Four seasons



Osiowski began thinking of it during his visits to the British Museum and the Louvre at the end of the 1970s. In his notes from that time, Osiowski said that he would try to focus on individual works. In London, these were Japanese woodcuts, which he considered to be more modern than many contemporary pieces. In the 1980s, Osiowski became acquainted with works by Amy Newland, an Australian researcher of ukiyo-e, a Japanese style of woodcuts from the Edo period, known as “pictures of the floating world.” He discovered artists such as Utagawa Kunisada and Isoda Koryusai, the author of a series of works titled Four Seasons. A centuries-old subject for which artists had long been inclined to multiply allegories and attributes on large-format canvasses was explored by Japanese woodcut printers on A4-size sheets of parchment. Japanese woodcut printers used parchments the size of an A4 piece of paper. These works were characterized by impressive conciseness and precision. After finishing his series, Osiowski wrote: “So I managed to finish the Four Seasons in five paintings, of course; without ladders, without the falling snow in the winter, without the leaves in the spring and without the autumn rain. According to the Celts, the year started in November with the beginning of winter, and was divided into geimhreadh – the winter season, and samhradh – the summer season. Their holidays were built around winter preparations, the expectation of spring, spring work, followed by the summer and the harvest period, dividing the year into five parts. And besides, isn’t four seasons in five paintings an obvious decision from the artistic point of view?”
Osiowski’s large canvases are characterised by a minimalism and severity far from stereotypical representations of cyclical changes in nature. They do not refer the viewer back to historical art traditions, representations of landscapes from the observation of nature, works depicting particular months, or allegorical images of women which embody the conventional division of the calendar year.
In the past, this division, the emphasis of the cyclicality of changes, came from the order of agricultural work. People depended on crops for survival, and it made them more sensitive to changes in nature. They felt the need to regulate time and give it a certain order. The natural clock measured months and days, assigning roles and tasks to the members of historical communities. In contrast, Osiowski seems to paint the experience of the modern man, surrounded by concrete whose colour does not seem to differ much whether it is the sunny July or the grey autumn. The particular seasons in the paintings would perhaps be identified by the titles. They would make the abstract images recognizable representations of changing periods or at least they would allow the viewer to learn the intentions of the artist. And yet Osiowski calls each of the five paintings the same way: Four Seasons. In his notes from that period, Osiowski expresses some disappointment with Jasper Johns’ paintings: the obviousness of their symbolism and their oversimplification. Conversely, in his compositions Osiowski attempts to paint subjective psychological states induced by change. The presence of black and grey, dotted sparingly with ochre, forces the viewer to think about the passage of time and invites him or her to guess whether geometric shapes can replace the conventional flower buds in the spring, the sun’s rays on the green summer grass, or snow-sprinkled fields. In this work, Osiowski proves that the distinction between figuration and abstraction is purely arbitrary. The central point of the work is not the narrative or the motif itself but the development of new ideas for traditional landscape painting and the convention of the four seasons. In this series, Osiowski sought to transcend the viewers’ habits and expectations, and to show in a unique way what is well-known both from everyday experience and from art history.