Signs of evolution
By Bohdanna Racette
In catalogue: SOKOLOWSKI, ed. Galerie D'Art Jean-Claude-Bergeron
Nothing stays the same. The laws of nature are
predicated on flux, movement, and transformation. All who live
within her jurisdiction evolve. No one is spared this inevitability.
While most simply embrace it, Dominik Sokolowski delights in it.
Encounters and negotiations with change are not new to him. He
adapted to immigrating to Canada at fourteen. He found a balance
between the cultures of new country and heritage, between the values
of the citizen and the émigré. He mediated the various interests of
a curious young mind; natural science gave way to the discipline of
architecture, graphic design was abandoned to the sensuality of oil
paint. Love and fatherhood blurs the single-mindedness of the
consummate artist; sharing his life, heart and soul with another
artist enriches it. It is no wonder, then, that the latest works of
Dominik Sokolowski may surprise people who have watched him perfect
his abstract painting style.
A closer look at works such as Fevrier 28 or Fevrier 11, however,
reveals a genealogy to his more traditional pieces, let's say, Mars
25 and Mars 2. In these works, as he did in those before them, he essentially explores the relation of forms and objects within a frame.
In the last eight years or so, Sokolowski has played only with the canvas, paint and palette knife to create the visual tension that is the hallmark of his paintings. His use of color is masterful; the reds, yellows, blues are never jarring. In painting after painting he experiments with their relation and proximity to one another and he subtle changes these variants affect. He layers the paint. The texture created by the palette knife adds a third dimension. Surfaces that look like aged plaster walls are often outlined with shiny furrows or slashed and scarred with grooves. He also uses the texture to reveal colors he had buried beneath the surface, usually more intense and vivid than the more filtered, atmospheric one of the skin. He plans these works meticulously, choreographing the shapes, hues and application. The work is disciplined, controlled and amply informed by the rich history of abstract painting in Europe and North America.
But Sokolowski is stepping outside of his comfort zone. As in his paintings, he scratches through the surface and reveals a more vulnerable artistic expression. As soon as he expends his
repertoire of media beyond the traditional painting ones, he admits a more subjective
interpretation of his work. As soon as he drops the elaborate pre-conceptualizing of his pieces in favor of spontaneity he runs the risk of involving himself and the viewer in a conversation that spills beyond the solipsism of minimalist art.
The physical changes in Sokolowski's work are the substitution of wood or paper as substrate and the addition of found objects. The color palette remains similar. As does the basic grid patterning, the relationships of areas of texture and color, and the linear qualities. The texture, however, may be achieved by a piece of corrugated cardboard rather than layered paint and a blocked area may be a clipboard rather than an outlined area of canvas.
However, if the viewer reads the objects that Sokolowski uses as
signs, with all of the significants that they connote, the messaging of the collage is enriched. Personal references abound. Newspaper clippings are in Polish. Photographs had been done by his photographer father. There are pieces of lace that his wife uses in her artwork. As the colored rectangles relate to each other in his formal paintings, these various parts also coalesce and create a visual tension for each work.
A child's toy - a building block - is repeated in a number of places . So are various tiles from a Scrabble game. These could refer to the same preoccupation with
architecture, order and syntax that underlie all of Sokolowski's work. On the other hand they could refer to the artist's family orientation. However, an argument could be made also that these objects are simply that, found objects, and have no significance beyond their physical attributes. How they relate to each other conceptually and/or physically remains at the heart of the work.
Whatever the reading, the reasoning or even the impression, Dominik Sokolowski has taken an important step in his artistic evolvement. Where it will take him is yet to be seen.