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Henry Kondracki Paintings 6 – 30 October 2010

The Scottish Gallery 16 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ Tel 0131 558 1200 Email

Front cover: 1 Cyclist in the Meadows oil on canvas 102 x 122 cms

2 Toy Croc oil on canvas 18 x 24 cms

Magical Moments The Paintings of Henry Kondracki It’s a feeling that you’re trying to get over and you’re using these images to try to transmit that feeling.

Continuity and innovation has been the central dialectic which has motored modern art throughout its spectacular development over the last century and a half. Henry Kondracki’s art continues that “tradition of the new” as Harold Rosenberg calls it, with his powerfully exuberant, yet profoundly evocative paintings; in which a clash of contractions are synthesised into “images” full of psychologically poignant, but aesthetically coherent “feeling”. While every one of Kondracki’s pictures has its own immediate appeal and individual identity they are also part of a continual quest to find new means of expression that might prove to be even more intense. This he dedicatedly pursues through the paramount need to harmonise and integrate his highly personalised choice of inspirational subject matter with a distinctive, but appropriate stylistic manner, of pictorial depiction. Such a synthesis of content and form is sought after through the painter’s ever increasing artistic knowledge and continually expanding creative vision. In practise this ongoing process calls on Kondracki’s long years of studio experience and much tried and tested picture

making ability to constantly accommodate and reconcile two contrasting, but in his case, complementary methods of painting within his work – the academic and the primitive. Kondracki was trained in the 1980s at two of the leading London art colleges and was an outstanding student and first class graduate. The basis of the training he received there has remained with him throughout his subsequent career. Thus with such an academic background he always needs to work from an observed subject which will initially be either sketched and/or photographed. These preliminary studies will then be built up and developed into their fully enlarged version by traditional academic procedures – with great care and attention given to sound foundational pictorial structure through spatial composition and colour coordination. Yet, as these vibrant works in this latest exhibition make abundantly clear, there is nothing dry or pedantic about Kondracki’s art even if he has to go through a prolonged struggle to gain the overall effect he desires. Thus, although they are deeply considered and rigorously worked (and reworked), Kondracki’s paintings

miraculously retain a spontaneous vitality which makes such an immediate visual and emotional impact on the responsive viewer. While Kondracki’s practice is founded on traditional technical studio skills and values the raw and sensual impact that his style of painting makes on our tactile and emotional sensitivities is the means by which the primitive operates within his art. It should readily be pointed out however, that the concept of the primitive here has nothing to do with tribal masks or prehistoric cave paintings – the likes of which are usually found in art historical discourse on this topic. On the contrary the true nature of the primitive in modern art is not historical nor geographical but psychological – that constant quest for new ways and means to tap into and realise authentic “feeling” through the poetic powers of human creativity. From the outset of the modern artistic period avantgarde artists realised by their radical rejection of the previous conventional mimetic role of picture making – and also through their innovative experimentation in new techniques for depicting different kinds of subjects – that painting could, and should, be an active means of expression and not merely a passive medium for description. Kondracki continues to work within this admirable modernist tradition. Through his long developed knowledge and instinctive understanding of the nature of modern painting Kondracki fully appreciates and relentlessly pursues this expressive potential in painting. With such a rigorous approach to his art this enables him, not only to depict and celebrate his particular subjects with all their distinctively

appealing characteristics, but also, to delve beneath the surface of visual appearances, in order to release deeper and more powerful psychological truths about our primitive emotional relationships with our everyday lives and experiences. It is one of the tragic misunderstandings of our present age that the primitive has become almost exclusively associated with libidinous human sexuality – restricted to the Freudian domain of the id in our subconscious. This is both a great disservice to Freud’s ideas and gross distortion of the true nature of the primitive which is infinitely more concerned with the magical than the sexual. It is this magical aura of the primitive that permeates all of Henry Kondracki’s art. This may partially be due to him having a slightly different ethnic background and upbringing from the Scottish culture in which he lives. As a result Kondracki retains an ambivalent position of being both an inside participant and outside observer of the social world he inhabits and this gives him the uncanny ability in his painting to transform the seemly ordinary into the extraordinary, the familiar into the fabulous. With such an open and flexible perspective Henry Kondracki’s art can also enable us to regain the romantic power to see our world again through the fresh wide eyes of the child, who is the source of the primitive in all of us. When gazing at such pictures we are granted that rare and precious opportunity to reconnect with our childhood innocence and wonderment. As such we find in these paintings that the normal laws and effects of time and space appear to be suspended, and every detail of form, light and atmosphere is treated with equal

excessive attention and respect. Thus with our innate visionary senses refreshed and our inner eye restored we are invited to shed our usual self-conscious relationship with the material and factual world and again become totally engrossed and lost in the magical world of our personal imagination and collective memories. The last word however should go to Henry Kondracki himself who made this artist’s statement for my book Contemporary Painting in Scotland back in 1992. I attempt to portray the beauty, ugliness and extraordinariness of everyday living. I build images that are a synthesis of thought, memory, emotion, fact and fiction. As the wonderful paintings in this new exhibition clearly reveal the artist has not deviated from this self-imposed mission. Furthermore, his ever increasing technical skill and artistic inventiveness, gained over the last two decades, has brought its achievement all that much closer. Bill Hare

3 Appleton Tower oil on canvas 61 x 30.5 cms

4 The Wellington Statue oil on canvas 150 x 133 cms

5 Passing the Music Shop oil on canvas laid on board 20 x 23 cms

6 Grassmarket in the Snow oil on board 42 x 37 cms

7 Nor Loch Bar oil on jute laid on board 30.5 x 30.5 cms

8 My Mum’s Kitchen oil on board 15 x 10 cms

9 The Deli Window oil on canvas 117 x 122 cms

10 Christmas Shopping oil on canvas 127 x 142 cms

11 Botanical Gardens oil on canvas 51 x 76 cms

12 Beach Girl oil on canvas 61 x 71 cms

13 Chambers Street Museum oil on canvas 107 x 122 cms

14 Waverley Station oil on canvas 107 x 127 cms

15 Studio Shelf oil on canvas 30.5 x 24 cms

16 Big Wheel oil on canvas 152 x 89 cms

17 Toy Boat oil on canvas 13 x 13 cms

18 Night Fishing oil on canvas 152 x 183 cms

19 Kentucky Derby oil on canvas 39 x 51 cms

20 Edinburgh Lovers oil on canvas 80 x 91 cms

21 December Evening oil on canvas 61 x 30.5 cms

22 Holyrood at Night oil on canvas 102 x 122 cms

Published by The Scottish Gallery for the exhibition Henry Kondracki, Paintings 6 – 30 October 2010 Exhibition can be viewed online at ISBN 978-1-905146-46-8 Designed by Photography by Jed Gordon Creative Printed by Stewarts All rights reserved. No part of this catalogue may be reproduced in any form by print, photocopy or by any other means, without the permission of the copyright holders and of the publishers.

16 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ Tel 0131 558 1200 Email Web