Jan Wawrzyniak

Broken and Lost | Drawing

Curated by Alexander Klar

10-10-2014 - 01-02-2015

Museum Wiesbaden

Alexander Klar: The End of the Picture is its Beginning

The line is one of the fundamental elements of artistic expression. In its essence, it constitutes the direct expression of the hand on the paper. Not unlike handwriting, it grants us a glimpse of the temperament or basic attitude of its originator and represents thus a key vehicle for the artist’s individuality. As a graphic element, the line maps out the shape of an artistic idea; as a component of a composition, it defines the boundaries of given forms or sections in the picture.

Jan Wawrzyniak’s oeuvre revolves around this very aspect. That said, his works veritably tackle the antithesis of the defining and delineation of boundaries by exploring the inherent possibilities of visual delimitation itself. His drawings depart from the surface of the picture, breaching its borders and reaching out into the surrounding space. This breaching of borders has previously only really been hinted at, because the majority of his works adhere to traditional categories. At the same time, Wawrzyniak’s works revoke traditional ideas of the picture by means of disjuncture (for instance, through the “wrong” choice of material, e.g. the use of charcoal on canvas) or extensions (via cuts, tears, omissions).
Wawrzyniak’s works alternate therefore between traditional ideas of the picture and potential extensions thereof and thus do not permit any categorical, received ideas regarding classification.


At the centre of the exhibition “broken and lost, drawing” at Museum Wiesbaden we can see two, approximately 18-metre long Alexander Lines drawn in one gesture one of which is on the wall and the other traversing the floor. The point at which they intersect is situated elsewhere outside of the exhibition room, their connection residing in the fact that they can be immediately related to one another through the experience of space. Both lines can be seen as a unity as well as two separate works of the same kind. The physical connection, that is to say, a “framework” or a communal ground, only exists in the actual boundaries that make up this space in Wiesbaden. Both lines run along small
widths of paper that traverse the wall and the floor at different angles longitudinally. Immediately upon entering the room, you ask what it is that makes them a picture – is it the overall impression or the detail of the line?

By virtue of their size, both lines cannot be assimilated separately in the full extent of their range, however, approach one of them,
then you lose sight of the whole. Nevertheless, the strength of the lines and the breadth of the surrounding swathe of the paper are powerful enough to have a visual effect within the space. So it is a “picture” after all. Or are there two pictures?

The work becomes more concrete as a result of its interplay with three other works that aid its overall “assimilation”: Overlap, at the entrance to the opposing end of the room belongs to the series “Lost Drawings“. Like Cube, it comprises
elements cut out from earlier works that Wawrzyniak had previously discarded. Like the original pictures whence they are derived, they are drawn on primed cotton, the rear side
overlapping the main work in question. Thus the back the actual cotton weave is visible which lies on top of the charcoal drawing. The tonal impression is that of an untreated weave, referring to the artist’s self-restriction which, in turn, limits the colour spectrum of his oeuvre to black, white and shades of grey. This reduction in tonal palette creates a kind of artistic parenthesis for his excursions beyond the frame.

Wawrzyniak’s work characterises thus not only his rigorous treatment of the line and surface, but his reduced colour range also underlines his calculated concentration upon the essential aspect of a seeming simplicity, the equivocal nature of which eluding a clear overall impression and thereby removing artificiality from his art. Thus, his work visibly challenges the status of spatial art per se.
Upon entering the space at Museum Wiesbaden, the immediate impression is not so much that one is encountering an artwork, but rather that the two lines dominating the space are a kind of experiment, their formal energy only unfolding as one traverses the space itself.
The lines themselves have visibly left the well-known typology of the picture in favour of an aesthetic of the uncertain, which is equally as unobtrusive as it is impressive. By bidding the picture farewell, Wawrzyniak radically questions its possibilities and power of expression: the central question here is where does a picture actually start and, concomitantly, what actually constitutes a picture in the first place? Is a recognisable motif necessary for a picture to be called a picture? Ever since Ad Reinhardt and Robert Ryman, the absence of a motif can also be a motif in itself, however, Wawrzyniak finds himself half a century down the line after the propagated “end of painting” at a completely different point. On the one hand, he elegantly sidesteps the question regarding the demise of this genre by consistently referring to his work as a “drawing”, on the other, he no longer works on the picture, but at its edges. The largest work in the space, Untitled, 2013 expressly demonstrates this, inasmuch as it makes its own edges, as well as the edges of surfaces within the composition, it subject. In turn, the edges of the surfaces become points of disjunction in the picture, which, as a small aperçu, also incorporates both physical lines separating the three individual canvases of the triptych. It is this work in particular that only becomes visible when you have already crossed part of the space and which most readily fulfils the received idea of what constitutes an artwork: a work in the
tradition of the panel painting, even if it is veritably dancing out of the genre in its lightfooted insouciance.
In a linguistic context, beyond the remit of art, the line defines many areas of life with an incisive clarity: we have “linear development”, there is the ominous “red line” which should not be crossed, “demarcation lines” are drawn after the cessation of hostilities in war, we are familiar with the couturier’s line, and in the case of Jan Wawrzyniak, we are confronted by the “Alexander Line”. A particular experiment is being conducted with it in the project space in Wiesbaden: where is the dividing line between picture and space?


When you enter the space, you unavoidably also enter the picture, you are situated “within art”, and although you are not part of the construction, you find yourself within it. The clear separation between viewer and viewed object is in the process of being dissolved in the museum space, as it is not possible to ascertain whether you are on “your” side or already within the work itself. Besides, the work takes its leave of the space into areas that remain off limits to us, where we cannot follow, because the end of this picture is merely its beginning.