They meet under a sky so menacing that there is no doubt that it foretells extinction, it is a sky of apocalypse, a sky of the end of the world, an inevitable sky. Tangled clouds, strong colours, sometimes unobvious shapes of those clouds. Add to that a clear, strong texture of oil paint applied with a brush.
Highly noble and desired, but under the painter’s brush transforming into thick, almost tangibly sticky and heavy, like some kind of trap that the protagonists of her paintings, her stories have fallen into. Protagonists of both personal and general stories, not heroes, just ordinary and simple, surprised every time by the circumstances. Refugees from life or from another country. In spaces that are scenographic and unobvious, sometimes urban, sometimes circus-like, sometimes straight out of a film or theatre set. A bit frozen in time, a bit taken out of time, but certainly veiled by a melancholic curtain of things left unsaid. Not wishing to be recognised and wanting to keep its secrets and mysteries to themselves.
Perhaps this is a paradox, or perhaps normal behaviour when — wanting to catch someone’s attention — we try to be mysterious and intriguing; maybe less talkative than normal and avoiding obvious words considered to be banal. This is how we are when we like someone, or vice versa, when we want someone to like us; slightly withdrawn, we wait to see how things turn out and we want them to go our way. Katarzyna Karpowicz skilfully unravels this ambiguity in her paintings, counting on the fact that we will not be able to solve hers —the secrets. That the charm of the paintings and the situations they depict will always remain their main power, their most attractive and elusive fragrance, aroma, smell, becoming an indelible take sand power of those sometimes simple, and sometimes enigmatic, compositions.
We want their secret, we want to know this mystery, we want to be smarter than the protagonists standing on the streets, leaving their homes, entering shops. Sometimes they watch, and sometimes they are watched, someone holds a phone in their hand, someone else a glass marble, and we could ask, what is more important: the glass marble, plain but mysteriously inscrutable, or the glowing mobile. We could ask, but no one necessarily has to answer. A story not quite whispered but spoken in a quiet voice — sotto voce —in which one does not lie, but which is far more attractive than things or stories that are shouted. Yes, sometimes one can’t not shout but maybe the muted stories will remain forever, maybe they will better etch themselves in our memories, maybe they will be truer. The emotion of a true feeling is a great emotion that does not demand correctness and fulfilment. Sometimes we become slaves to these emotions.
They may be newspaper stories, but in such newspapers where our latest love becomes a front-page matter because we are the primary protagonists of this world. These newspapers are about us, we publish these newspapers ourselves. And that is Katarzyna Karpowicz’s world, painted in first person, but also absolutely universal. It is a world everyone wants to reach and tease out its secret. A world that is appealing and captivating because it is a better world a world with a better us, smarter, more beautiful, more delicate, more emotional and attentive, although not necessarily open to everything.
Katarzyna Karpowicz likes to have her secrets and she also nurtures them in her paintings. Thus, her world has nothing hermetic or inaccessible about it. This mystery of hers is captivating and appealing, different and sought after, unmistakable and impossible to imitate. It seems the painter has found a key to a better world, a world where most of us would prefer to find ourselves.
Persistence and survival are not certain under a sky so menacing and unsettled. Couples cling to each other — a boy and a girl, two girls, two women, two boys. These will be interrupted embraces. A happy ending will not happen here, not under a sky so menacing.
Linked. The couples linked by kisses want to stop, enchant this moment which is to become eternity. Perhaps like when I stood under one of the bridges of Paris and kissed a girl who apparently was afraid to move away from my lips for fear I would disappear and we would never meet again, and so she carried out her Parisian plan, and we never met again. That kiss was supposed to never end, and it was certain the longest kiss in my life. Two hours, torn away from nothingness and given to closeness. Nothing, just a long kiss, but not really the longest in the world. For me, certainly the longest.
It has come back to me now, this evening, when I look at the paintings by Katarzyna Karpowicz, who, unaware, becomes a summoner of the Parisian stories she evokes. Or perhaps, hidden under the masks she so eagerly introduces into her paintings, there are true faces, true emotions, true — because different — genders, perhaps this camouflage is a layering of otherness, changeability, distinctiveness, unpredictability, love. It happens everywhere and nowhere simultaneously. There is no certainty, no minutiae. Sometimes there is a detail, thrown by the painter like a lifeline, so that we do not completely float away to parts unknown, unknown even to ourselves because we did not predict their existence until the moment of encounter with the paintings by the Krakow painter, who decided not to grow up and remain a child in some deepest sense, a somewhat naïve child who does not want to admit her adulthood and the fact that even in her carefully created world there is a danger of the brutal outside world bursting in; because although it is beautiful and timeless, under a sky so menacing, a catastrophe is always possible and will certainly come, but until then we can go on believing that it will never happen and that we will remain untouched, removed beyond time and its inevitable consequences.
What do we need to do, to remain in this world, in this sanctuary of the immutability of timelessness, of permanence, of the mythic nature of love and friendship, of closeness not ripped away, of saving closeness, which lasts as the guiding and unchanging principle in this painterly land that will remain a kind of Arcadia amidst the flames of the world around us, a world it is better not to touch, but which touches us, even though we wanted so much to avoid it and never truly know it. Not knowing would be happiness, we have all known that for a very long time, and we can even find it in a certain thick book, which is the foundation of the organisation of life in our part of the world, even to this day.
It is therefore difficult to escape knowing and even more difficult to turn toward the unknown. Its sign may be the occluded face of the sun, an eclipse. An eclipse of feelings, an eclipse of knowing, a kind of “dark candle”, a solar darkness, an impenetrable darkness that shrouds us and with which we are also shrouded. This penetration of darkness into light is an oxymoronic encounter that sometimes touches some people but certainly far from all. It cannot be given to all; that is neither possible nor desirable. Of course, one can truly forget about the painterly order that reigns in this world, a world that is wholly a light-and-dark projection, I really don’t want to write dreamlike because that is obvious, dreams, much like madness, are far too often the key or simply a lockpick, to far too easily opening spaces that deserve to remain unopened until the end, spaces that keep their mystery and secrets, spaces of painting, but also of projection of feelings we don’t really know what to do with.
Although today, I’m rather inclined to think and speak about a crisis of feelings and true emotions. To love is a great thing, but damnably difficult and demanding. The mountains of true emotions are melting in the greenhouse effect of today’s increasingly numbered and predictable world. I think Katarzyna Karpowicz wants to restore the element of uncountability and unobviousness in love today, assuming such a possibility still exists at all. The painter seems to invariably believe in this element and tries to infect us with this faith. Let us then surrender to her faith and allow her to lead us into this painterly world, perhaps not at all ideal but certainly incredibly suggestive and tempting, in its willingness to reach for confessions of faith and emotions difficult to find today.
May faith in love still move mountains and change the face of the world, this world.