Art-Cologne, gallery Pudelko, 2009
Marc Scheps: Light Symbols in artwork of Igor Ganikowskij
Ganikowskij's art is charged with hidden symbols and has to be deciphered in order to understand it deeper meaning. The artist has developed a code of visual symbols and his apparently strictly reduced works reveal their contents only when we have learned to unveil their enigma.
So, it is worth while to embark on a journey into this 'terra artis incognita', trying to outline a preliminary topography of his work in a few sections.
The very title 'Between black und white' of the last exhibition in the Museum Felix-Nussbaum-Haus suggests the importance of colour in Ganikowskij's work, with colour being embedded in the form of a dual system: indeed White includes all other colours of the spectrum, while Black repels all others. Between these extremes all the other colours are oscillating, appearing in variable combinations of black/red, or black/red/white or black/yellow. Eventually we remember Mondrian's rigorous system of colours, based on highly sophisticated intentions. Especially the black and white contrasts in
Ganikowskijs work are perceived as dichotomous symbols for day and night, life and death, heaven and earth, light and darkness. He uses Red as a symbol for life between these contrasts.
In his 'Big Composition' (2002) we may observe this paradigmatic disposition of colours, the red thread of life separating the rising white structure from its descending black counterpart. Since the underlying significance of colours is closely related to the philosophy of geometrical form, we have to contemplate both elements together in order to fully comprehend the meaning of this work.
The circle, the square and the triangle signify more than sheer geometrical figures to our artist, they are, in the first place, symbols of an invisible world. Ganikowskij creates his own spiritual geometry, conveying a visual shape to hidden worlds - similarly to kabbalistic representations.
The geometrical figures appear as reduced signs which symbolize the cosmos, they are like a framework enabling us to come to terms with the profane chaos of reality. A harmonic arrangement of geometrical forms and of colours intercedes between the spirit of man and the powerful elements of the infinite.
III. Space and Time
The relations of space and time - as well as the corresponding theories - have been of crucial importance in 20th century art.
Ganikowskij continues to work on this major issue of modern art, availing himself of Bachtin's concept of the 'Chronotop' ( from Chronos- time and Topos-space) for his creative process. His explorations of time-space problems in painting lead him into a changing and changeable geometrical symbolism within actual space of reality. He became aware of an existing deficit in the static
and flat dimension of painting of that inner dynamics of space, that can only be expressed as time-consuming procedures. In 1913, already the Russian artist Alexander Archipenko had experimented with three-dimensional painting, more recently also the American painter Frank Stella created works which are fundamentally paintings in space. These artists struggled with the elimination of the trompe-l'oeil-effect, the illusion of space suggested on the canvas.
Other artists, e.g. Jesús Rafael Soto and Jaacov Agam tried to project painting into space by means of visual gadgets and playful mechanisms, thus trying to involve the spectator into the painting, the emphasis of their work being based on the temporal element.
As Ganikowskij creates different objects in space, their significance varies if we move around them, and we discover new and hitherto unnoticed contents. The essence of things changes continually in this space-time dynamism. We become aware of the infinite and the unimaginability of space and time, offering us an understanding of form as abstract spiritual symbols. The Chronotop opens the path to a meditative ambulation, directed to the infinity of the world and also to the hidden abysses of our soul.
To perceive space and its temporal dimension, light is needed. His personal artistic process leads Ganikowskij from the plain surface of painting to space, from white colour to the space-temporal dimension of Light. Pictures like 'Origin of Light' and 'Condensation of Light" indicate how White can be perceived as Light and in its true nature it may only be understood through the perception of Black as the symbol of darkness. White as the symbol of Light and Light as the symbol of Spirit. However, Light is a changing phenomenon and the artist analyses its properties like reflection or intensity in his 'Filter-Pictures', showing slow transitions from light to darkness.
Placed between spiritual geometry and a utopian architecture, the Gate appears as a symbolical outlet to other realms, as a transition to transcendence. We need a key to open that gate, a key everybody has to find for himself. Any artist always stands in front of a closed gate and each work is an attempt to find the right key, the one which clears his way to a new world. However, the series of 'Gates' shows compact objects without recognizable outlets, which look like fortresses. The coloured structures of these might be the key to open the entrance for us. Similar structures like 'House', 'Factory' or 'Halls of Light' aim at finding an outlet to the essential reality.
Shut behind its hard cover, open with its thin pages: the outside hides a secret, its inside holds the signs of Enlightenment. To turn the pages is a process in space and time. To open a page means to shut another. A perfect Chronotop. The book as the place of signs, as an attempt at deciphering. The book as condensed and concentrated spirit. The book as symbol for the revelation of the riddles of this world. The book as the place of Faith. And as a key to the Gate.
The scarf is traditionally worn by Jews at prayer. Its exact dimensions, the structure of its stripes and its colours hold a religious-symbolic meaning and unites the individual with the spirit of God. The tallit is like a personal tent of faith and covers the body according to ancient rules. Ganikowskij's 'Tallit'-series consist in painted and folded sheets, often in hexagonal or irregular forms. Maybe a reference to the six points of the Star of David. The tallit as a symbolic object of Jewish faith elucidates in its design the separation from the worldly and the union with the divine. The tallit serves as a protective cover and as a distinguishing mark.
The 'Tallit'-series corresponds with the 'T-Composition 1': a white casing on letter T may stand for the tallit, the thoroughfare and the Toráh, the Hebrew word for the Bible. Those three words are semantically closely related. The form of the casing recalls a closed torah-scroll and the mezuzah, the little shrine fastened to the entrance door of Jewish houses. The shrine as a symbol for its hidden spirituality. The shrine as a protection and as a token, like the tallit.
IX. Jericho/ Massada
These two works form two equal squares, two structures with nuclei and encirclement in Black and Red. The two inner circles being three-dimensional: two names, two places, two periods, a beginning and an ending, biblical times, two symbols that have survived for centuries. A triumph and a tragedy.
Jericho: the center, that means the town, is black. The spiral encircling of the center is red. It surrounds the centre seven times, until the walls of the town are destroyed. The promised land was to be constructed.
Massada: the centre is red, the fortress on the top of the rock. The circles referring to the siege of the Romans, are black. The last fight and the end of ancient Juda and afterwards, two thousand years of exile. The symbolism of history has rarely been so clearly worked out: each time, opposing powers, on the one hand hard, condensed nuclei and on the other circles which surround and threaten them. Signs and symbols taken from reality: beginning and ending, life and death, hope and despair, Red and Black - history that has become symbols and symbols that have freed themselves from the end of history and have acquired a universal, a timeless sense through Art.
( translated from German by Kerstin Wienke and Rainer Gassen )