by Jove Winter
Oct 1998

Waldemar Kolbusz’s Freeway series is informed by a complete re-evaluation of his painting and identity. Representational and figurative works have evolved laterally, and enable an entry point into the internal and external world of the artist.

Speaking with Waldemar, he said “the current body of work stems primarily from revelations I experienced last year whilst driving alone in the Nevada and Arizona deserts”.

Waldemar set out on a nine month voyage in ’97. Travelling to Japan (Tokyo), London, Ireland and France. Preceding a five week driving spree around Europe, he worked in a studio in Provence and Portugal. Post-Europe, New York City rocked his world (where he worked alongside a sculptor). Followed by Las Vegas, he drove to the Grand Canyon. San Francisco was the final destination before returning to the land of Oz.

Resigning from his previous career as a certified practicing accountant, new possibilities were opened up in terms of art, life and ways of seeing both the roles of the artist and his work. The transition from corporate slave to full time practicing artist and passionate traveller has enabled him this freeway.

The Freeway series is constructed in such a way that you can see each layer unfolding. Oil paints, wax medium and linseed oil – built up in translucent layers explore the physical environment and spatial relationships. There is inter-connectedness between the works which may be viewed as being part of a much greater whole – a shared identity between the world in motion and the individuals view of these changes.

Infusing the works with sensations of fluidity and metamorphosis, Waldemar has executed a vast (and ongoing) series of paintings that radiate and flow with energy. Unfortunately this is only truly accessible when you view the actual works as opposed to photographic reproductions.

The realm of the unconscious is personified in the Freeway series as vast and fluid, akin to a body of water in which the viewer may float, sink or swim. The three works entitled Underwater fascinate me. Shifting tensions between colour and form intensify the emotional nature of the works.

Floating, fading, flowing through the lush terrain of the interior landscape, Underwater 2 contains a secret language. It reads like a code bubbling out of the surface, Speaking with the artist, he said they refer to “paradox … being under water is the most peaceful place and serene place of comfort, both surreal, and alien place, but we can’t survive under water due to the lack of oxygen.”

Push, Edge, Float and Ladder (each 1000 x 1000 mm) extend the mission of freeway. Wielding a richness of spirit and an intertextuality they inject painterly abstraction with new life. Similarly, Warm is wildly complementary to this sequence of works.

The Neon series appear minimal and elongated. Two of them are 1820 x 630 mm. Neon 2 is akin to a fleeting moment of clarity seemingly experienced at the speed of light. Three simple forms come out of the canvas, supported by deep masses of mysterious dark hues.

Even though many of the works are non-representational I took pleasure in viewing them as a kind of Ariel view. I read them as maps of consciousness. Light, Eclipse and Open Sky appear to co-exist and envisage a symbolic system of visual language. Interdependent relationships between abstract forms are intensified by gestural notions and deeply pondered, wide fields of colour.

There is an ambiguous sensuality, and lunar appeal radiating Eclipse. Deep night blues, water flowing (tears/drips), earth tones, fervent greens and browns contain an white centre illuminated by vibrant orange. This work is complex and richly satisfying. It reads as an alchemical painting that encompasses the elements – earth, fire, water and air. Eclipse is executed in such a way that elements of the painting glow and shimmer whilst other parts appear dull and flat.

Light and Open Sky may be understood as a dialectic between the conscious and the unconscious mind. Straight lines contrast soft lines, and solid forms float on top of obscured or hidden shapes. Waldemar has cleverly synthesised revelatory phenomena (that is external to each individual) into a freeform expression. Freeway is a path whereby Waldemar travels, summoning and communicating his internal visions onto canvas.

During the past ten years there has been a resurgence of early-modernist approaches to non-objective art, its case was reopened for questioning. According to Charles Green in Peripheral Vision this “rehabilitation of abstract painting . . . envisaged an artistic language capable of communicating transcendent truths unmediated by social codes. This revival was potentially incompatible with both the postmodern art scene of the 1980’s and the lingering legacy of 1970’s art, for it represented something else altogether: the survival of avant-garde longings for social relevance and engagement”.

Waldemar Kolbusz has undergone a revolution from within. Freeway stands as a testament to this rebirth of artistic desire though deeply pondered conversations with free-associational constructivism, reflexive minimalism and post-painterly abstraction.

The only other exhibition of abstract and sublimely atmospheric paintings I have viewed was by another Perth based artist – Brian Branchflower. There must be something in the water!

Blanchflower’s August ’98 exhibition entitled To the Power of Five was staged in PICA’s West End Gallery. Similarly, both shows are difficult to translate into structured words however they offer the viewer a visionary experience realised through minimalist paintings of worldly and poetic sensibility and sensitivity.