The biggest shared part

A conversation with Wawrzyniec Tokarski

(took place in May 2017 in Polish)



KM: Why painting?


WT: Since the end of the 80s there is indeed a discourse that questions painting’s relevance for the contemporary art or for culture in general. For me however painting was always merely the simplest tool. To explain this let me use an analogy: although there are completely automatized factories it does not exclude a possibility of using a screwdriver today. Screwdrivers or hammers are the simples tools, which always existed and probably will exist for ever. For me a brush is precisely something like that. We can of course talk about techniques, or so called new media. I have noting against new media; I utilised them and partially still used them today in my painting but this is not for me a priority. The painting, or in a broader sense all art realised in manual way, gives additional possibility of an interpretation of the subject which is in general a function of art. This interpretation “happens” during the time when the works is being executed. There is of course a certain concept, but this concept is not identical with a final effect.


On the other hand, the distinction between a concept and its implementation is no so strict. I was thought by an American conceptual artist who was once asked by students about this problem and explained that the actual implementation of a concept is necessary to verify the concept. I also think so, but I think that a concept has also a value on its own.


KM: What are the source of your paintings?


WT: The point of departure is always open. Everything can become an impulse.


KM: Is visuality an impulse?


WT: Not necessarily; the form of influence can vary. For instance, there are many verbal elements in my paintings – the music of words is important for me. In fact, everything is important. But the aim is not to represent the initial signal by the same medium. Art is a process a projection, transposition or transcription of an element from its original context to another context.


KM: Texts in your paintings are written in Polish, German or English. How do you choose a language?


WT: The choice is never arbitrary; all decisions are related to a particular situation, and a subject I deal with at the moment. It can happen that I find interesting news clippings and use them in their original language. The choice can be determined by a place in which one is located. It is indeed oriented towards a comprehensibility but also a translation can add additional value to the text.


KM: Does every painting convey a particular message?


WT: Yes, of course; after all, everybody wants to say something. I could tell you what every single painting means, but it does not mean that a viewer has to agree on that. Precisely because of that, my paintings art partially empty, unfinished, – there is a white space left on the canvas or the frame is visible through the canvas. I want to show that there is no such a thing as finite utterance. There is always an interpretation and it has to be acknowledged.


KM: In a sense your art, with its openness is a negation of painting.


WT: One can play with metaphysics and ethos of painting. But I believe that “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity”.


KM: How do you work? Do you „have projects” like everyone or do you work in cycles?


WT: I’m not capable of far-reaching planning. But the concept of modality is important for me- it means that selected paintings can create together certain entities. However I ‘m not concerned with a notion of cycle/series.

A cycle is a something formal; it is a style. I’m not interested in style- I do paint in a way like anybody could repeat. I’m not concerned with any recognisable ductus. I believe that in painting a gesture should be as simple as possible. I’m seeking something called the biggest common part of sets – the largest shared part. In other words, I am interested in building together with others not in separating myself from others.


Besides, in my system of working there is nothing like a particular “home works”, topics or thematic cycles. Everything remains open, all the time. This openness, a lack of focus on any particular fragment of life is a consequence of the general condition – a lack of time. Besides, everything is interesting for me – for instance theoretical physics, mathematic … etc


KM: But does it not bare a risk of remaining merely on a surface?


WT: There is no other possibility; there is never a possibility of thorough research, breaking the code completely. There is always a danger of something what German comedians call “a dangerous half-knowledge”. It is not possible to avoid it as all the information that reach us are the second or even third hand information – they are always already interpreted. The same pertains to science – it is not a mirror of reality but set of models based on axioms. In principle all these models are more or less close to reality and they are equally true. In this respect art does not differ from science.


KM: Last question related to your Belin “situatedness”. You live outside of Poland since many years. Today the borders are open but have you been an emigrant?


WT: I do not think so, because it wasn’t never an univocal decision. It just happened. But maybe paradoxically, emigration is that that one have to stay somewhere a bit longer because there is still something left to be fixed.