Exhibition opening “Leaves of Grass” Katarzyna Jankowiak

October 7, 2021

Leaves of Grass

The titles of my paintings are simply the dates of their completion. The works are a calendar of sorts; for me the use of dates seems perfectly adequate and sufficient. At this stage of my work, I find it unnecessary to apply narrative titles. Therefore, summing up with a title a set of works selected for the exhibition is a tall order, indeed. Eventually, I chose a quotation from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. I share the poet’s way of observing and then describing the world: the focus on detail, on trivial and inconspicuous things and phenomena which are so commonplace that they elude attention, even though each of them is an inalienable part of the whole. Whitman writes as follows:

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars,

And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the
egg of the wren.

(…)

And the cow crunching with depress’d head surpasses any statue,

And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels.1

I am a believer in the art of looking: staring, observing, absorbing, soaking up, stopping, and concentrating. I consider this way of looking and the time devoted to it an exceptional luxury in the context of the dominant, hastily mediated image of the world we all deal with in our everyday lives. I carefully watch many things, but especially nature; in general and in particular, i.e. forests, meadows, fields, orchards, as well as the most common weeds, their fruit, seeds and roots. 

The oil paintings on display at the Elektor Gallery attempt to synthesise these observations, while the watercolours are a kind of herbarium inspired both by direct observations and by reference material taken from biology and botany textbooks.

While providing titles to works or exhibitions opens some interpretative horizons, it is also restrictive and limiting. My exhibition could just as well have been entitled Tansy, inasmuch as a fascination with this common ruderal weed, its disturbing smell, diffuse shape, healing and poisonous properties and the magical power attributed to it (tansy was considered a witch’s herb) inspired much of my work. The titles Time or Rhythm would be equally legitimate since the process of painting, the rhythm and repetitiveness of spatula or brush strokes is essential. Similarly fitting, for related reasons, would be titles such as Mantras or Meditations as well as Affirmations or The Passing, as my work is also about the passage of time and impermanence. I could also title my exhibition The World Fading Away or The World on the Edge as in the face of an environmental catastrophe I sometimes feel that I am referring to a world in a state of disappearance; soon I will have nothing to look at. The title could also refer to the dominant colour in this exhibition and its symbolic content.

For the time being, for now, I am most obliged to honourable Walter Whitman for the title of the Leaves of Grass show.

  1. Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, London 2013.