“Do your paintings ever begin as drawings?”
“Yes,” replied the painter. “Always.”1
Our forthcoming artist’s book by painter Karolina Bielawska, Herd / Stado (Bored Wolves, November, bilingual English–Polish edition), retraces Bielawska’s process from pencil experiments through to the eventual hanging of large-scale works2 derived from those early graphitic forms.
“Acrylics combined with bitumen, gouache on cotton or linen canvases, are here shown in the context of: background, structural support, sketches,” writes curator Ewa Borysiewicz in an introductory text. “They are accompanied by incremental attempts to decide on the exact configuration for them—their place.”
The book, designed by Damian Nowak, materialized by way of Bielawska’s studio in Warsaw, its table rich in gleanings with piles of thick sketchbooks and scissored sheaves of small pencil drawings awaiting the artist’s jigsaw curiosity and persistence. Bielawska is an intuitively exacting painter and constructor of sweeping assemblages: configurations of oversize canvases (the titular Herd) fluidly scaling to the space in which they appear.
They originate, however, as relative scraps on a tabletop, germinal figures uncoiling a centimeter at a time, never meant to advance beyond the atelier windowsill. The artist bends to them with the nearsighted focus of the puzzler or quilter.
In capsule texts detailing her process (read by the artist, in the recording above, in the original Polish), Bielawska is equally meticulous, probing the interstices of practice, revealing the doubt and discomfort of the development stage, from agitation to abrasion. Until all at once an updraft—elevation—provides aerial confirmation of the herd massing on the horizon. Thrilling to the core.
As with previous Inn uploads of recordings of a translated Bored Wolves text in its original language (Turkish, Spanish), I encourage the listener to mellowly concentrate on Karolina’s voice reading her words—lyrical, logistical, incremental but plunging in hindsight, unshielded then ultimately unstoppable—even if you don’t understand Polish.
Having said that, one key vocabulary word for the non-Polish listener: szkice, sketches, articulated by Karolina like pencil tip snagging scratch paper grain.
There are nine capsule texts paced through the bilingual book, intermixed with its visuals. Here are four of them in English translation, giving a sense of the formation of works from ambivalent specks to wholehearted herd.
Seeking a beginning. Sketches. Circling back. A great disturbance. In the head.
It has to be glued canvas. The linen gleams but keeps its rawness. Earthy and coarse. Whereas cotton is slightly transparent. Of air. Woven cloud.
Separate elements combine into larger configurations. Initially resembling faces; later, silhouettes. Gradually they turn into landscapes. Near becomes far.
They take shape. Come one after another. Or rather they emerge like ridges or whales. Without haste. At their own pace. Momentous and overwhelming. On the horizon, individual pieces. Soon, the whole herd.
We will be releasing Herd / Stado on November 9 at Turnus na Wolskiej, Warsaw, concurrent with Karolina Bielawska’s ongoing Connective Tissue exhibition (fn. 2). Bored Wolves first edition of 400 copies, designed by Damian Nowak in close collaboration with the artist.
First exchange between publisher and artist.