Daniel Zagórski   »

Early graphic cycles, representing the qualities of 'fantastic area and made in etching, aquatint, linocut and lithography techniques, were presented by Daniel Zagórski in the late 70s and 80s. At this time already the artist's works impressed by technical perfection, and most of all, they attracted by the special mood they created. The image layer was built by means of a set of characteristic requisites, such as fragments of Gothic edifices, clocks, shells, old photographs. Most of them referred to the motif of time passing, they recalled the past, evoked a feeling of nostalgia. The space closed by the view of stormy clouds, limited by darkness, with the rays of the sun penetrating the curtain of the dusk or the dawn reminded us of the power of nature and transience of wanderers' dreams, lonely travelers with their luggage of desires and complexes, going through the labyrinth of life and the land of art. As it turns out later, Zagórski, sometimes against his will, will frequently return to the similar image motifs, being unable to get rid of them.

As far as their meaning is concerned, these early works, despite numerous fantastic elements, were closer to the romantic mood rather than to the surrealistic stylistics. The latter will totally dominate the stage of computer graphic design. A burin and a chisel, merely substitute tools to form a vision in the past, are today (to some extent) replaced by an apparently perfect tool - computer. The artist's tameless imagination only needed appropriate means of expression to release a great number of moving pictures and moods. The worlds created originate from the artist's imagination and sensitivity. They might be present in our subconsciousness, however, we are very unwilling to release them.

The essence of Zagórski's creation lies mainly in using the artistic means of expression to materialize images which are manifestations of spiritual condition of the contemporary man as well as personal anxieties of the artist himself. Viewers demand explanations, they wish to get a key to decode the puzzle, to understand messages and the meaning of symbols used in the works. The artist, on the other hand, defends his right to freely move around the area of his imagination. It causes an inevitable tension and is a source of misunderstandings. Therefore, let us try to construct one of the possible interpretations. Zagórski's worlds are based on the elements we are familiar with or those whose probability of existence we are at least able to accept. It is mainly the result of great precision - maintained by the attitude of a 'realist' - which brings these worlds to life. Technical perfection makes even most unreal visions credible. Thus, it is a quasi-real reality with its space depth, seemingly reliable perspective, light and shade play, such reality, however, which contains a great deal of fantastic details.

Daniel Zagórski's graphic works are often based on photographic documentation, yet each component of the image elements is created by the artist from the very beginning. It is the case of an object's contour, its structure, type of texture, colour and light, space in which it is placed. Zagórski acts as a theatre director, who arranges the setting in a neutral space, sets decorations, gathers props, lightens the particularly significant spots on the stage with the use of spotlights, examines what kind of drama is built up in this background. In most cases it is a quiet drama of existence hidden under the symbolic meaning of the familiar, though fantastic, objects. Man on the stage of life is a recurring metaphor. The metaphor which is most obvious and legible in the series of works unequivocally titled Mój Teatr Malutki (My Little Theatre). The figures of actors puppets who are moved by an invisible hand of Fate-perform their little-great dramas a'la Shakespeare, Czechow or Beckett. They are simultaneously ridiculous and dismaying.

The artist, considering these performances to be his own life skirmishes, observes the actors with clemency, and sometimes even mockery. The close perspective makes us almost become the components of the presented world. In a few other cycles of works space takes the shape of a box stage filled with some cubic forms and meaningful single props (Świetlańce (Light Objects), Labirynty (Labyrinths), Pudełka (Boxes)). In this stage setting,in the limited oppressive space, the simplified image of man must face the challenge of isolation, cope with his complexes.

What seems to be a paradox, the artist creates a similar atmospherein his variations on architecture located in the open space. We are particularly impressed by similar to the realistic walls of blocks of flats areas presented in the cycle entitled Niezbyt Cłęboka Szarość (Creyness Not Deep Enough).

The incredible real, though originating from imagination, buildings constitute -like well structured pigeon-houses from Snyptasznika (Pigeon-Fanciet's Dreams) - a habitation of continuously passing human existences. '1/Vithin the walls of varied shades of grey, anxious dreams hardly attenuate solitude, the walls and scaffoldings hide painful bitter mysteries. The context which the artist creates for considerations of human condition allows another new metaphorical motive to appear. The creatures hidden in the towering cubic forms are allowed to hope and dream! They are set free to fly like birds. They show their most secret desires, they want their diffident aspirations to come true, they overcome their fears. The topos of the road, the motive of crossing space and especially the motive of flight has been present in Daniel Zagórski's work since the very beginning of his prolific creation. At first it was embodied by traditional symbols - birds, wings, sails; they mediated between what was terrestrial and celestial, between what was commonplace end sublime; they represented transience and liberation, flying up to freedom; to the artist they meant going through the steps of spiritual initiation, a simultaneous liberation from traditional limits, disregarding critical appraisals.

The latest cycles of graphics (Przepływy (Flow,), Navigare, Latawnie i polatyńce (Unusual Flying Objects), Prze,iadka w Koluszkach (The Change in Koluszki)) are fuli of images of fantastic sailing and flying machines, abstract forms composed of fragments of architecture, huge musical instruments enriched by a variety of gears, rotors and aircrews. It strengthens the feeling of dynamics, rotation, the effect of 'landing' or 'taking off' movement. Undoubtedly such images recall the echoes of the artist's personal experience (who was familiar not only with travelling by train at night but also with free -literally and metaphorically - floating in the air), but they are also an example of more universal considerations.

The motives of movement evoked in this way become in the mythological space the attributes of initiation 'transfer', they point to the necessity of wandering in order to discover the spiritual center, to achieve artistic self-awareness and human resistance to adversities. The motive is also maintained by images of architectural arches bridges and aqueducts, impediments to overcome (e.g. mist) as well as the opposition of light and darkness, night and day.

The cycles devoted to Łódź (Okruchy miasta (Scraps of the City), Stara Łódź (The Old Łódzl, Ziemia obiecana (The Promised Land), Ostańce (Remnants)) are a particular consideration referring to human condition and culture. Daniel Zagórski tries to face the myth of the Promised Land, the traditional image of Łódź preserved in our awareness. He presents us his own subjective image of the city, recalls its whole history, talks about its culture, yet at the same time he reveals its complexes, emphasizes paradoxes, demystifies it. He simultaneously loves and hates it.

The history transferred onto the cards of graphics includes both the construction of the first factories and palaces, and the wartime symbolical 'change' of the inhabitants from their houses onto the railway ramp, in the shadow of bombers chimneys, and even the post-war slogans of the propaganda of success in contrast to the ruined abandoned factory halls.

The artist uses the genuine images of the city, but he also adds new elements, he transforms them. Within one image he mingles the manufacturers' and worker's symbols, traces of the past are juxtaposed with fragments of the contemporary urban landscape.

In the architecture of 'the city of Łódź' the richness of the eclectic facades, glitz of stuccos and sophisticated metalwork stays in contrast to old plasters covered with lichen. The diseased walls are full of scars which are incurable. The weak light of a bulb is bloodily reflected in them. The backyards with claustrophobic paving have their patron s in the Christ of Steam, Madonna with a Coin and Josef of Sunday Washing. And people just dream of a slice of bread, unavailable as the moon up in the sky.

Silence of rusty spinning mills evokes strong negative emotions, causes pain as if our ear was hurt by a sharp piece of glass. The everyday concert died away a long time ago, the concert performed by piston s and gears, wheels which, like golden rouble coins, with every rotation spun the band of human and Łódź fate. It was the land of people woven of cotton. What is left today are their yellowed fa mi I y photographs, wooden furniture, rare traces of luxury: porcelain, old lace, a wall clock. Ali around there are little signs of present and past life - an ivy, a fern, a dried leaf or a feather. Colourful balloons try to soar into the sky, over the row of chimneys. As well as a kite, a symbol of liberation and escape. The image of the city preserved in Stara Łódź (The Old Łódzl, Ziemia obiecana (The Promised Land) is a vision of an organism in the condition before the heart attack. Its mechanical, worn out heart is not strong enough to work. The city is locked by a padlock, it drifts like a paper boat along a gutter. However, in these pictures of the fallen city, and especially in the Łódź Ostańce (Remnants) there is another accent.

Villas, churches, cemeteries, magnificent factory walls, ali that is left in the Łódź landscape as a symbol of splendour, even if it was ostensible, becomes mythologized (with some sense of humour) and monumentalized. From the relics of the industrial civilization the artist makes a cathedral, he builds an altar. He multiplies associations: pyramids, the leaning Tower of Pisa, Sagrada Familia by Gaudi and ... the Tower of Babel.

In the lanes of the multicultural labyrinth a brick menorah proudly grows, a giant samovar sticks out its belly, the Husaria Cavalry feathers flutter attached to the factory walls. Is it an image of the dead and gone pride, like a peacock tail made of som e weaving shuttles! Are they at present as in the past the only exhibits of the Łódź panopticum! Or perhaps ~ as the author himself states ~ it is just 100% of surreal ism! Daniel Zagórski is eager to refer to this artistic trend as far as his works are concerned. Zagórski's images are surrealistic in this sense that the reality presented in them is s o much astonishing and sometimes absurd that it 5eems to be unbelievable and non-existing.

The reality which, for some reasons reached the limits of surrealism, can be discussed only by means of the language which is sated with unreal elements, the language fuli of neologisms not only visual but also verbal ones. New image constructions are accompanied by new language expressions present in the titles of graphics and cycles, and in the poetic attempts included in the Internet presentation of works. The methods of 'searching for inspiration' for such images are certainly not surrealistic at all. Daniel Zagórski's graphic works are not the reflection of any fantastic dreams, they are not created as a record of free associations, have nothing in common with the surrealistic automatism. Zagórski's method of work is rational, the metaphorical references are speculated, and emotions and feelings stay under control. It lets the artist keep to the formal discipline.

The images ,lre carefully constructed, the artist retains a balanced, most I y central composition. He creates a great depth of space which, as if it was to keep balance, sometimes becomes horizontally curved, presented as if a wide-angle lens was used. It is an occasion to break an impression of Baroque 1Iiusionism which makes Zagórski keep the unreal in reality acuteness of many plans. Sometimes hollows and relief s of space (Dołki i Córki (Pits and Hillocks)) become an independent aim - and play - for the artist, fascinated by the creative potential of computer graphic design. Daniel Zagórski's works are subsequent display frames of a peculiar luminous theatre. The scenes of this performance take place in semi-darkness, however, we can observe some distinct flashes of bright light - which falling in different directions - permeates through the windows and doors, through arcades, construction of rafter framing; penetrating the mist and the dust of some interiors is endowed with the metaphysical measure, monumentalizing the down-to-earth common-place reality.

Fascination by the bright intensive light makes the artist resign from colour in numerous latest works. Earlier Zagórski was not a colourist either, however he made uniformly colour full graphic works or he connected colour planes within one print, making colours undergo the process of fading, which - aging the picture ~ introduced the right atmosphere and appealed to our subconsciousness. Today in many graphic works colour is conveyed only by selected individual requisites, being definitely distinguished from the monochromatic background. Finally the whole series of works is created which - from t Ile aesthetic point of view - becomes a kind of discourse concerning the shades of white and the spectrum of grey in the space featured with light and shade.

In the latest works, regardless of the subject, the artist limits the number of image motives, he talks about reality using simplified codes, sometimes merely signs, he tends towards the poster form (Sny ptasznika (Pige()n-Fancier's Dreams), Znaki (Signs), Pudełka (Boxes)). The cycles are characterized by a limited number of requisites, the space deprived of redundant objects, the laconic narrative, a subtle colour approach. The works, tranquillized, gain the feature of great nobility, they appeal to us to a greater extent - not by a complicated tale or outrageous juxtaposition of image elements, but by subtler aesthetic qualities.

Within the trends of 'post surrealism', fantastic realism' or fantastic 'hiperrealism', which Zagórski is s o keen on, there is horror of death, decay and destruction on many canvases, photograms or graphic prints. Artists 'torment alive creatures, they distort human bodies. The images are aesthetically 'beautiful', though extremely brutal.

Daniel Zagórski is close to this poetic only in the cycle of works titled BekZagi. However, we should remember that the artist refers here to Zdzisław Beksiński's painting. He refers to his stylistics, uses similar iconographic motives, colours images in a similar way, explicitly emphasizing the inspiration. Zagórski even goes further, trying to develop the subjects the creator from Sanok did not manage to deal with. Looking at these works we notice how different this creation is in the context of Daniel Zagórski's whole oeuvre.

In his independent original works the artist does not lead us to despair. Determination and search for values, which we continuously discover in his work, arouse admiration, but they also give us hope that we need so much.

Dariusz Leśnikowski

Transl. Elżbieta Rodzeń-Leśnikowska