Waldemar Kolbusz’s large gestural paintings deliberately defy description; skirting joyfully around the edges of meaning and representation in an attempt to tap into something the artist refers to as ‘purely the artwork itself’. This ontological game of cat and mouse unfurls across the canvases with abandon, flirting with and yet ultimately escaping explanation.
This staunchly expressionistic project is abstract yet altogether unambiguous; Kolbusz, an accountant-cum-full-time-painter, makes no secret of his artistic concerns – paintings which ‘work’ and are ‘beautiful’. “I am interested in what makes expressive works beautiful”, he writes, adding “-recognisable as beautiful and not as a mess.”
Kolbusz is ultimately an artist of thresholds, attempting to fix in paint the inexplicable moment at which sense, order and control begin to emerge from what the artist refers to as ‘mess’ and what Continental Philosophy might refer to as the ‘virtual’. From an undifferentiated chaotic flux elements of order gradually congeal to form something we can make sense of, something we can describe and understand.
In documentation, Kolbusz’s process is revealed to be intuitive and spontaneous. He daubs paint in patches, piecing the works together like a patchwork quilt rather than in layers, although erasure and removal of paint does occur in the later stages. The resulting works open out in flat planes, an appropriate manifestation of a practice concerned with avoiding hierarchical description.
“To try and articulate it on a higher level or attribute deeper meaning would be missing the point about it being a visual articulation”, Kolbusz says. Not higher, or deeper, but ‘visual’ – an endless coming together of colours, lines and shapes that somehow provoke in us responses that are first emotional and second logical.
In this latest body of work, there is a patina of control and order creeping into the exuberant works. “In my painting process there is a point when what has been unexpected, spontaneous and expressive changes to controlled and considered”, Kolbusz writes. “It is also at this point where what may largely be a mess could transform into something beautiful”.
In working at this threshold – the mysterious and alchemical point at which order emerges from chaos and beauty from ‘mess’ – Kolbusz takes up the idea of potential at its source. The ‘couldness’ of a canvas and its paints take centre stage as the artist’s gestures slowly draw out the beauty hidden somewhere within these disparate elements. “In this body of work I am trying to limit the marks to just when I think this transformation occurs”, he says.
In works like ‘slippers’ this game of limits is apparent – the work is all restraint, teetering at the edge of resolution without ever tipping. There are even hints of deliberate control and traces of a hard-edge tradition, like the bold magenta rectangle interrupting the otherwise loose and gestural ‘even higher’.
Ultimately, the series as a whole tends always to the limits, with intrusions such as the magenta rectangle serving only to nudge the viewer back into the oceanic flow of experience Kolbusz seeks to evoke. This experience, he says, should be ‘something’, but what that something actually is will differ between individuals, and it is in these differences the true meaning of the works lie. Reality congeals differently for us all; Kolbusz simply offers up a plane that is an artwork and mirror, waiting to project back to us something ‘personal and almost indefinable’.