the phenomenon of the disappearance of the right angle (“The Old Town”), creating more and more abstract constructions with each plate.
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Square, Line, Zero to Infinity

The compositions “Square”, “Line”, and “Zero to Infinity” are – as the artist put it himself – “a further development of the analysis of a photographic image by its systemic extension and shifting of focus towards issues bordering on mathematics.” Unlike his earlier works, where Bakowski was preoccupied with explorations into the perception of reality depicted in a photograph, here the artist addresses the relationship between the text conveyed in an image/tile and its meanings, and representation itself. In this sense, the works can be seen as the artist’s first purely conceptual compositions. “The works ‘Square’ and ‘Line’ convey an analysis of the perception of an object which came to life in the course of programming and development of the work. These series simultaneously define the limits of photography and the ability of perception.” wrote Bakowski. Both compositions were based on a similar principle where a text on a photograph, which described the actions it was subject to, served as the point of departure. The work “Square” consists of fourteen square photographs which make up two parts. The first sequence, consisting of seven prints, starts with a photograph on which the following text was multiplied seven times: “this square is divided into nine squares, one of these squares has been enlarged to the size of the initial square.” Subsequent photographs follow the principle defined by the first print, the final effect being the seventh composition in the form of a black square. A reverse procedure was implemented in the second sequence of photographs, which follows the instruction on the first print: “this square has been downsized nine times, nine downsized squares make up a square equal in size to the initial square”, however the end result, that is the black square on the final print, is similar to that of the previous sequence. An analogous principle is at work in Bakowski’s composition “Line”. A rectangular, vertical plate displays a text explaining the procedure: “the line of this text has been divided in half, one half has been enlarged to the initial size”. The effect is a black vertical line which takes up half of the plate. The work “Square” was exhibited in 1978 at Bakowski’s solo show which launched the program of the Mala Gallery of the Association of Polish Artists Photographers, as well as in the Gallery Znak, in Bialystok, along with the work “Line” completed in 1979. The composition “Zero to Infinity” took its name from the title of a group exhibition held in 1979 at Foto-Medium Art Gallery in Bialystok, for which the work was prepared. The work offers a literal illustration of the theme consisting of a series of photographs mounted on a plate, the prints show the number zero in various stages of development.
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Introduction to Painting

In the early 1980s Bakowski decided to take his experience in photography into the realm of painting. In the work “Triangle, Square, Circle” from 1983, the artist combined his earlier principle of composition based on mathematical schemes with reflections on color and the issue of its perception. Much like the photographic prints, the canvas surface was divided into a grid of squares which was then filled with the following colors: blue, yellow, red and green, according to a previously defined order. The colors were ascribed to three basic geometrical figures: square, circle, and triangle, which made up the composition of the painting. Experience related to text, gained by the artist on occasion of the photographic works “Square” and “Line”, was later used in such paintings as “Spheres” of 1985, “Perpetuum Mobile” of 1986, and “Self-Portrait” made between 1986 and 1987. In the former two works a written caption explained the origin and method of arriving at the final image, while in the case of “Self-Portrait” the text was a complementary autobiographical note. Bakowski also extended his research on color by coming up with his own typeface where each letter was ascribed to a different hue. The painting “Spheres” employed the “rainbow sequence of color”, meaning various wavelengths, which made it possible to “arrive at a colorful alphabet starting from the shortest violet wave for the first letter of the sequence AĄBCĆDEĘFGHIJLKLMNOPRSŚTUVWXYZZ and ending with the longest red wave for the letter Ż”. A similar method was at work in the painting “Perpetuum Mobile”, the difference being the slightly less vivid colors that contrasted with the deep black background, while in the case of the “Self-Portrait” the letters of the alphabet were ascribed to various hues of gray, “A” being most pale.
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