For some reason this painting touches me. Perhaps it’s the colors, iridescent and luminous. Perhaps it’s the sharp break between background and foreground, like the breaks between different times, different states, different ways of living. Perhaps it’s the roundness of spheres, containing what? Possibilities? Perhaps it’s the sense of quiet movement.
The background moves from a blue-grey misty softness through the colours of a foggy sunrise to light. Over it a dark mark hovers, sharp and angular and broken, rough edges driving outward, darkness smattering into the background. In front, as if they were coming toward us, luminous spheres hover and glow, delicate as bubbles. Their colours lie lightly on them; the ones at the top hold the most darkness.
The curves of the spheres contrast with the straight marks behind, their luminous quality with its darkness, their softness with its strength. It’s as if a world of beauty is bubbling out through the darkness.
In one sense, all art is abstract – even what looks most realistic is only an illusion, an abstraction from reality. After all you can’t reproduce the real world on a flat canvas.
But this is abstracted from a world of thought and imagination. Which made me wonder: what kind of imagination? What kind of person created this? And why this?
When I went exploring, this is what I learned:
Waldemar Smolarek was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1937. During World War II his family was separated by the occupying Germans, and his father died just before the end of the war. Then times were hard, the family was poor and he had to become independent and self-supporting as soon as he could.
He became interested in and studied metalwork and painting, and by 1958 he was taking part in unauthorized exhibitions at the Barbican (Barbakan) in Warsaw. Through them he became friends with many other independent artists, and his circle of friends and acquaintances was wide.
And since the Barbican was a place to which foreign visitors came his work was seen and appreciated by many from the West. He was invited to exhibit his paintings in Italy, Sweden, Austria and the U.S.
With his reputation growing and life in Warsaw becoming more repressive he left Poland illegally and made his way to Sweden. There he developed more friendships with artists and within the Jewish community, but he wanted to be as far away from Poland as possible. So he left for Canada, going to Vancouver, where he continued to work and to exhibit internationally.
Waldemar Smolarek was a quiet, solitary man who channelled everything into creating his art. He sold a few of his paintings, donated some to charitable causes and kept many for himself; and when he passed away peacefully in 2010 he died surrounded by those paintings.
Quiet and solitary and brave. To work abstractly takes both courage and faith: courage to strike out into the world of imagination and faith that others will take the time to contemplate and understand.
Now I think of him working, thinking, crafting the images he shared. And you – now that you know more about the man, how do you see this painting?
(Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike 3.0 Unported License)