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Open for Interpretation – Waldemar Kolbusz’s Abstract Art

by Magdalene Phua

ISH (Singapore), issue 2.5

If someone asked me a month ago if I understand abstract art, I would have laughed in his face. As it turned out today, I actually do understand it – in my own ways.

Recently I was at the exhibition of Waldemar Kolbusz. Waldemar was an ex-accountant, of Polish descent, who had boldly swapped pen for brush in 1996 to pursue painting full-time. He has since become an acclaimed Australian abstract artist – definitely a remarkable feat for what many would have considered a suicidal attempt. This exhibition was his first in Singapore and also his first outside of Australia. I was faced with the daunting task of writing about a subject that is self-explanatory in its name and yet equally contradicting and unidentifiable in its meaning.

Prior to the exhibition, I visited the artist’s website and saw some of his works online. I thought they were very pretty and pretty colourful. Pardon the frivolous terminology…but looking at the large oils in the flesh (if only you were there to witness it), I am sure you would have agreed with me that seeing a thumbnail on the web grossly undermines Waldemar’s intensely provocative abstracts.

For days subsequent to the virtual visit, I experienced a writer’s worst nightmare – I was blocked. Brain , yes I supposed….or not. Was it an emotional block – a sudden handicap in the heart? Or soul? Was I unable to feel the paintings, or just unable to write about them? I was in a abstract mood for days. I stared completely dumb struck at the computer screen , trying to formulate the words that give you – the reader – a comprehensible idea of Waldemar’s abstract oil paintings. Words like “sublimely atmospheric” and “pulsating with energy” have been used to describe his contemporary paintings that have “all to do with colour and space.”

When I met Waldemar at the exhibition, he explained the intentions of his art – to “invoke emotional response through the paintings; [they are] for people to enjoy and look at colour and space in a new way.” His paintings might just look like geometric shapes represented in different combinations of colour but if you look further, you would realise that there is more to it than meets the eye. His preference for oils as a medium allows for flexible layering that can range from a watercolour to a solid effect. Waldemar, a late bloomer in art but obviously a natural talent, has been having sell-out exhibitions but despite his string of successes, Waldemar maintains a “healthy skepticism” and wants to be critical about his work.

I asked him which amongst the displayed pieces is his favourite and he told me there is not a particular piece but each one has a “special significance”. He handed me some food for thought as he explained further that he feels differently towards each one everyday. I supposed it must be true because as I surveyed the paintings several times over, I began to discover new depths and dimensions that appealed to me in diverse aspects, both visually and emotionally.

However Waldemar did let me in on his pick of the day, and they were abstractly described as “Flavour” and “Blue Square Chaise”. “I think they will look nice hung on opposing walls,” he said. Very abstract indeed.

Although armed with no prior knowledge or expertise to decipher what the artist’s concepts behind his abstract art are, I learned to explore and allow myself to be seduced into thinking what I feel and think. And this is exactly where the beauty of the whole experience lies. Abstract art touches and communicates to each one of us in different ways based on the individual’s own unique perception.

I came out of the exhibition feeling happy and strangely inspired by Waldemar’s creations. Visually? Yes. Emotionally? You bet. Just as I was contemplating on painting abstract, I also heard a whole orchestra of voices shouted, ” What are you? Nuts?”