Grzegorz Bednarski. A hedonist depicts the Crucifixion

May 10, 2007 - May 25, 2007

The series "A hedonist depicts the Crucifixion" was created in the years 1998-2002 and includes large and medium format oil paintings (8 works) as well as a set of a dozen or so pastels. Also connected with this series is a fresco with the same title designed by Bednarski and painted by him along with Bogdan Klechowski on a wall of the Rentgen artistic diner on Szczepański Square in Krakow. That fresco was painted in 1999, but was soon after painted over by the owners of the premises. The intriguing title: "A Hedonist depicts the Crucifixion" does not so much reflect the subject matter of the performances as it defines the artist's attitude to painting, or more precisely to the creative process itself - in this case painting. But in fact the author himself clarifies this matter best, when he explains the circumstances behind the idea for such an unusual title in one of his e-mails.

[the title] "A hedonist depicts the Crucifixion" - came to mind [...] during a reception, when one of my more aggressive friends lunged at me in a drunken flight of fancy and shouted: "YOU Hedonist, who paints the Crucifixion!!!" After which he merely mumbled, shouted something incomprehensible and fell under the table. At first there was great consternation, because the company was rather dignified and put out. Falling under the table, he pointed at my colleague and added: - So he said. The colleague naturally denied this vehemently and blushed with embarrassment. Then there was a rapid change of mood. I could have felt affronted by something like that, however it never entered my head, because I thought it all over and admitted that there was some sense in this paradox, or paradoxical situation, which in spite of everything cut deep to the essence of our thinking about the nature of man, pain, suffering, joy and self-admiration. The tension in the title, between "Hedonist, and Crucified" seemed to me adequate, very appropriate with regard to what I was doing and thinking about at that time. So that title was applied to several more pictures that I painted under just that title.

Two of the artist's earlier series had a considerable influence on the form of the Hedonist depicting the Crucifixion: House of Mysteries and Agitation with an ecstatic figure. Hedonist is distinguishable from these for its evident calming of the performances and a more reflective approach to the subject. The painter's self-discipline is perceptible to a considerably greater degree than thus far. This is manifested mainly by the arrangement of the props from which the artist builds the compositions of his paintings. That which once vigorously dominated his canvases has now, by way of punishment, been regulated by him to an assigned place. The egg and knife lie on a stool, the chair stands on a table, on the chair is a vase of flowers, the skull lies on the tabletop. Nothing here is flying through the air as it had done in the past, nothing is blinded by an unreal light, no twisted space deforms. We don't find any crucifixion on these canvases, nonetheless the objects emerging in Hedonist: sheets of metal, beams, ropes, hammers and belts create an arsenal, from which the painter builds his illusory theatre of tortures, permitting us to make out in the far perspective certain references to presentations of the Suffering. In the Hedonist series Bednarski above all "crucified" his favourite studio objects, assigning them a strictly defined place and function in the painting, simultaneously delighting - like the title's hedonist - in the pleasure derived from the very act of painting.

Critical analysis by J.W.


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