Theory of Light & Line

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Brian Claridge, letter to Kultura, Paris, dated 30 June c.1955

The Polish-Australian artist, Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz, has developed his own particular form of expression. Two things were responsible for this. The first was the desire to escape the direct influence of any previous master, and not to merely continue to exploit an idiom already established. The second was the belief that there must be a way by which an artist can keep working without having to wait for his inspiration to suddenly happen – that he should not have to rely on the good fortune of a heaven-sent inspiration, but should be able to discover inspiration for himself by working with this in view.

An account of the method of working that Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz evolved as a result of these impulses is included in the enclosed paper.

There are two important consequences of this method outlined. One is that a most significant expression has resulted which I believe is a definite and important contribution to art. The artist has achieved, in those of his paintings which are so far based entirely on the method, work that must take its place in world art as advancing beyond the so far accepted artistic expressions. The other point that emerges is the possibility that this method as applied to painting is a particular aspect of a more general inception that will have applications in other arts and other fields of thought. It is this possibility in which we are now interested. This is suggested at the end of the paper.

So far, tentative experiments have been made in music and poetry, and with sculptural and architectural forms, with encouraging results.

I cannot help feeling that it is significant that, with Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz expressing his ideas purely in the terms of a painter, he has been able to give to non-painters the suggestion of a new approach in their own work (architecture in one case, music and poetry). This must mean that, somehow, he has been able to communicate through particular terms a more general conception. Although this has not actually been expressed, it has, nevertheless, been intuitively grasped and worked upon. This strongly points to the possibility of there being a more general and fundamental expression of his idea that, once formulated, could prove useful in many other fields of activity.

It was to consider this point that the enclosed paper was prepared and recently presented to a selected group of possibly interested people. Not all of them were necessarily familiar with the development of modern art. It was hoped to discover the reactions of others who may be regarded as authoritative in their respective spheres.

Those chosen were (i) a physicist with an interest in but apparently no deep feeling for or knowledge of art; (ii) the Professor of Philosophy at the Adelaide University who showed no feeling for art; (iii) the resident conductor of our Symphony Orchestra who is a scholar of music and a composer as well as an art lover; (iv) a lecturer in philosophy who has, apparently, a knowledge and appreciation of art; (v) a local art collector, dilettante – a most widely read and informed person with very definite opinions.

The general view of these people seemed to be an acknowledgement that the artist’s method was worth considering, but that it was, perhaps, only one of several methods that could give similar results. Little was said about the possible extension of the method, although the musician could see a limited application almost at once, and had a better appreciation at the end of the discussion. The last mentioned in the group above has subsequently said that he has tried the method and found it useful in drawing in which he is interested.

But generally, the people were unable to enter into the spirit of the idea, not able to rise above being specialists. They lacked the imagination to see possible applications of the way of working. I feel that here in Adelaide – and possibly in Australia – it would be well-nigh impossible to find authoritative people with an appreciation of arts and minds flexible enough to escape the limits of their particular line of thought to discuss and develop the idea with.

Further, artists with whom we’ve discussed it have only vaguely claimed either that they are doing something similar when their work proves conclusively that they are not, or that there are plenty of others already doing it, but cannot give any example when asked for it.
My reason for writing to you is that I feel it would be interesting to discover if there are any people working in this way at all, and to exchange ideas with them. This is the sort of investigation that needs sympathetic and creative minds working together, as has been the case with significant art movements. As we have not yet found such people in Australia, we are looking for ways to find them abroad.

I would greatly appreciate it if you or any of your writers would consider the suggested extension of the artist’s method. If you feel that it is worthwhile, perhaps you might publish something of these details in Kultura. Through this, interested people may have a chance of working together.

I am enclosing one or two reproductions of Dutkiewicz’s work which I hope will give you an idea of his work. One is a mural in my home that represents an earlier development of his method.

[Handwritten letter ends]

***

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Contemporary context shot of Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz’s mural in former Claridge residence – the house is up for sale in February 2017

[On Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz’s “Theory of Light and Line”]

The role of the artist is to establish relationships between man and his world – to make new realms of feeling accessible – to give an emotional significance to aspects of our life that normally lack it.

This has been done by artistic methods which have been derived from the physical appearance of our world, or from the scientific knowledge that attempts to explain it, or has been done simply by intuition.

Further, the art of any era has only made real contributions toward establishing new relationships between man and his world when the methods have been consistent with the thought and knowledge of the time.

These methods, however, have always given rise to forms of expression in terms of man himself – man as existing in space and time interpreting other things and phenomena existing in space and time. Art has never appeared to seek further than this, although there have been philosophical suggestions that our experience of the world does not represent the true nature of things. This view has developed from Kant, who maintained that space and its characteristics and time are products of our consciousness. The placing of things in space and time exists only in us, and not in the things themselves.

No form of artistic expression has taken such ideas into account. Since the beginning of this century when these ideas, first suggested by Kant, were at last taken up by others, modern art, too, has developed forms of expression in terms of man himself – not in terms of man outside himself.

One of the last and most important statements in art considered to be in line with today’s thought and knowledge is that of the Cubists. This appears to be consistent with the new space-time conception described by Einstein and Minkowski1 with the simultaneous representation of various aspects of the one object, regarded as an artistic parallel to the ideas of relativity. We can no longer think it possible to fully describe an object from a single point of reference – a moving point of reference is necessary to fully comprehend an object.

But the cubist approach – the simultaneous representation of several facets of the object or group of objects is really just as inadequate as the single aspect represented by classical perspective. The cubist statement, from two or three, or even a hundred points of reference, all still with a definite relationship to the object, falls as far short of the infinite number of random points of reference suggested by the notion of relativity as does the single aspect presented by classical perspective. The cubist attempt to achieve full description now appears naive and inadequate. It can be regarded only as a first approximation – nevertheless an important one – to an art form fully parallel to our new space-time conception.

In the developments of cubism which were purely abstract, with no reference to any specific object, the art possesses no qualities in any way related to this conception. The moment the object is abandoned, the cubist approach loses its true and original significance. We find the artists returning to colour and texture, as, without the object, they have nothing to say other than in colour and form harmonies.

Of the artists concerned with abstract art and not connected with the cubists, Kandinsky stands as most important, and something of a prophet. In his writing as well as in his painting, he tried to establish the principles of artistic harmony and counter-point, and was concerned with the psychic effect of forms on man. He abandoned objective painting in favour of abstract because he feared obscuring pure art by the emotions aroused by objects. He loved ‘only form that comes of necessity from the spirit, and had been created by the spirit’. He maintained that ‘the Philosophy of Art will in the future study with particular attention the spirit of things as well as their physical existence – an atmosphere will be created which will enable the human race to feel this spirit in the same unthinking way it now appreciates external appearance – and through this, the spirit of matter and finally the spirit of the abstract will become quite evident to humanity. From this new faculty will spring the joy of pure abstract art.’

Here is the suggestion that there will come an artistic expression which is derived from consideration of things outside of man and his space-time world – that art will be animated by the ‘spirit of things’ – not of particular things, but of all things – rather than by their outward appearance.

Kandinsky, though sensing the future course of art, did not himself go beyond the ‘musical’ aspect of art, his expression being based on the intuitive harmonies, rhythms and counterpoints of lines, colours and forms which comprise his Compositions.
Just at the time that Kandinsky was working and thinking in this direction, the challenge of Kant was again being taken up, and a first understanding of the problem he posed becomes evident. A new approach to the problem of space and time involving the conception of ‘the fourth dimension’ appears.

Kant asserted that everything known to us through the senses is known in terms of space and time, and, by the senses, we know nothing outside of space and time. Kant established the fact that extension in space and existence in time are not properties belonging to things, but are just the properties of our sensuous receptivity. In reality, apart from our sensuous knowledge of things, they exist independently of space and time. Perceiving things sensuously we impose upon them the conditions of space and time. Space and time, then, do not represent properties of the world, but are properties of our knowledge of the world which, in reality, has neither extension in space or existence in time. We require these aids for perceiving the world. A thing having no definite extension in space or existence in time has virtually no meaning for us. A thing not in space will not differ from any other thing in any particular, and may occupy the same place simultaneously with any other thing. And all phenomena not in time – not regarded in relation to past, present, and future would co-exist for us simultaneously. Our consciousness isolates things for us into categories of space and time, but the division exists only in us and in our knowledge of things, and not in the things themselves. Kant left the problem here, suggesting we could never know the real thing itself outside of space and time by nature of our psychic make-up. Schopenhauer, however, suggested we could, through intuition. Later suggestions are that it is possible to develop a higher psychic constitution which will enable us to really know things as they exist independently of space and time. This is the thought based on the conception of the ‘fourth dimension’.

This assertion of the existence of things outside of man’s perception of them – in no relation to the man-imposed divisions of space and time – is suggestive of Kandinsky’s idea of the spiritual aspect of things which he predicted would be the concern of the art of the future, and which goes beyond the mere physical appearance of things.

This leads to an art form in which the expression is not in terms of man himself and his sensuous knowledge of the world, but rather an expression which acknowledges the existence of things in themselves, outside of man. Such expression will result in the creation of new forms which will be derived from the discoveries of a consciousness roaming freely outside the limitations of space and time.

The new forms will exist in their own right, without reference to man’s sensuous knowledge of the world, without any particular reference to how man perceives the objective world, or how science suggests he might see it. The forms will be universally valid as regards the observer’s position in space and time. This, incidentally, will represent the true parallel between an artistic expression and the philosophical and scientific knowledge of our time.

The artistic forms will appear in a way similar to that which may be considered to be the way things, outside of man’s knowledge of them, have come to exist.

The art of Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz is an expression of this kind. It is an art form that takes man outside of himself. It is a first realisation of Kandinsky’s prophecy. Forms result from an understanding of the independent existence of things.

The method W.D. has evolved was arrived at purely intuitively from the desire to produce paintings in a manner entirely new, and which were in no way derived from the methods so far employed.

Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz starts with a series of arbitrarily chosen points in space, inside or outside the limits of the canvas. These are in no particular relationship to each other or to the artist. From any point to any other, pairs of lines are drawn completely freely, spontaneously, the hand guiding, not the mind. And so a kind of network is evolved upon the canvas, and from the intersecting lines, certain shapes and lines are chosen and consciously developed or refined, according to the artist’s aesthetic. Further, between each pair of lines is imagined and applied a colour, extending between the lines from point to point. Where the pairs of lines cross other pairs, so, too, do the colours. So new colours are born within the intersections in the same way as the shapes between the intersections are discovered. By this method colour and shape are thus two organic elements which cannot be regarded as separate, but only as an indivisible unity – they are born as one, together.

This represents the primary exercise, whereby the idea of organising and choosing shapes and forms is developed consciously. These shapes are still essentially flat – only two dimensional. Shapes so discovered may now take their place amongst other points and other discovered shapes, and again, by the same process, further organisation is possible. New shapes are discovered out of the old in an organic manner by a continuous process. But now the colours and disposition of the shapes develops a spatial quality which the first flat organisation of initial shapes lacked. Further, this spatial quality is in a constant state of movement, for it is related to no specific view point or horizon. Nor is it related to any particular number of view points or perspective frames. The forms exist simultaneously in all space and in all time they are viewed entirely outside space and time.
However, there is no reason why any previous convention should not be fused onto this method. But the important thing is that the method is in no way dependent upon them, and the most significant work is achieved when they are rejected.

Brian Claridge, Adelaide, Typed Manuscript attached to Letter, dated 30 June [c.1955].

Claridge was an architect who was Secretary and Vice-President of the Contemporary Art Society of South Australia, and before his death in 1979 was a Senior Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Adelaide.


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Dianne Longley

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Dianne Longley – Fantastic Grotesque

Wolfgang Kayser was the first writer in the modern era (1957) to chronicle the appearance of the “grotesque” in art and literature.i His work reflected an increasing awareness and connection with the artistic conceits of the Gothic era (12-13th C.), with its decorative embellishment of cathedrals and manuscript and cartographic illumination. However, its stylistic roots can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians and the ornamental and cloisonné work of the Gothic tribes and other barbarians and pagans.ii

Indeed, the term “grotesque” is aligned to the discovery of murals in the underground passages of the Baths of Titus in the ruins of Nero’s Domus Aurea (Golden House) by the court artist Fabullus, dating back to c.64-68 AD. These were reproduced as engravings in 1778 and then 1786 and have since fallen into decline,iii but stylistically this kind of decoration was already commonplace in the aforementioned forms. So the source of the word is “grotto” and it is related to burial places and the subterranean world; and the word “grotesque” was first used to describe an artistic style in 1502 and made its way into the cultural mainstream of Europe in Renaissance Italy.

Kayser drew on the writing of Cristoph Martin Wieland (1775), who identified three types of caricature: true caricature, exaggerated caricature and fantastic caricature, which he called “grotesques … where the painter, disregarding the verimisilitude, gives rein to unchecked fancy … with the sole intention of provoking laughter, disgust, and surprise about the daring of his monstrous creations by the unnatural and absurd products of his imagination.”iv

Dianne Longley connects with the latter form’s long history in her contemporary practice, conjuring personalized versions that are informed by an interest in illustration since the Middle Ages and contemporary, popular culture. Her references range from the aforementioned distant European origins to Japanese anime and kawaii. Such influences are particularly discernible in the intaglio and chine collé prints such as Unfolding and Steadfastness.

One fascinating aspect of her work is the continuity of its style, as her art has remained firmly grounded in a certain type of illustrative drawing, neither classical (for she avoids fastidious realism), nor modern (for she avoids recourse to the deconstructive impulses of tachism and expressionism). It centres on the fine rendering and detail offered by drypoint engraving, but in recent times she has incorporated photography as part of an expanding repertoire of tools and devices, and has transformed such source material via the electronic means of Adobe Photoshop to allow her to explore media on and off the page.

In Fantastic Grotesque, Longley’s imaginative starting point was a workshop in photopolymer printmaking in April 2008 at Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery which stemmed from the donation of Pro Hart’s etching press and a subsequent residency in July that year. The botanical settings her hybrid creatures and human figures inhabit are sourced from that arid environment, vaguely threatening to many city-dwellers and for such reasons chosen as the location for the grand-guignolesque Mad Max films.

Initially Longley selected three sites from gardens in Terowie and Silverton and recorded them as digital photographs, then transformed the photographs into a series of computer enhanced, colour-heightened prints that provided a framework for her imaginative legerdemain. Individual items were dislocated from their original contexts, isolated and then re-formed into new, surreal landscapes, in which she could situate her menagerie of grotesques.

After that beginning, Longley found more possibilities for her characters, by changing their scale and adopting new roles and forms, and by linking past explorations with these new elements of her expanding universe of formal and fictional language. This process adds to the sense of an overarching narrative or cosmology in her oeuvre.

Longley’s media here ranges from traditional intaglio prints to bronze and pewter casts of cuttlefish carvings of various succulents that are transmogrified into bansai-like three-dimensional miniatures; there are also pokerwork and hand-painted Jelutong wood panels; and an installation of five extraordinary wooden prints cut by CNC router from vector files. The largest is life-sized and features her central fantastic grotesque – Fisher of Dreamsa woman emerging from the mouth of a fish like a female Jonah. The corresponding, deftly coloured major print on paper strongly evokes the type of imagery in the embroidered edges of Fabullus’ murals. Similarly, some of the pages of the artist book, Remember to Die, Remember to Live, an autobiographical meditation inspired by a 1924 photograph of the actress Gloria Swanson, are decorated in archaic drolleries.

Experimentation with new techniques and media reinvigorates Longley’s creativity and sustains her capacity to imagine, but her respect for historical forms is deep and enduring. The fusion of all these elements is attended by her felicity of expression and feminine aesthetic. In Longley’s world the grotesque is beautiful.

 

Notes

i Wilson Yates, “An Introduction to the Grotesque: Theoretical and Theological Considerations” in JL Adams & W Yates (eds.) The Grotesque in Art and Literature: Theological Reflections (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 14-15.

ii Germain Bazin, A Concise History of Art: Part One – From the beginnings to the Fifteenth Century (London: Thames & Hudson, 1958), 143.

 iii W Yates, ibid, 5. Fabullus was also known as Famulus. The mural designs were on the walls and ceiling, both al frecco and al stucco. They were documented for the art dealer Ludivico Mirri by a team of artists, and later recorded by Nicholas Ponce and published in his volume Description des bains de Titus. After their initial discovery in 1480 the murals were credited as a source of inspiration for Raphael. To view the 18th C. colour reproductions see the exhibition Neros Golden House at the National Museum of Warsaw, 6 May-13 July 2008.

iv W Kayser in W Yates, ibid., 15.

 

______________________________________________________________

Dianne Longley

Heavy Metal (1999) is curated by printmaker Dianne Longley, who dispersed 300 kilograms of leftover lead sheeting from the local smelter, for a commission at the Port Pirie Tourism and Arts Centre, to artists of her choice. The resulting exhibition is broad in content and appeal. It is an unusual case too, for it coalesces streams of talent from both the public and private art schools, as well as from country areas. The subsequent diversity of approaches – since they include sculptors, painters, printmakers and installation artists – shows that there is no distinct type of practice specific to individual institutions or locales. Several favourite South Australian artists are represented, some of whom take the opportunity to strike out in different and unpredictable directions.

Traversing the Echo is the title of an interactive, electronic book, available soon on CD-Rom and the Internet, featuring computer-generated images from three series by South Australian printmaker Dianne Longley. It is also the title of an exhibition at Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide, displaying the work-in-progress, along with original prints and their corresponding editions in folio and artist’s book formats.
Longley (b. 1957) was one of the first Adelaide artists to investigate new methods of etching, using ultra-violet sensitive solarplates that require no use of acid. This technique provided the production basis for the folio included in this exhibition, The Golden Rose (1995-96).

In it, Longley hand-drew, then scanned and combined these images with photographic material via Adobe Photoshop. Film negatives were exposed on polymer plates, which were then relief printed on a conventional press. In the folio, each print is separated by a page of text that informs of the history and symbolic intent of a particular rose or garland. It includes a cultured essay by Penelope Curtin.

Previously, Longley’s artist’s book, Night Sea Crossing (1994), bound in codex form (traditional western binding), won the Fremantle Artist’s Book Award. It began as black-and-white illustrations on scraperboard, which the artist scanned into computer and manipulated into distinct layers. The first layer was printed on archival paper; the second on transparent acetate using a laser printer. The images can be viewed individually or in composite.

Longley has relentlessly pursued the possibilities of computer-imaging in her recent visual practice. Her interest in desktop publishing and manuscript illumination permeates her evolving style, resulting in a seamless collage of historical illustration, state-of-the-art computer imaging and traditional printmaking techniques.

Her latest series, Compass of Change, appeals with its intense machine-colouring and density of texture. The images incorporate theatrical designs, mandalas and medieval illustration, recycling and synthesising a set of black-and-white lithographs from 1989. They were finally printed from disc on satin paper in three five metre lengths and bound as a concertina-style folded scroll, which can be viewed in codex form.

Longley’s art offers a visual summary of western civilization over the last 500 years, connecting Gutenberg’s press with the technology of the next millenium.

Published  review, undated file 1990s

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Calligraphy

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Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz, Calligraphy, c.1952 Adelaide, oil on canvas, 68 x 87 cm, Art Gallery of South Australia, Gift of the Dutkiewicz family 200, photo by Graeme Hastwell, 1988

On Calligraphy

Some people may wonder why my family donated this little painting to the Art Gallery of South Australia. It sits here quietly in this corner, in its palette and forms nicely complementing the work of Ralph Balson and Grace Crowley. The reasons are several. Firstly, it is one of the earliest abstractions made by my father, certainly in a style that was not entirely expressionistic. It was also one of the earliest paintings of this nature made in Adelaide, and it tells a great deal about a hidden history of adventurous and creative activity in South Australian art. When you read most histories of Australian art, you get a distinct impression that not much happened in Adelaide in the 1950s. But nothing could be further from the truth, and this little painting was one of the foundational pieces in that movement.

The dating of Calligraphy can partly be determined, even though there is no date included with the signature, because of the signature “Dutkie”, which usually designates a work painted before 1954. After that time he usually signed his work “WD”.

The artist held 7 solo exhibitions in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne from 1951-55; 10 group exhibitions including in Regensberg (Germany) and London from 1946-55; and unfortunately he did not retain catalogues of all these exhibitions. No catalogue of the period with this work can be found. However, very similar work from the period has been dated and catalogued. Most pertinent is an oil on canvas slightly larger than this titled Bush (1951), which is an abstracted landscape, virtually reduced to a series of vertical brushstrokes evoking the colours and dryness of the sclerophyll forest. Calligraphy has a similar treatment in the background, but the artist has taken a small yet logical step on by suspending a series of lines over the backdrop.

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Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz: Bush, 1951 Adelaide, oil on canvas, photograph by Graeme Hastwell

The dating can also be determined by comparing it with other works in similar vein from the period: Composition (1953); Television (c.1954); Bird’s eye view (c.1954).  The Shapes in Space series of 1954-55 was the most mature manifestation of this approach in his early painting. Indeed one of these works, which was reproduced in the first editions of Alan McCulloch’s Encyclopedia of Australian Art, has been captured in two different photographs that indicate the changeover in his use of signatures. One photograph has the early longhand signature, while the other, presumably after a few minor alterations to the picture, shows his initials.

My father’s related Colour-Music paintings, especially For Stravinsky (1954), Concrete Music (1954) and Toccata (c.1955), extended on the ideas struck upon in the earliest abstract works, such as Calligraphy, but were expanded upon and writ large (around 5 x 8 feet).

Another reason we donated this work was that it resembles a mural in one of the earliest modernist homes of the 1950s, designed for his family by the architect Brian Claridge. The mural was photographed in black and white and also included in the film Quest for Time, made in Adelaide in 1955, I think, by Stanislaw Ostoja-Kotkowski and Ian Davidson, in a shot that prophesies the famous image through a convex mirror in Losey’s The Servant. If you’ve got the time or inclination you can see this image in Davidson’s self-produced volume Art, Theatre and Photography: Remembering Stan Ostoja-Kotkowski (1922-1994) in the AGSA Library.

As far as I can tell from the records, the painting Calligraphy was not exhibited again until the 1970s. So that’s the research into its provenance.

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Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz: Mural, Claridge Residence, Stonyfell, photograph by Rob Potter

When I look at Calligraphy I think of two things. My initial question, of course, is why is it called Calligraphy? An answer comes if one considers the background as a wall of rock, and the lines represent the first carvings of a primitive person in that rock wall. One can see the beginnings of shapes that underpin the early alphabets. There is also a suggestion of a mathematical diagram.

I know that at around this time my father was producing a series of paintings based on his encounter with Aborigines in Western Australia shortly after his arrival in this country. In 1953 he exhibited the series, including work such as Churinga , which clearly showed he had absorbed the use of line and the kinds of information recorded on Aboriginal artefacts and in their representations of mythical, human and animal forms. It is likely he developed his interest in depicting scenes from an aerial perspective through his study of Aboriginal art, as much as his interest and awareness of Malevich’s Suprematism. It was quite usual for modernists in central Europe to explore regional folk art to underpin their work, just as Picasso, for example, delved into Iberian and African art to develop his Cubism.

So, the title might not only suggest a background of a cave wall and the first steps towards writing and the semblance of letters, but also an aerial view and tracing of a journey of some kind over or through a landscape. It might represent the flight of a bird, a kite, glider or plane. One interpretation is that the background refers to the high-rise skyline of a city. The lines then might record a series of excursions, a tracing describing his journeys around the city on a particular day or series of days.[1]

A second thought is that the lines might also suggest some proposals for new forms in an architectural plan, a new architecture that breaks up the tyranny of rectilinear forms. In his own way, in this type of work my father was not only experimenting with line and form, but also conducting a dialogue with art movements such as Suprematism and other geometric painting. For example, in Sydney up until then Balson and Crowley in their Contructivism had relied on Platonic geometry and flat, untextured planes of colour in their paintings. My father would not have liked the more fussy and pedantic versions of modernism that celebrated rectilinear form. He always tried to avoid obvious solutions in his art.

I’ve mentioned the very interesting comparison with the contemporary work of Balson and Crowley, and others such as Frank Hinder, in their so-called “Constructivism” that emerged in Sydney from around 1940. The artists who tackled Constructivist ideas in Adelaide in the early 1950s were mostly migrant artists: Wladyslaw and his younger brother Ludwik Dutkiewicz, Alexander Sadlo and a little later, Ostoja-Kotkowski. Until their arrival, only Douglas Roberts and David Dallwitz had touched on this territory in Adelaide. Frank Hinder was a Futurist as well as Constructivist in Sydney; and similarly, Sadlo was more inclined to Orphism, Futurism and Op Art, as he became interested in representing movement, rather than compositions of abstract shapes.[2]

One of the interesting shifts in the work of Sydney Constructivists was their changing palette. In the 1940s, their origin lay in the work of Mondrian rather than Cubists or Futurists; and their palette reflected his emphasis on primary colours (sometimes with an added dimension of reflective metallic paint). As the decade proceeded, Balson, in particular, devised subtleties in secondary and tertiary blends by overlapping planes of colour. By the early 1950s, however, there was an inclination to investigate more monochrome or tonal paintings, often based in earth tones, similar to the kinds of colours we see here in Calligraphy and other work by the Adelaide Constructivists.

Eventually I came to the conclusion that I had to differentiate the two strains, as the Adelaide artists who operated in this territory were doing something quite different, with colour but especially with form and line. We can see in this painting the twisted and curving of the straight lines that dominated most of Balson’s canvases. So I decided to call it “Organic Constructivism”, as the Adelaide artists were more grounded in Expressionism and the theories of Kandinsky, initially in Concerning the Spiritual in Art. In Point & Line to Plane Kandinsky described a line as the movement of a point in time and developed this idea and how it might be used in abstract painting. The Organic Constructivists’ method involved a fusion of gestural, “calligraphic” expressionism and more conventional constructivism in painting; and it was concerned with visual representations of space-time.

At the beginning of the 1950s the idea of The Fourth Dimension began to circulate in Adelaide as a concept central to much modernist art. The then director of the Art Gallery of South Australia, Robert Campbell, even delivered a lecture at the Contemporary Art Society of SA in which he mentioned this idea, which was in the first years of last century invoked by Apollinaire in writing on the Cubists. It was regarded as “the dimension of the infinite” or “a higher dimension” and in modern art it often became code for visual transformation or the attempted manifestation of the sublime in art.[3]

It seemed to develop three different meanings for artists: the first stemmed from 19th C geometry as a higher dimension of space; the second was based on Einstein’s science, referring to time (in turn based on his mentor Minkowski’s notion of space-time); and thirdly, the “hyperspace philosophy” in which the Fourth Dimension was a true reality perceivable through the attainment of higher consciousness. The latter emerged from the “philosopher” Ouspensky, who believed that humans experience an incomplete sense of space; and through the cultivation of a new kind of logic (Tertium Organum), a new and higher consciousness could be experienced. His ideas were particularly influential on the Russian Futurists and Suprematists.[4]

I know my father was interested in these ideas at the time of painting Calligraphy. In the next few years, with the help of Brian Claridge, he even developed a “manifesto” around the idea of synthesis in art.[5] It proved to be the basis of a strand of his painting throughout his career, and was most evident in his sculptures, such as the street decorations he made for the 1968 Festival. His understanding, according to a WEA lecture (c.1960), of this concept was more in line with Einstein than Ouspensky.[6] In an interview with Hazel de Berg (1962) he indicated he saw the Fourth Dimension as an idea that could be applied to art in an imaginative way to move it forward into new territory. He used the metaphor of a plane flying to Darwin to explain his ideas on how he built images in his art that moved on from purely abstract representations.[7]

The Fourth Dimension is an idea underpinning much modernist art: perhaps some of the best and most widely known examples are Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), Marcel Duchamp’s Nude descending the staircase (1912) and The Large Glass (1915-23) and Max Weber’s Interior of the Fourth Dimension (1913). It was crucial in the development of the art of Len Lye, who around 1930 connected the Fourth Dimension and the Dreamtime in his art,[8] and Lucio Fontana in his White Manifesto (1946),[9] to name two major figures.

Calligraphy offers a local insight into this rich vein that brought forward so much interesting activity in modernist art, and shows the conceptual territory and the attempted connections between art, mathematics, physics and even metaphysics in Australian art in the early years of the Cold War.

Finally, I should add that if you are interested in finding out more about Adelaide’s progressive modernism of the 1950s and 60s, you might read chapters 5 and 6 of my thesis Raising ghosts, which inserts Adelaide’s post-war modernist history into the story of Abstract Painting in Australia. If you want to know more about my father’s life and work, you might investigate my biography, titled Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz: A Partisan for Art (Moon Arrow Press, 2013).

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Ian Davidson’s shot of the mural included in the black and white film Quest for Time (1956), directed by SJ Ostoja-Kotkowski

Notes for a talk for the Art Gallery of South Australia, Tuesday 22 April 2003, 12.45pm

Endnotes
1. “I am doing just a simple thing. For me the imaginary starting points are very essential. The starting point, I mean, can be here – my bus or this cigarette, as the first one – the second can be probably Port Adelaide or even Darwin; and if I join these two points in a first line, a straight one, my imagination is directed strongly towards each one; then the second line, it will be a curve, it will be probably, for example, to fly by the aeroplane, and if I combine these two lines with my starting points, the sphere in between starts to design for me a picture, in essence, and if I still found more points and dislodged them, I have more and more that is coming as an image.”

Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz, Interview with Hazel de Berg, 10 August 1962

2. Sadlo’s influences lay with Kupka and later Albers, rather than Kandinsky, and his early experimental work at times resembled a fusion of Picasso’s cubism and Duchamp’s penultimate and most famous paintings.

3. Brad Ricca, “Signifying Nothing: the Fourth Dimension in Modernist Art and Literature,” http://www.cwru.edu/artsci/engl/VSALM/mod/ricca/paper.html [obsolete link].

4. Linda Dalrymple Henderson, “Mysticism, Romanticism, and the Fourth Dimension”, in Maurice Tuchmann et al, The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890-1985 (Los Angeles County Museum of Art/Abbeville Press, 1986), 219-37.

5. W. Dutkiewicz, [“Cosmic Theory of Light & Line”(after N. Claridge)], submission for Kultura, Paris, c.1955, TL & TM – see dutkiewiczarchive

6. [The Fourth Dimension & Minkowski’s Geometry]
“From the point of view of geometry according to Hinton, the question of the 4th dimension may be examined in the following way. We know geometrical figures of three kinds:
Figures of one dimension – lines;
Figures of two dimensions – planes;
Figures of three dimensions – solids.
A line is regarded here as the trace of a point moving in space.
Let us imagine a straight line limited by two points, and let us designate this line by the letter a. Let us imagine this line a moving in space in a direction perpendicular to itself and leaving a trace of its movement. When it has traversed a distance equal to its length, the trace left by it will have the form of a square, the sides of which are equal to a line a squared.
Let us imagine this square moving in space in a direction perpendicular to two of its adjoining sides and leaving a trace of its movement. When it has traversed a distance equal to the length of one of the sides of the square, its trace will have the form of a cube.
Now if we imagine the movement of a cube in space we will achieve a trace which we will call a figure of the higher dimension.
If we examine the way in which figures of higher dimensions are constructed by the movement of figures of lower dimensions, we shall discover several common properties and several common laws in this formation.
If, in fact, when we consider a square as a trace of the movement of a line, we know that all of the points of this line have moved in space; when we consider a cube as a trace of the movement of a square we know that all the points of the square have moved. Moreover, the line moves in a direction – perpendicular to itself; the square in a direction perpendicular to two of its dimensions.
Consequently, if we consider our fourth figure as the trace of movement of a cube in space, we must remember that all the points of the given cube have moved in space. Moreover we may deduce from analogy with the above that the cube was moving in space in a direction which is not contained in the cube itself – a direction perpendicular to its three dimensions.
Summing up, I did say that the properties of [the] fourth dimension may be obtained by the movement of a cube in space. It is right to suppose that the assemblage of lines drawn from every point of a cube’s interior as well as exterior, the lines along which the points approach each other or retreat from each other constitutes the projection of a four dimensional body.
From the practical point of view, the architecture of today is very near to these ideas, thanks to all the experimentation done by painters on canvas over the last one hundred years.”

W. Dutkiewicz,  Lecture for WEA, c.1960, probably written with assistance by Brian and Nancy Claridge.

7. W. Dutkiewicz, in Hazel de Berg, op. cit.

8.  “During his youth in New Zealand and Australia, (Len) Lye gained deep respect for the integrity of the aboriginals’ philosophy of dreamtime and their art. Dreamtime is the aboriginals’ belief that the visions of dream and trance represent a higher, spiritual dimension (a fourth dimension) that – true, perfect, and eternal – is superior to the corrupt reality of the waking state. Lye called dreamtime ‘the original Surrealism’ and blended its notion of the superior validity of dream and trance with old-brain/new-brain psychology and automatic writing (Tusalava, 1928) based on aboriginal sacred drawings as they appeared in his dreams and a series of drawn-on-film abstractions (beginning with Colour Box, 1935) that metamorphose continually into new unexpected realms.”

William Moritz, “Abstract Film and Colour Music” in  Maurice Tuchman et alThe Spiritual in Art: Abstract painting 1890-1985, p. 309.

9.“After several millennia of analytical artistic development, the moment of synthesis has arrived. Prior to this moment, specialization was necessary. Now however this specialization amounts to a disintegration of the unity we envisage.
We imagine synthesis as the sum total of the physical elements: colour, sound, movement, time, space, integrated in physical and mental union. Colour, the element of space; sound, the element of time and movement, which develops in time and space. These are fundamental to the new art which encompasses the four dimensions of existence. Time and space.”

Lucio Fontana, “The White Manifesto” (1946) in Charles Harrison & Paul Wood,
Art in Theory 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas.

See http://theoria.art-zoo.com/the-white-manifesto-lucio-fontana/

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Adam Dutkiewicz: Sunlight 2010, acrylic on canvas, 95.3 x 75 cm

This is the archive of Dr Adam Jan Dutkiewicz, artist, writer, art historian, researcher, editor, publisher, book designer, proof reader, catalogue designer, exhibition curator and specialist in South Australian art and enthusiast for post-war architecture and design.

It includes material concerning Moon Arrow Press, his small publishing house, and earlier ventures in publishing, his history projects for other organisations, his essays on art and art history, and his own artistic output as a painter and photographer.

Adam is the second son of Polish-origin Australian modernist painter Wladyslaw Dutkiewicz, and nephew of Ludwik Dutkiewicz, abstract and expressionist painter and botanical artist at the State Herbarium in Adelaide. His brother Michal Dutkiewicz is an illustrator, comic book artist and commercial artist par excellence (a true wizard in Photoshop) and his sister Ursula a ceramist, sculptor and mosaic artist based in Melbourne.

He is an Honorary Life Member and Past President of the Royal South Australian Society of Arts Incorporated, and was art critic for The Advertiser and The Independent Weekly in Adelaide and the South Australian contributing critic for Business Review Weekly around the turn of the century. He also wrote for Art Monthly Australia (online) and was contributing editor for Australian Modern Design, published in Brisbane. He has exhibited his paintings in Sydney and Adelaide. He is currently Honorary Historian for the Royal South Australian  Society of Arts, having completed editing and compiling volume one of A Visual History: The Royal South Australian Society of Arts, 1856-2016 in 2016, which featured the early history, Presidents, Officials and Honorary Life Members of the society. He is currently engaged with producing volume two, featuring other significant artists, from 1909 until the present.

To date Adam has authored, co-authored, contributed to or edited (and often designed) 14 books on South Australian art and its artists, all of which can be investigated on this site.

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Adam Jan Dutkiewicz

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Front Cover: The Path to Salt

The Path to Salt: A Photographic Essay on the Cheetham Salt Fields, Dry Creek, South Australia
by Adam Jan Dutkiewicz
Moon Arrow Press, 2012

The Path to Salt is not only a striking visual essay about an extraordinary landscape, it can be interpreted as a metaphor for life, especially in South Australia, the driest state on the driest continent on earth, where the environment and river systems have suffered terribly under European habitation.

Dr Adam Jan Dutkiewicz’s long fascination with the Salt pans at Dry Creek, northwest of Adelaide, South Australia, came to fruition on a photographic field trip with Gary Sauer-Thompson in August 2012. Dutkiewicz and Thompson would later collaborate to produce Abstract Photography: Re-evaluating visual poetics in Australian modernism and contemporary practice (2016).

Dutkiewicz’s subsequent musings and thoughts about his connection to that landscape led him back to a story he had written in 1986, which has been revised for inclusion in this volume.

“Great piles of salt, in rows, resembling fibro-cement warehouse sheds with angular roofs, were reflected like crystals of gypsum in the wet pans, blue in the early morning sunshine.” The Path to Salt, a short story by Adam Jan Dutkiewicz

The book is available from blurb.com

 

 

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