Art on Art

Osiowski’s concentration on the physicality of a painting was culminated in the series Paintings on Paintings [alternatively: Images on Images], also titled Art on Art. The series stands out from his body of work as the paintings do not rely on any outside inspiration, they do not look for iconographic references to other fields of art, literature, music, or cinema, and they do not draw on signs from the pop-culture reserve. They give an impression that the painter had suspended his personality and experience for their creation, or at least had put them aside. The minimalist works focus on the artist’s gesture and the preceding decisions about technique. They seem unfinished. Yet, it is precisely thanks to this austere form that they expose the individual choices faced by the artist in his work.

The first of these decisions is the choice of the format and the type of base used underneath the painting. In his youth, Osiowski favoured the large format, realizing that some subjects have a better chance of resonating given the right scale and space. At that time, Osiowski was responsible for the entire process of creation, including constructing the stretcher and stretching the canvas onto it. Meanwhile, choosing smaller formats and using factory-made tools allows the artist to draw attention to the material aspect of the painting, to what constitutes the painting in the most literal way, and yet rarely inspires reflection. When looking at a painting, viewers do not often ask themselves about the painting technique, seeing rather the narrative given to them on the plaque or in the catalogue. Instead, these paintings ask the questions: what is a painting? what is painting?

Another aspect to which Osiowski draws attention are the smallest details of the painting process. When viewing paintings, we tend not to look at individual brush strokes, the order of layering paint or even the chosen colour palette. Osiowski, almost scientifically, breaks down the rudimentary elements of the painter’s technique. Not only has he reduced the composition to a minimum, but he has also eliminated any multiplicity of colours in order to emphasise such properties as saturation, brightness, and hue. The choice of this or that shade of black is all the more interesting because in common perception black is the absence of colour, and people rarely realize the number of its varieties.

Visually, these paintings show similarities to the work of artists such as Cy Twombly or Franz Kline. Cy Twombly served in the U.S. Army as a cryptologist after the Second World War, an experience which left a clear mark on his artistic style. In the 1950s, he developed a painting technique based on his hand gestures: he would cover a dark-coloured canvas with thin lines, giving the impression of scratches. On the other hand, Franz Kline’s dynamic forms were compared to calligraphic signs. Perhaps associations with linguistics are appropriate when artists are concerned with the fundamentals of painting, where the surface of the painting is not concealed by any history or artistic theory. Osiowski’s Art on Art exposes both the finesse of the individual gesture and the refined set of personal rules regarding the painter’s technique. In their modest form, these works draw attention to the important moment of creation when a work is considered complete: how far should the artist go into his reflections? are they intelligible to others? These compositions draw the line which the artist did not want to cross in order not to blur the intelligibility of the area of exploration which had emerged from the chaos of his thoughts as an example of a personal “artistic language.”