By Lena Wicherkiewicz
Trees – corals. So colouristically exotic in the Polish landscape, and yet of familiar, almost Mazovian shapes… Phenomenal pseudo-willows, artefact-like organisms glaring with internal energy. A colourful colony of luminous quasi-botanical specimens.
Such are the latest sculptures, or objects, or – actually – installations by Dariusz Pala, which are about to grow among real trees in the garden of the University of Warsaw Library to illuminate the night with their warm and joyful light. In their current shape The Trees for Warsaw – as this is the name chosen by the author – are a group of sculptural objects made of transparent thermoplastic branches and sheaves growing out of concrete trunk-like bases. In the heart of each tree there is an energetic source – a light installation. The range of the trees is currently limited to the abovementioned area of the garden. The artist, however, has announced that it’s the beginning of a bigger enterprise, hoping for such art-organisms to soon spread around other green areas of Poland and Europe.
The installation of coral trees is not an isolated phenomenon in the scope of Dariusz Pala’s artistic activities. In a natural manner he continues and develops his earlier structural ideas and concepts. The roots of The Trees for Warsaw stem from the artist’s most recent activities, bordering on sculpture, painting, installations and large-format works painted on connected wooden parts. Nevertheless, the largest inspirational source for the new project seems to be the series of wooden ‘Coral Trees’ exhibited in the office building of Warsaw’s Rondo 1. Morphologically they are very similar, but they differ in the matter and the surroundings, or to be more precise, the relationship between the two. The installation in the garden of the University of Warsaw Library is not merely a shut, inbred, introvert sculptural object, but an in situ implementation, ‘an artistic ecosystem’ coexisting with its surroundings, open and maintaining an aesthetic and energetic flow.
Looking at the artistic landscape of Dariusz Pala and, in this context, perceiving the latest installation, it’s impossible to ignore his painting and colouristic quests. We should remember that Pala is, above all, a painter, and – in the light of this – The Trees for Warsaw seem to widen his painting conceptions, transferring them to a natural scale, to a public space, but also to the realm of nature. Colour in the symbiosis with light – colour-light. It’s by no means a coincidence that ‘The Trees…’ come in three intense colours: yellow, red and turquoise blue, all well known from the artist’s painted works. The form of a tree-coral also stems from the world of painting and is an expression of the artist’s fascination with underwater life, its colourfulness, exoticism, fantasticality, and desire to put it all on canvas. This resulted in the painting series of ‘Aquariums’ and the trace of this underwater fascination is also visible in ‘The Trees…’. However, to discover a deeper cause of the fascinations, one needs to refer to the author’s biography, since their source seems to originate from the most evident, tangible and real-life experiences. The idea of a tree-coral, which came to the artist’s mind while he was diving in the coral reef in the south of the United States, has just been artistically materialized in its fullest form.
The Trees for Warsaw combine ecology with technology, an urban-and-garden strategy with an imaginary vision. This somewhat artistic and environmental ecosystem refers to ecology in a very direct manner. The materials used to make particular parts of the tree-corals had all been recycled and are still fully recyclable. The main purpose of these dendrological phantasmagorias, this peculiar garden architecture is, however, to bring a glimmer of light to the melancholically saddening greyness of the Vistula river-banks, enriching them aesthetically and injecting a shot of positivity.
Still, when researched deeper and taken outside the aesthetic realm, the project by Dariusz Pala may be perceived as a futurological representation, a prototype materialization of an idealistic dream. Maybe a dream about a new form of a technological and biological community? A vision or a fantasy that over and over again appears on the surface of culture, including popular culture, and most recently in a film. When looking at the colourful tree-corals by Dariusz Pala, it’s hard not to associate them with or miss their resemblance to Hometree, the Tree of Souls, the life-giving heart of Pandora in James Cameron’s film. These insights, which aren’t merely visual but mostly refer to the essence of being, seem to be confirming the artist’s words that cast some light on the project in Warsaw. He speaks of the meaning of community, the role of life-giving connections and mutual flows that living organisms maintain or should maintain. A tree may be a very distinct symbol of such relationships. And similarly a colonial ecosystem of a coral reef. An artistic fusion of these life forms seems to house that meaning with a double impact.
Trees – corals. Settling down. Taking root. Settling a colony. Symbioses. Synergies. Ecosystems of mutual connections. Drawing life juices, returning with the flow. Life energy. Radiation. The colours of existence.