Marzena Łukaszuk »
Semiosphere of spirituality
We are what we feel and perceive.
Thích Nhat Hanh 1
Marzena Łukaszuk’s artwork could be described as writing by painting,
a kind of painting seen from a broad perspective, which also includes the
visual epidermis of the word. It is a poetic visual landscape whose essence
is a record of the artist’s spiritual reality. It is frequently the basic impulse
of creativity in general, but in the case of many artist, when expressed, it
remains at a certain level of generality and often leads beyond the intimate
area of inspiration.
In Marzena Łukaszuk’s case, artistic messages emerge from the deepest
layers of sensitivity. The author is not afraid to say what is going on in her
interior and her mind. She lets us in on her emotions and experiences,
expresses thoughts and reflections. The works convey both what one is
aware of and what is difficult to rationalize. The author releases everything
that is churning in her mind and soul. She forms free associations, echoes
of memories, emotions into a simplified, condensed shape which is subject
to our perception.
It requires the use of a special language, as subtle as the phenomena it is
supposed to reveal. The language we use every day is an imperfect tool
to express personal – often complicated – thoughts and feelings. A poet
wrote: ‘Words are a package too thick to express what I want to entrust to
The artist feels the need to visualize impressions. What we see in Marzena
Łukaszuk’s works is a physical expression of personal symbolic spaces.
Their manifestations are varied and complicated in many ways. That is
what happens in real life – because the signals which we use to express
experiences are of different nature. A reflection verbalized in a written form
is something different from the one yelled in pain. In Marzena Łukaszuk’s
artistic messages there are letters and ideograms, fragments of texts and
structures resembling rows of writing, lines and planes – neat forms and
undisciplined, colourful and achromatic stains. The picture blends with
the word, the word with the picture. New spaces – both personal: mental
and cultural: artistic, literary and philosophical arise from fragments of
memories, traces of experiences.
It ‘happens in and of itself’, but against all appearances, it does not happen
automatically and out of control as it (illusively) happened in surrealists’
artwork. In this process of creation there is a lot of intuition, but ultimately
the visualization of stimuli is ruled by the visual order. There is a place for
a struggle of a geometric factor with a soft gesture, discipline and freedom.
None of these elements alone could bear the burden of expressing impulses
flowing from the depths of the artist’s inner self. The imposing literariness,
the element of narration, realism as a method of forming the pictorial
elements would deprive the message of refinement and mystery. On the
of expression would make it far from the truth, spontaneity and also from
a kind of intimacy and poetry. In Marzena Łukaszuk’s works, the emotional
and spiritual content is not overwhelmed by the form layer. The artwork is
a coherent whole not only in the artistic but also expressive and semantic
The pictorial motifs are part of the subtle order of the whole. The relation
between a thought or feeling and a sign that is to express them is
sometimes close to allusiveness. Forms lying on the border of abstraction
and figuration sometimes show their semantic capacity in a suggestion of
a shape, though the artist does not strive to imitate phenomena (anyway,
how to associate the form with things so ephemeral as premonitions or
impressions?). The pictorial motifs are subjective, found deep inside,
condensed. Rather deprived of details, they only render the essence of
a phenomenon. Our perception habits – even though we would like to
get rid of them – sometimes allow us to recognize in them some specific
referents belonging to particular interpretative areas.
The softness and vitality of many shapes similar to organic ones, their fluidity,
the colours of the earth (as early as at the stage of graduate paintings), such
as browns and greens, make the viewer tend to see Marzena Łukaszuk’s
works as being under the influence of nature, which in its richness reveals
the logic of its structures. According to Ursula Le Guin: ‘(...) The pleasure
of learning the ordered complexity of Nature, which in itself is beauty’ is
a source of creativity. And: ‘The closer we are to nature, the more we feel
God in us.’ (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)3
Staying in the same circle of associations, it should be noted that it is the
landscape which is the motif often recalled when talking about Marzena
Łukaszuk’s works. In the context of her artwork this term has many meanings.
Let us mention here the topographic aspect, connected with the allusions
to the observed or remembered forms of landscape, the embodiments of
mountains or rivers that are ‘recognizable’ in the works, quasi-cartographic
projections of fields painted in sepia-coloured backgrounds, resembling
old documents and maps (the cycle Journey to England).
Marzena Łukaszuk’s language is very complex. And like every language,
it has its own structure. Confessions expressed in it are in a way ordered
and hierarchized. The order of the levels of the language is reflected in the
organization of visual elements of her artistic manifestations. In a sense, it
happens automatically because the use of the language causes the natural
structuring and ordering of the expressed message. Before we take a closer
look at the composition of Marzena Łukaszuk’s works, let us refer to one
more aspect of the language worked out by the artist.
Her manner of ‘artistic expression’ evokes a mystery on several levels. First
of all, it is her individual language, very complex; it is obvious that we
do not fully understand it and we probably do not have to, because the
meanings here also derive from the mood, the suggestion, the context, the
assumed ambivalence. Secondly, because it contains elements ‘magical’
in their spirit, for example, personal and difficult to decode ‘astrological’
or ‘alchemic’ symbols; the expression is full of winding paths, stops and
repetitions. It sometimes resembles encrypted texts from the vellum pages
of the Voynich manuscript.
This feeling is also enhanced by the fact that
a lot of Marzena Łukaszuk’s works were created on handmade paper or
special graphic paper; forms and letters can be blurred, flowing, written
in a calligraphic manner or painted in ink, as in medieval scriptoria. And
thirdly: we suspect that her hand is not only controlled by herself, but also
by something that she herself is not able to be aware of or explicitly define.
Therefore, the form of the record makes simple and ordinary things become
extraordinary, take on mystery and weight. Calligraphy is significant here, or
rather the manifestation of the sign, the trace that makes up the meaning of
the message. In these texts of culture, which Marzena Łukaszuk’s paintings
and graphics are, a sign (a letter, an ideogram) evokes varied spaces: from
the semantic to aesthetic one. Exploring the sphere of symbols, those
conventionalized and those expressing the unconscious, allows the artist
to immerse in the entire universe and at the same time to stay in constant
touch with it. It is important to name things, to talk about them not only in
order to form a relation with what is beyond us, but to enable us to have
a dialogue with ourselves.
Marzena Łukaszuk also hopes for a dialogue with the viewer. It results in the
original letters (whole series) of the artist to herself and at the same time her
letters to us. The epistemological and literary motifs are ubiquitous in her
art. A stream of handwritten thoughts, arranged in rows of letters – signs,
words – non-words, excerpts from real prose and poetic texts, the form of
a letter or a postcard imposed by the composition, the use of the unique
handmade paper, the use of ink, the emphasis on a perceptible gesture
of the writer – all these factors take part in the creation of calligraphic
landscapes, poetic images saturated with manifestations of spontaneous
The components of the presented world function within a defined
compositional grid. The horizontal arrangements of groups of letters, the
rows of the script as a reflection of linearity of the way of thinking influence
the fact that the composition is dominated by the horizontal layout of
the plane. There are also classical layouts of vertical and horizontal lines
(sometimes symmetry, also the one visible in ovals from the illustrations to
Andrzej Poniedzielski’s poems) determined by the character of the shapes
and their positions on the plane. In Typographic Nocturnes we can see the
scheme of a chessboard whose fields are filled with calligraphy lines. The
composition is rarely closed and directly surrounded by a ‘frame’; it is rather
related to a larger whole, which is a never-ending sequence of thoughts,
impressions and feelings.
The works are multi-layered compositions. This applies not only to divisions
on the plane, but also to the layouts that determine the course of pictorial
motifs towards the centre of the composition, the expression of which
builds up when they are placed on top of one another. It is not the aim of
the author to place emphasis on the feeling of spatial depth – it is rather
a reflection of the structure of thought and mental processes that stand
behind the work of art. The artist hierarchizes individual artistic entities by
dividing them into the primary and secondary ones, and details. The thing
that is also significant for the position they occupy on the plane and in the
space of the work is colour, arbitrarily defined for letters within a limited
palette, broader when it comes to a range of colours for other forms4.
To render the structure of the created message, the artist uses an original
perspective. It is a perspective that is a compromise between the principles
of the parallel and perpendicular view. Thanks to this, her ‘semantic
landscapes’ often resemble medieval maps, on which the geometric fields
of the grid, being the projections of the world seen from a top view, are
filled with the images of objects lying ‘one above the other’.
The space in Marzena Łukaszuk’s works has more spiritual and mental than
physical meaning. Interestingly, spatiality is also a feature of the content
expressed by her compositions, and even an attribute of the abstract
concept of a sign.
Let us take a look at the artist’s very interesting activities in graphic arts.
In linocuts and woodcuts, thoughts expressed in words and emotions are
more strongly stressed in the area of emotions. Like emblems, quotes from
memory, emotions conveyed in words and signs.
Marzena Łukaszuk reuses linocut and woodcut matrices which she once
used for print runs. Modified, thrown into new contexts, they are used to
make successive works, their variants, permutations, in which we can find
the already known motifs again (Epiphytes). The old records return from the
past. They are a catalyst for new interpretations and affections.
Recolens priora vestigia… ‘Retracing the route she has already taken’,
the artist also uses fragments of matrices (without the intention of
printing), regarding them as independent relief compositions. She uses
the opportunity to recall the meanings they convey, to give them new
meanings or to put them in new contexts, to ‘think them over’. In these
works, the sign or the word paradoxically take on a material shape – they
are spatial, tangible (someone might ask ‘How come you touch a word?’).
Returns and metamorphoses. Mutual overlapping. The typical of nature,
perpetual process of changes. The use of fragments of matrices, their re-use
gives them hope for further existence. Everything connects, permeates and
lasts. Jung, writing about the nature of archetypes, pointed out that they are
not mutually isolated, but are in a state of contamination, continuous and
variable permeation and blending. They form relations, complementing
each other or building opposites5.
For Marzena Łukaszuk the space of the cultural universe becomes an area of
searching for her identity. It is art that for her is the key tool of cognition, also
self-discovery. It is where beauty, that universal one and the one inherent in
a human being, looks at itself as in the mirror.
1 Thích Nh.t H.nh, Cisza. Si.a spokoju w .wiecie pe.nym zgie.ku, transl. Jan Pawe. Listwan,
Wydawnictwo Czarna Owca, Warszawa 2016, p. 39. All quotes in this essay translated into
English by El.bieta Rodze.-Le.nikowska.
2 Lubomir Lewczew, Poemat (1966). Lubomir Lewczew. Poezje wybrane, transl. Dimitrina
i Jacek Bukowscy, Ludowa Spó.dzielnia Wydawnicza, Warszawa 1976, p. 53.
3 As cited in: https://pl.wikiquote.org/wiki/Natura [4.12.2017].
4 It is worth emphasising that for the artist the medium of colour – the paint is always the
‘ultimate material’, when we take into consideration the physical aspect of the content
5 See: Carl Gustav Jung, Über die Archetypen des kollektiven Unbewußten, Zürich 1934, p. 225.
Transl. Elżbieta Rodzeń-Le¶nikowska