Exhibition Catalogue essay by Phe Luxford 2017
Bonanza! What a positive word to describe a new body of work. The term rings with ideas of abundance and discovery, of treasure troves and the celebratory cry of good fortune. When heard issuing from an artist’s studio, it suggests that the often fraught and demanding act of painting has unearthed a moment of unmitigated pleasure.
An encounter with Waldemar Kolbusz’s canvases confers such feelings of joyful optimism. With everything so loose and full of potential, so loaded with effervescent colour and movement, the visual impact is startling. This sensation of elation felt by the viewer is the happy result of what is often a trying and frustrating studio process for the artist. Welcoming the challenge to balance colours that are not easy neighbours every brush-stroke points toward an immersive, immediate enjoyment in the reactive, physical quality of paint.
Kolbusz has spent the last two decades populating his canvases with bright jewels of colour and is no stranger to the intuitive game that is ‘abstract painting’. Of this new series he states “I am just allowing the works to be made and then see what becomes of them.” Tracing the movement of each colour and shape we are able to observe what appears to be a two way dialogue with the canvas, witnessing an artist opening up to the dynamic evolution and emergent personality of each painting, we are able to find something of wonder in each.
There are no explicit entry points to Kolbusz’s paintings. Instead they are made up of a series of strong, interconnected diagonals, sinuous drip lines and meandering brush strokes, each equally animated, entwined and dependant on one another. A masterful colourist, his palette, while seemingly raw and unbridled, reflects an intimate knowledge of the powerful dynamics of tone and hue. The inclusion (or perhaps sometimes intrusion) of one dash of colour has the capacity to transform an entire canvas. A small patch of warm violet in ‘Calmest’ gives life and energy to an otherwise balanced sea of teal and ultramarine. In another, like ‘Hitchhike’, a stray drip of hot orange offers weight and purpose to the surrounding fields of unassuming, earthy brown. Layers of watery, translucence flickers against their flat, viscous counterparts. Kolbusz is deliberately inviting us to engage with these surfaces, to feel the intensity of each colour and gesture, without dictating the terms of that encounter, to allow the painting a life and existence of its own.
There is real skill in trying to let go of artistic control, to not over think the constant decision-making that necessarily takes place in the studio. With every mark and colour a series of complex aesthetic, internal rules and judgements are consciously or unconsciously taking place. Pulling that process of thinking apart has fascinated painters since the beginning of last century. Kolbusz is following in that tradition, manipulating shape and empty space to imply feelings of movement, tension and visual pleasure.
The agility and fervour evident within these paintings suggests that a marvellous wrestle, not only with the paint itself but with the artist’s condition, has taken place. “I am convinced that the more I remove myself from the process the better the works end up being” says the artist as he tries to vanquish his own position. Navigating a space between control and abandon, between expectation and surprise, the artist is generating an observant and responsive visual encounter. His efforts are rewarded with a rich seam of glistening gems, brought to life through the dynamic possibilities of colour.