Aeneas and Diogenes – one a mythical figure, the latter a real person. One a hero of legend, the other of ancient Greece and a real philosopher. Both, surprisingly, have inspired and stimulated Bogumił Książek’s work. The highly symbolic story of the Trojan refugee who, after years of wandering, landed on a beautiful beach in the southern part of Italy called Porto Badisco, and the analytical mind of the Greek sage, converge in the seemingly banal subject matter of the artist’s works.
The canvases portray anonymous, sun-baked tourists wandering aimlessly along the beach or wading in the refreshing sea. The title of the exhibition suggests we should expect to see Aeneas, his family, or the characters he encountered during his difficult journey. This intriguing title promises myth and fable and invites us like the nineteenth-century frequenters of the annual „salons” to see „history” – a story painted onto a series of canvases. Nothing could be further from the truth … neither mythical creatures nor Trojan hero are portrayed. The viewers see themselves … as tourists enjoying the charm of southern Italian beaches; a laughing girl in a skimpy swimsuit, a dignified matron in a poorly chosen bathing suit, a tanned Mr Universe or an old man wading cautiously in the water. Reality has been stripped of myth… Aeneas is not to be found here.
Although Bogumił Książek has expelled his mythological heroes from his canvases and replaced them with normal down-to-earth sunbathers, his works intrigue and attract the viewer. His realistically painted characters are very much present, yet their insertion into a coastal setting creates an air of uneasiness. Ordinary sand and water seem to have become unreal; they have become a strange, foreign space which encompasses and draws in figures immersed in the depths, not of water, but of vapour. An inflatable with scantily dressed bathers on it moves through a blue, unreal sphere of impervious flatness, as if gliding through the clouds. This space then disintegrates to reveal abstract patches and lines. They penetrate the canvas like the contours of foaming waves which mark the surface of the deep sea. This dreamy vision, which unfolds in successive paintings through the use of wisps of white paint, comes to an abrupt end … we return to reality and see the coastline of a popular resort with its regular tourists.
A suspension between dreams and reality, between rational thinking and the whims of imagination, is also evident in the paintings of „Diogenes”. Here also the titular theme may encourage us to look out for the traditional, currently accepted image of the thinker with all his attributes. The artist, however, has rejected such an image and has instead chosen to show the ancient thinker as the incarnation of a hippy known to frequenters of Kraków’s Błonia Common. Recluses who live outside society and pay no attention to herd-instincts and social rules remind us of many ancient eccentrics for whom the surrounding world is but an illusion, an enticing, imperfect vision of an abstract ideal.
Diogenes, with his detachment from the world, perfectly complements the myth of Aeneas, who was considered by the Romans to be a true ancestor. Both characters are suspended between dreams and reality, and both are present and absent at the same time.
Bogumił Książek’s canvases seem also to be a sentimental reminder of the several years he spent in Italy, including sunny Acaya, where Aeneas’ legendary boat landed. They recall his own artistic journey, inspired by traditions he does not reject… but rather draws upon to the full.