Alexandra Gieczys-Jurszo
The question of identity

Artur Przebindowski's "Megalopolis" is considered one of the few fascinating works of Polish painting to have emerged in recent years.

This is borne out in his achievements, which include Grand Prize from the Ministry of Culture & National Heritage at the XXIII Festival of Polish Contemporary Painting in Szczecin (2010), and honorable mentions at the 40th Painting Biennale “Bielska Jesień 2011". "Megalopolis" stands out against the artist's previous work in its firmly grounded, intellectually mature, rigorous adherence to a purity of discipline which he built over years into his own form of articulation with paint. The most characteristic feature of Przebindowski's creations is their meticulously planned construction, distribution of form, plays on plane and perspective, and color valuation. The shapes themselves, the rhythm of repetition, and the division of space make up the graphical provenance. In his own way, Przebindowski struggles with surface, developing the canvas into frames like comic strip poetry. On the other hand, the force with which the artist settles the dramaturgy of his paintings through color, striking monumentalism and decorative qualities conjures up associations with stained-glass painting and Byzantine mosaics. The latter associations are without a doubt justified, when one takes into consideration the long, tedious and demanding process which went into creating the works. Their aforementioned monumentality manifests not only in an unerring quest for synthesis and expressiveness, but in the artist's predilection for absolute perfection as well. Because the object of this longing is indeed unachievable, work on the series is endless, each new image both echoing the previous and bringing forth new thoughts and solutions in form and content alike.

However, at the heart of the "Megalopolis" series' success is the pictorial equivalent which Przebindowski has hit on for such a difficult topic as the aesthetically barren landscape of suburban favelas might seem to be. The artist, in transposing these truly depressing and dystopian motifs to the canvas, makes a masterful display of skill in constructing these images on the principle of contradiction. For although the theme itself - existentialist landscape of postmodernity as locus horridus - is constantly explored in contemporary art, in the case of Przebindowski's creations, we encounter a certain very original paradox throughout his "Megalopolis" series: drawing the viewer's eye in with the energy and visual power of the artist's brush oversteps classic dichotomies, melding extraordinary charm, sensuality, and color combinations with an off-putting, anxiety-inducing spectacle. The essence of the artist's works is encompassed in this duality. The binary structure of these paintings at once attracts and repels, generating a disturbing dissonance between a medium's aesthetics and its nature. The salient emotion of these images is concentrated in the color, as a supreme object, as well as the object of this painting. The hypnotic, enchanting experience of color is a purely physical impression. Reception takes place beyond the viewer's consciousness, radiating tension, which do nothing to prepare us for taking in the meanings embedded in the image. This occurs because - according to Andre Lhotse in his "Treatise on Landscape" - "the sensation of color always precedes perception of form by a very short time; which legitimizes different treatments of the elements of form and color." Przebindowski seems to consciously hyperbolize the effect. The painter's consistency in carrying out his intentions enhances the expression of his ideas and constitutes the formal essence of his work.

When the realism of the motifs finally starts sinking in, a stifled, crumpled composition emerges before the beholder, like a sort of gargantuan human termite nest. Piled up walls of buildings expand outward, emancipating and annexing everyone and everything. The viewer becomes complicit in the invasion, as the oppressive spacial essence brings about unbearable anxiety and insecurity. This feeling underscores the absence of living creatures within the view. Trace elements of nature too are spotted, but then lost among the overwhelming mass of concrete blocks.

If the artist deliberately leaves the audience to their individual interpretations and avoids placing his works in any context, the title of the series, like the works' characteristic mood, tends to treat "Megalopolis" as a kind of narrative. It is difficult to shake the impression that his works in fact address the problems of the alienation and loneliness of the human condition, in a world which he himself created. Przebindowski's desolate panoramas are multiplied records of the traces of humanity's presence, whose existence - in Francis Starowieyski's words - was but a brief episode in the scheme of things. One strong argument for this sort of interpretation here is the identity of space and location. It's hard to ignore the feeling evoked by the architecture of "Megalopolis", of boundless built-up spaces empty on the inside, devoid of contents which could have given their existence meaning.

For the artist himself "Megalopolis", made tangible, becomes something more than he can verbally articulate. He treats his work as a private practice, and in this way the fundamental "Megalopolis" becomes a deeply internalized, inner self-portrait: "Painting is for me - though it may sound trite - a question of identity. It's my personal method for organizing the world and 'channeling' my passions... It occurs to me that in my works I am shaping reality. My images are a kind of refuge, which allow me to substantiate myself." Przebindowski's paintings can thus be read also as a kind of spiritual autobiography.

Whichever interpretive view we assume, his work is capacious enough to keep us searching for meanings encoded in it. The individual decisions and preferences of the viewer also depend whether we view them merely as paintings. Regardless, we are certainly dealing with works of a high order.

Artur Przebindowski - Born in 1967 in Chrzanów. Graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków. Diploma from the studio of professor Roman Banaszewski in 1993. He won Grand Prize in the painting competition "Shower: The birth of pleasure" in Bad Zwischenahn in Germany in 1998, and Grand Prize of the Ministry of Culture & National Heritage at the XXIII Festival of Polish Contemporary Painting in Szczecin in 2010, and received honorable mentions at the 40th Painting Biennale “Bielska Jesień 2011". Since 1995, he has regularly exhibited his work at exhibitions both in Poland and abroad.

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