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Małgorzata Bundzewicz, March 2013  |  Jan Kawiorski, September 2004
The world of paintings of Wojciech Herman is a long way from anywhere. Certainly it is not mainstream art. Painting has been moved aside, as if out of the way, to make room for the more contemporary forms of art, such as installations, video art or photography. No one seems to talk about painting any longer and it seems to be treated as a somewhat lesser art. Painters have been left to themselves, their oeuvre being no longer awaited nor praised, and nothing much is expected of them.

Unlike many of his fellow painters who refuse to acknowledge such state of affairs, Herman seems to be at peace with the new role assigned to painting today. He does not question the preconception that paining is a background art. This concept is certainly new in the history of art as for centuries it was painting precisely that lead the way for other artistic forms and painters were the forerunners of transformations and artistic movements. The art genres which trigger such changes are constantly under the scrutiny and pressure of that which has, in fact, little in common with art, namely new technologies and the media. Painting does not stand a chance against such powerful forces. Any attempt to regain priority among artistic forms is bound to fail.
Herman is comfortable in this situation. The works of contemporary art resemble participants in a discussion, a discussion touching upon politics, the more or less important events of today, the role of the media in contemporary life and art, feminism, racism and terrorism, to name but several topics.
Contemporary art lacks the means or capability to talk about what we want to see and hear intuitively all our lives – the story of ourselves.

When painting is no longer in the vanguard of the transformations of art, it is bound to become imitative of itself. It is compelled to retell the same stories over and over again. The one who tries to fight this phenomenon, is likely to fall into a trap of utmost imitation and might end up producing kitsch. If one accepts such state of affairs, he or she may well create something which will talk about everyday life, about the things so simple that are taken for granted too often, in a way that will be drawing on old masters yet which will be fresh. This brings to mind the case of realistic novels or films, the end of which are being proclaimed every now and then. One could be noted on saying that a given book or film is good, but something similar had been created already a thousand times. Fine, it may well resemble past works, but is it not the well known dressed up in different attire and placed in new circumstances that permits us – readers or viewers – to relive what is, in fact, an eternal, hence the most basic part of life.

When I look at the persons and places depicted by Herman in his work, I feel as if I were reading a new book, one that has just been published for the very first time although the book seems to be telling a story which has been retold a hundred times before in all kinds of books, regardless of their artistic worth.
I feel as if I were watching a realistic film whose story is well known from dozens of other film productions. Every time I read such a well written book or watch a good film I read and watch the story for the first time. Such is the power of art which does not attempt to (even if such attempts are successful, that means creative and result in an innovative work) create new forms of art. The power of redefined art lies in the fact that it is capable of exerting a much stronger influence and our emotions and thoughts are fed a clearer message.“The Dubliners” are less important in the history of literature than “Ulysses” but in fact it is the short stories of James Joyce that move us more deeply than either of the great novels.

Wojciech Herman is not bound to any artistic conventions, even his own. He can therefore freely convey his very personal artistic style through his thoughts and emotions. The ease with which Herman paints allows the viewers to admire his paintings without pressure, expectations or questions. His paintings will evolve like an old story, like the ordinary and simple.

(review of an exhibition held at Olimpia gallery, Kraków, September 2004)

Jan Kawiorski
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