“I am always changing” – Dunikowski-Duniko says. This is the truth hardly to be questioned. The artist changes himself and so does his art. Though, this can be expressed differently – life itself is an on-going change and Dunikowski’s art has always striven to be close to life. Many years ago the artist declared and he upholds this declaration that: “MY BEST PICTURE IS A DAY. MY BEST ENGRAVING IS NIGHT. MY BEST SCULPTURE IS MY WIFE” (1973). But is really Wincenty Dunikowski-Duniko’s art a continuous change without any permanent points of reference?
Critics who wrote about Dunikowski’s art highlighted the artist’s interest in changes, variations, processes, time and temporariness (Konrad Scheurmann). They also pointed out that the sources of his art lie in conceptualism, or in the conceptual discipline – as Ryszard Stanisławski put it. Conceptualism still remains a mysterious area, not fully explored and continuously fascinating for new generations of the contemporary art scholars. This can be proved with such recent exhibitions as “Refleksja konceptualna w polskiej sztuce. Doświadczenie dyskursu: 1965-1975” /Conceptual Reflection in Polish Art. Experience of Discourse: 1965-1975/ (Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej, Warszawa, 1999), ”Live in Your Head: Concept and Experiment in Britain 1965-1975” (Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 2000), “Probation Area. Versuchsfeld Arte Povera, Concept Art, Minimal Art, Land Art” (Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, 2002). The today’s art sources are placed in conceptualism and that is why Dunikowski’s art seems so attractive and so well tuned with the today’s spirit of time. However, what does it mean that Dunikowski’s art grows from conceptual art and that it gave rise to demiurgic and inventive imagination of the artist?
The curators of the London exhibition “Live in Your Head” claim that by the mid-1960s, most of the artists recognized later as conceptualists had internalized the precision and rigor of Minimalism. This, however, was merely a starting point because the truly conceptual art was a reaction against the Minimalist reductionism – a response that arose from the recognition of the unlimited potential of art. Works by Gilbert and George, Barry Flanagan, Bruce McLean, Hamish Fulton, Yoko Ono or Rose Finn-Kelcey transgressed the Minimalistic discipline and bravely entered into intimate relations with the reality, while not avoiding the moral and political provocation. This can be best illustrated with color photographs of Gilbert and George, presented as a banal couple of young Englishmen, which were furnished with the captions “George the cunt” and “Gilbert the shit” (the captions were removed when the prints were published in “Studio International” in 1970).
We encounter a very similar situation in the Polish art. In the mid-1960s, clearly crystallized conceptual or protoconceptual attitudes appeared, attitudes permeated with the Minimalist rigor: counted paintings by Roman Opałka (since 1965), visualisation of statistical distributions by Ryszard Winiarski (since 1966) and Minimalist forms by Zbigniew Gostomski, which led to the best known piece of Polish conceptual art “It Begins in Wrocław” (1970). These artists as well as many others, such Jerzy Rosołowicz, Edward Krasiński, Andrzej Matuszewski, Kajetan Sosnowski following the path of art’s self-purification arrived at pure, non-material idea of art. The early 70s, however, saw the entry of a new artistic generation for which conceptualism, for obvious reasons, was not a destination as for the artists of the older generation referred to above but rather a starting point, a kind of joyful artistic initiation. Conceptual art was for them “the revelation of creative potential at the stage of a dream.” These artists started to use the new, simple means of notation their ideas, photographs, drawings, texts not only because of their availability and simplicity but also, or rather primarily, because of their opposition against the approved view of art, its tasks, goals, values, means and forms. After all, it was the generation of counter-culture which approached the conceptualism as a means for clearing the art from false myths, redundant celebration, appearances accrued with time and also as a means allowing art to be closer to everyday life. Art and artistic activities were to become part of everyday life and something that would allow to live differently, to differently look at the world, at oneself and at other people. Dunikowski was one of the members of that movement, an active and committed one. Early 1970s saw an origination of many ideas which has been present across Dunikowski’s art: drawing on water, concert with TV sets, using a body for changing materials (melting the wax), red square against van Gogh’s sun flowers – ideas which confront the art history and at the same time introducing art to the everyday reality of a town, street, shop.
Young artists entering the artistic stage in the early 1970s seriously approached the words of Jerzy Ludwiński, who wrote in his article “Art in Post-Artistic Age” (1970): “It is quite possible, however, that today we do not practise art any longer. Simply because we have missed the moment when it transformed into something quite different that we are unable to name. It is certain, however, that what we practise today presents greater possibilities.” Ludwiński called this new situation “art in post-artistic age” – where post-artistic indicates that everything can be art, and nothing, no object or event has to be art because the visual determination of art had disappeared. Artistic categories and criteria of assessment became useless and the notion of art fell to destruction, or – using a more figurative language – explosion, bringing it into many individual models of art.
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