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"Sacha Stawiarski: Landscapes" will be on display at The Society for Arts/ Gallery 1112 until August 6, 2000: Twenty-one canvases, with several more available for viewing in the gallery offices. Stawiarski's work is characterized by several prominent features: there is a sensitivity to 'the geometry inherent in things'; a direct, bright palette; and a strong, 'Post-Impressionistic' awareness of outdoor light.
Stawiarski's awareness of the geometry in landscape does suggest that Paul Cezanne's great achievement was won with great effort: Stawiarski, like Cezanne, is an artist who looks at how he sees, as well as what he saw. Cezanne's breakthrough ushered in new generations -- a plentitude of entirely novel directions in art. Sacha Stawiarski represents an alternative; a highly individual, contemporary exploration of what Cezanne earlier intuited.
In Stawiarski's paintings, three basic vantages reveal themselves to the viewer: one finds the 'panoramic scene,' a distant and overall survey of a topography; the 'genre scenes,' which is to say, specific sites, 'locale,' often with an associated activity or use; and finally the artist's concentration on human subjects in situ -- at home and at ease. This showing presents variety within a personal and perceptive idiom in art.
Sacha Stawiarski is a Polish painter now residing in France. Writer, Stanislaw Rodzinski, called the landscapes of Stawiarski a contemporary 'Hymn to the Sun'..." [Sacha Stawiarski: Painture, dessin: painting, drawing, Stanislaw Rodzinski, 1999]. Light in these paintings plays a major role; and it is a palpable, sensuous essence. Here, light and geometry are key elements.
On April 15, 1904: Cezanne wrote to the young painter Emile Bernard: "...treat nature by means of the cylinder, the sphere, the cone, everything brought into proper perspective so that each side of an object or a plane is directed towards a central point." (In Paul Cezanne: Letters; Editor, John Rewald (Cassirer: 1941). In Stawiarski's Ramatuelle, one faces all of Stawiarski's insights and intuitions at full force. The prominent building at central left forms a focal point in its bright, uninterrupted contour of building wall and this is counterweighted within the overall composition by architectural subdivisions aggregated to its right. What Richard Verdi said of Cezanne's studies after Murillo apply even more to Stawiarski: Verdi noted in such an artist's working out of composition that "...he regards subject and setting as part of a continuum...." Verdi also notes that in such art, the artist discovers a "rhythmic unity of separate elements in the composition...." [In Cezanne, (Thames and Hudson: 1992)] In Ramatuelle, as in many of the Stawiarski canvases, there is a focus, and an oblique dispersal of resolution which lends the entire image a Euclidian dynamicism: one experiences a 'mobile' of mass and form. Within Ramatuelle, the building wall at central left is the largest single bright mass in the composition -- it, and the counterpoised smaller structures, are confined by blue sky and darker hues at the painting's circumference. All this gives the whole canvas a subtle, active harmony; and a satisfying play of hue and tone.
Stawiarski's paintings often exhibit such an inborn artifice of perception; and with it, an underlying, and deeply gratifying unveiling of what the human seeks in viewing the world about it. Richard Verdi noted a kindred process in which "[Cezanne] has achieved this effect of Spartan simplicity only by stripping away everything inessential from the scene and allowing abstract considerations completely to override the vagaries of nature." [Op.Cit.] It is a revelation as immediate in the artist's instinctive 'unmasking,' as it is profound in the afterthought of analysis, and what D.H. Lawrence said of Cezanne in 1929 is further developed in Stawiarski's work: "Sometimes Cezanne builds up a landscape essentially out of omissions." In Sacha Stawiarski's oils, selection of form and mass is as vital as the profound manipulation of color and shade, and it is the result of the artist's intense observation collaborating with a deft and innate sensitivity. If how the artist achieves his effect were immediately obvious, the work would fail. This is an insight recognized by the Art Institute of Chicago's James Elkins: "As artists know, in order to draw something new you have to study it with the express purpose of seeing the necessary parts and remembering them." Elkins cautioned: "You can never see an entire landscape, because views of the world are built from the ground up out of reasonable assumptions." It was Elkins who in example, said of trees at a distance: "They are phantoms, forms without structure." [In The Object Stares Back, James Elkins (Simon & Schuster: 1996)].
Stawiarski's Ramatuelle is a fine example of his 'panoramic scene,' a distant and overall survey of the 'lay of the land.' Le Port de Saint Tropez II exemplifies the artist's 'genre scenes.' It centers on specific 'locale,' and here the viewer is given the general background, and then invited to resolve the specific, supportive activities which drive that site's activities, its very life. Four figures toil at the daily, ever demanding tasks set by the port. In the upper background is the touristic perceptions of repose, but in the fore, the incessant, seemingly mundane, but necessary labor continues on. There is an emblematic strategy at work, instinctual, but direct. One visits the locale and is pleased; others toil to make it so. There are twenty-one canvases of Stanislaw Stawiarski at The Society for Arts/ Gallery 1112 which display an accomplished realization of the geometry inherent in our seeing and which develop it further: an exploration of how form resonates to the core of our seeing and our attendant sense of place: they capture the scenes and sense of life. And toward this end, Sacha Stawiarski's work also recruits a very contemporary feel for color.
At first sight, a viewer might conclude that these paintings employ Fauvistic color -- color as a substitute for shade and the achievement of depth through black and white values, rather than any naturalistic tone and shade. Certainly, the canvases are bright and well delineated in their compositional form by a predominantly unmixed palette. Much of this, however, rests upon a real observation voiced earlier by Paul Gauguin: "A green next to a red does not produce a reddish brown, like the mixture [of pigments], but two vibrating tones. If you put chrome yellow next to this red, you have three tones complementing each other and augmenting the intensity of the first tone: the green. Replace the yellow by a blue, you will find three different tones, though still vibrating through one another. If instead of the blue you apply a violet, the result will be a single tone, but a composite one, belonging to the reds." Gauguin concluded: "The combinations are unlimited ...Colors exist only in an apparent rainbow, but how well rich nature took care to show them to you side by side in an established and unalterable order, as if each color was born out of another!" [In Paul Gauguin, A Sketchbook, by Raymond Cogniat, 3 volumes (Hammer Galleries: 1962).]
Stawiarski's paintings advance beyond this; and beyond the explorations of even the Synchromist painters. The American painter Stanton MacDonald Wright expressed that further insight: "By placing pure colors on recognizable forms (that is, by placing advancing colors on advancing objects, and retreating colors on retreating objects), I found that such colors destroyed the sense of reality, and were in turn destroyed by the illustrative contour. Thus, I came to the conclusion that color, in order to function significantly, must be used as an abstract medium. Otherwise the picture appeared to me merely as a slight, lyrical decoration." [Stanton MacDonald Wright, "On Synchronism," (1916), in Forum Exhibition of Modern American Painters (Anderson Galleries: 13-25 March 1916: reprinted 1968)]. Stawiarski's paintings at The Society for Arts/ Gallery 1112, Chicago, in fact, both reveal and further this insight. In all these painting, explicit line or outline, and the shaping of object by use of shadow and highlight are minimal. Stawiarski's painterly analysis of form and mass emerge from his sensitivity to color -- the transformation of apparent hue in the presence of bright light and its play upon presumptive dark.
In a work such as La Bravade de Saint Tropez, the compositional schema is explicit: a variegated light ground at mid canvases separates the upper, deeper background, while in the foreground, a bustle of activity, visually interbalanced and complex, draws the strongest attention. But in this work, a Synchromistic sense of color carves the backdrop of buildings as well as the foreground crowd in the lower third of the canvas. Subjects, whether structural or human, advance or recede for the viewing eye according to the logic of unmixed color on form; indeed, Stawiarski's use of color unveils the essence of form. This artist's work is exciting visually, but it is only in afterthought that one realizes the intense concentration and skill which makes it so. The twenty-one canvases now hanging at Gallery 1112 reveal a consistent evolution and dedication in the artist.
This showing also covers works exhibiting Sacha Stawiarski's attention to the human subject in situ -- at home and at ease. Le Pecheur is representative of this approach and it presents the gallery visitor with a Post-Impressionistic expression of an ambience much akin to the American artist, Edward Hopper. One readily admits that even within Stawiarski's own style, there is a wide range of mood and expression. The gallery has prepared an excellently illustrated catalogue of this artist's work, which also gives paintings not sampled in this exhibit. Le Pecheur seems meditative in an near Surrealist, or 'Existentialist' sense, even though it conveys an aura of relaxation and repose. The Sacha Stawiarski catalogue on sale at the Gallery 1112 bookstore includes many of the paintings in this exhibit, and a range of works not shown in Chicago, among them paintings which attest to Stawiarski's interest in athletics -- the human form in motion and at play -- and more popular images of recreation. Whether the artist centers primarily on his interpretative vision, or freely delights in the sights and the activities he encounters, Sacha Stawiarski's work constitutes a true and deep pleasure for the gallery visitor. Stawiarski is a significant painter, an observer of our contemporary world with very considerable talents and an acute receptivity to life.
"Sacha Stawiarski: Landscapes," twenty-one canvases, will be on display at The Society for Arts/ Gallery 1112 until August 6, 2000. This exhibition is a highly rewarding discovery for the serious art patron, and a true delight for the casual gallery visitor. The exhibition is well-curated. And the visitor would be well-advised to investigate the art catalogues and books offered in the gallery's book store.--G. Jurek Polanski
Editorial Note: The Society for Arts/ Gallery 1112 hosts a bookstore in which a number of well-produced art catalogues are proffered. Sacha Stawiarski: Painture, dessin: painting, drawing (Stanislaw Rodzinski, 1999) is well worth the modest $15.00. And a number of other, important and desirable publications should be checked out. This is a gallery which presents quality for the visitor and collector. In his book, The Object Stares Back, James Elkins (Simon & Schuster: 1996) contributes an informal, individual review of sight and perception which sheds light on much about allied insights in modern art. Synchromism and American Color Abstraction: 1910-1925 by Gail Levin (George Braziller/Whitney Museum of American Art: 1978) has much to add to the discussion, as does Paul Cezanne: Letters, Ed. John Rewald (Cassirer: 1941) and Richard Verdi's Cezanne (Thames and Hudson: 1992).
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