Nov. 18, 2021

Winiarski’s Games

Compared to the Polish post-war art scene, Ryszard Winiarski stood out with his approach to artistic work – which had almost no personal elements and was based on scientific calculations. When referring to his work, he used the word ‘creations' or the ‘attempts of visual presentations of statistical distributions' – and not ‘paintings'. 

Today, his works are sold for high sums at auctions and are sought after by collectors. They were mainly created using the spectrum of two colours – black and white. Those colours are closely related to the neutral and logical nature of the artist's activity. The first record of Winiarski's theory of creativity came into existence when he defended his ‘painter's thesis' in 1966 – ‘Event – Information – Image'. The compositions were based on a net designed by the artist, where the contents of a given section were determined by a throw of a dice or a coin. With time, the artist's calculations became more complicated and expanded by additional variables chosen by the artists on the basis of real-life events, such as a voting table found in the New York Post from June 5th 1973. It was the basis for creating a three-dimensional work that is presented in the catalogue for the upcoming “Post-War and Contemporary Art. Op-Art and Geometric Abstraction" auction. ‘Area 145', to which we are referring, was most probably created during the artist's trip to New York in 1973. The six-month journey was of great significance for the artist, as it was a time when many of his creative assumptions were formed. In the United States, the artist presented his work as part of the contemporary Polish painting exhibition at the Barney Weinger Gallery. 

Winiarski was aware of the innovative nature of his activities. He said:

“I believed I could introduce something different, important to art if I offer an analytical and formal attitude towards its subject. I attempted to abandon the mystification and opt for something other than a ‘whim'. Objective processes and a wish to introduce them into the field of art – that was the alternative. An ordinary countdown can be an objective process – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, but also 1, 3, 5, 7 or 2, 4, 6. Try to imagine the number of combinations that can exist when counting and how many experiments could be conducted based solely on that process – a process which is, after all, objective towards art, whims, nostalgia, behaviour, sensitivity.  However, when you take simple counting, such as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, you come to the conclusion that the number of experiences linked to it will be considerable but not never-ending. Meanwhile, we understand the world and experience it as an infinite reality."

(Jerzy Olek, Porządek przypadku, czyli o Winiarskim [in:] Ryszard Winiarski. Prace z lat 1973-74, op. cit., page 19).

In the auction catalogue, under lot 103, you can find a different work from the period discussed above. “Area 130" is a work with a much simpler composition, taking place on two dimensions. Both compositions were presented at an exhibition summarising this significant period in the artist's life – “Ryszard Winiarski. Works from 1973-1974" – shown in Cracow almost 20 years ago. The show, which gathered almost X works, was a testimony of Winiarski's genius. Thanks to the exhibition and the information in the catalogue, it was possible to comprehend his complex work process.