From the beginning
Edward Dwurnik is an indefatigable worker. His productivity is legendary. Art critics, exhibition curators and journalists alike all revel in giving the numbers of pictures he can create in a week, a month, a year.
When you reach two hundred paintings a year, no one even tries to count the works done on paper anymore. Only Dwurnik himself can know his whole output, as even those art dealers who are on the best of terms with him are seldom invited to the upstairs studio where he keeps his drawings.
I’ve got storerooms full of paintings at home, huge chests of drawers stuffed with drawings, and two studios where I’m always working on something new, he says. I like to be orderly and systematic though. My paintings are all inventoried and arranged accordingly in the storerooms. I keep works on paper in these Bulgarian-made metal chests of drawers. I first saw such chests in the Lenin Museum and I immediately coveted them. I finally managed to get some towards the end of the 1970, after I’d heard there was this place in Wola that was selling them. So off I went, and there was this tarted-up girl sitting behind a counter who said, ‘We’ve got lots of these drawers, but they’re all damaged. The Bulgarians didn’t package them well enough, and when the train braked they all came tumbling down and got dented.’ I went into the room where they were stored and chose the ones that were in best condition. I bought about ten of them. Then I put new wheels on all the drawers, because the old ones were all smashed and bent. Now there are thousands of drawings in those chests, but I always know where everything is.
The Bulgarian chests of drawers resemble Ali Baba’s cave in the Arabian Nights. Thousands of drawings, all excellent, surprising, delightful. The artist selected his works as he produced them, keeping only the best and burning the rest or putting them in the bin. As a student he repeatedly blocked up the chimney in his family home in Międzylesie with the soot from his burnt drawings.
I worked like crazy at the Academy, he recollects. In Professor Józef Pakulski’s lithography studio I made drawing after drawing after drawing; my head was overflowing with ideas, there was simply no way I could work through them all.
He talks about printmaking with nostalgia. In the bathroom by the upstairs studio there are still lithography stones lying about. Dwurnik says he’d like to go back to lithography.
But for now a pencil or a pen are enough. As for ballpoint or felt-tip pens, he discovered how impermanent they are years ago, when his drawings started fading away, disappearing. They needed conservation.
Those drawers are a chronicle of Edward Dwurnik’s life: scenes from his family home, from student parties, from the studios at the Academy of Fine Arts, from his famous hitchhiking trips, when he travelled the length and breadth of Poland with a sketchpad under his arm and a pencil in his pocket, and from the trip to Paris in his youth. Add to all this scenes observed between the bus stop and the Academy, as well as those inspired by history, literature, art, politics, and everyday life. His drawing of A Painter’s Vision shows the sort of things that can go on inside an artist’s head: a studio with everyday furniture, its walls covered in paintings, and a cavalry officer riding into it on horseback, lance in hand.
Dwurnik’s creative urge is so powerful that he produces an enormous quantity of work with no compromise on quality. What in the end is the point of counting the pictures? It’s not numbers that captivate us, but true art.