Agnieszka Tes – Making the Invisible Present

/ / Reviews

On the Art of Władysław Podrazik.

Authentic art is rooted in metaphysical consciousness. – Donald Kuspit

Art contains artistic victory over the weight of “this world”, yet never adjustment to “this world.” – Mikołaj Bierdiajew

I know that Podrazik’s painting is real. – Jerzy Nowosielski

There are artists who are distinct, artists who posit themselves outside the dominating trends in art to discover the originality of their art and find the essence of their message. This kind of approach requires maturity, courage in the search and exploration of fields previously unfathomed, important yet silently omitted. Such artists are those who can see more and differently, those who open up to what is hidden.

Władysław Podrazik’s work enters the realm where art meets spirituality, while painting becomes the visualisation of higher experience. This ambition, clearly in opposition towards dominating trends and phenomena supported by influential institutions and galleries, has for over a quarter of a century marked the main direction of his practice. What he transcends in his art is both the empirical experience, as well as the level of arid experiment with form. On the one hand, the artist moves away from the means of perception rooted in the everyday, on the other, he avoids overly intellectual speculation in order to find vertical order that refers to his sense of transforming transcendence, the presence of a higher dimension. Whereas figurative painting, more or less mimetic, multiplies reality captured and described by the senses, the intuition of the Krakow painter reaches for subtle spheres from the outside of the visible world. It is something like an exit from the famous Platonic cave, from the space of illusion and shadow, a break-through towards the source of true reality.

Is it abstract art?

In a conversation we had, Władysław Podrazik said that at first he was suspicious of this term, which, however, with some further specifications, can be quite useful in describing his work. If abstract art is defined as non-representative, non-figurative, and non-object art, the kind of art that moved away from imitating nature, from depicting the concreteness of objects and the world, as well as from investing images with narrative and imaginative meanings, then certainly his painting can be defined as abstract.

Summarising, it needs to be said that the previous century’s movement leading from the liberation of the image from past forms and content towards its autonomy from the visually perceived reality, has opened up a wide field for the expressive, intellectual, scientific, as well as spiritual investigations within visual arts. Avant-garde process that led to the establishment of a permanent position of non-figurative art in the visuality and consciousness of contemporary art came together with numerous theoretical writings that justified its novelty and significance. Thus initiated process resulted in the emergence of a number of works and phenomena that were the consequences of the changes of the way of thinking about the image, as well as proved the richness of possibilities of non-figurative art. This way, the efforts of the pioneers from the previous century produced major consequences in the present. In this context, Władysław Podrazik’s painting is both rooted in certain trend in art, as well as significantly different from it, which I shall discuss below. Quite understandably, his work was defined as metaphysical abstraction, for his art becomes a transmitter of spiritual possibilities both in the act of creation, as well as in its result.


When one enters the space created by Władysław Podrazik’s paintings, one can receive their powerfully concentrated, energetic message related to the sense of the sacred. His works are composed symmetrically, vertically, at times operating with sets of geometric forms and referring to archetypal associations, on other occasions resembling otherworldly spheres, mysterious passages, unearthly infinite landscapes. What is striking is his consistency, which comes, however, with evolution discernible in the painter’s approach. Since the late 1980s he has been fulfilling his own vocation in a solitude of sorts, with no access of ephemeral, constantly changing trends and exigencies of the art market.

This process comes with a kind of meditative withdrawal, as well as with a deep religious, philosophical, and artistic reflection that finds its expression in intellectually independent texts. Recalling the beginnings of his path, one needs to remember that the decisive role for his future development was played by his meeting with Jerzy Nowosielski when he was a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. Nowosielski, a celebrated artist and an Orthodox Christian thinker, introduced the art of icon into contemporary art and had a significant input in enriching Christian theology with courageous, poignant reflections. The influence of the master consisted in the production of a spiritual atmosphere that invites the creation of artworks that evoke spiritual realities. What worked as an inspiration in this case was not so much Nowosielski’s work, with its Byzantine-Ruthenian origin, but his thought and his focus on the sacred dimension. Władysław Podrazik did not embrace the beauty of Nowosielski’s works and found his own expression outside figuration and its laws. “.the reason why I managed to avoid the trap of a comfortable imitation of Jerzy Nowosielski’s art was because when on my third year I came to his studio, I had already made over a dozen pictures from the epiphany series. This made it not necessary for me anymore to look around me, and allowed me to focus my efforts on what began to be the most important, the central element of my concept of the Image that had started to emerge in my mind.1

Podrazik’s concept of the Image that constituted a basis for his long-term artistic practice was related to a powerful “desire to liberate [himself] from the tyranny of the visual cognition of the world, and, through that, from mimesis.” As the author himself said, “This desire was based on my earlier reflections and on an unclear feeling that it was possible to express certain spiritual experiences with visual means, experiences related to contemplative and meditative states.” Then he continues: “Of course, with this unclear feeling, I was rather close to the Buddhist yantra and mandala. However, apart from this proximity that at that time I found comforting, I also experienced a lot of uncertainty, limits, osme ultima Thule, where unclear shapes were lurking. In this situation, I was left with attempts at creating or finding such an image that on the bridge linking the visible and the invisible worlds would take a position most stretched towards the sphere of the invisible.2

This experience, then, stems from a great need to leave the familiar and move towards solutions that reflect the internal truth, that responds to the vivid intuitions that require exposure. It is a very personal move that does not fit into any trends developed by abstract artists of the 20th century, or into the tradition of the icon practiced by Jerzy Nowosielski. However, both abstract painting, as well as the spirituality of the religious image formed an interesting context for Podrazik’s work. Efforts of major avant-garde artists, such as Malevich, Kandinsky, or Mondrian, not only secured the place for non-figurative art, but they also brought certainty about the link between abstract painting and spirituality. The tradition of the icon additionally supported the relation of the image with the sphere of the sacred. Podrazik’s work does not have features of rebellious avant-garde, but it makes use of the influences that allowed for securing a permanent position of abstraction in art. Neither does it operate with the canon of the icon, on the contrary, in a way it is iconoclastic, yet, just like the icon, it draws inspiration form contemplation and it has an energetic impact on the viewer. In both cases, we might say that the image constitutes a kind of “window to transcendence.” Jean-Luc Marion, the French phenomenologist and theologian, formulated a statement on idol (eidolon) and icon (eikon) that appeals to Podrazik: it is an insightful analysis of a different impact of these two types on the viewer. The ones called idols focus their attention only on themselves, they appropriate the gaze leading to idolatrous acts. “Idol as a veil covering the invisible becomes something blindingly visible and by reflecting the look it sends it to itself.” The icon, on the other hand, “opens in itself the visible towards the invisible and proposes the viewers to go outside what it represents – not by looking, but by venerating.3

Not consenting to the idolatry of contemporary Western art, Władysław Podrazik explores the possibility of finding the image within the realm of abstract art which, by overcoming the opposition between idol and icon, will lead towards the Non-representable, and he trusts in the possibility of there emerging previously unknown forms of religious epiphany that refer to the “infinite depth of iconic experience.”

The artist mentions one more sphere significant for his first attempts at creating his individual vision of painting. These are Buddhist mandalas and Hindu yantras, that is, images based on a figure of a circle, related to the spiritual systems of the East, while in the West popularised among others by G.C. Jung’s depth psychology. Significantly, from the very beginning, the artist’s investigations have not involved the research in formal relations, but entered the sphere of personal and universally human experiences, which came together with his study of literature on religion, spirituality, and art. As Podrazik suggests, in the course of several years, his artistic inspirations came from the texts of Eastern masters and European mystics, his interest in Christian theology and esotericism, Indian, Greek and contemporary philosophy. This scope of interests put the painter in a natural opposition towards postmodernist thought, as well as towards purely conceptual thinking or one based only on intellectual speculation, or towards reductionist approaches that refer merely to the horizontal aspects of life, often coming with artefacts of limited content. The artist often expressed this issue with typical independence and depth, based, one would find, on particular kind of insight: “For the sake of greater clarity, I once made a division between painters of final (eternal) forms and masters of illusory forms. I must admit it is a division introduced a priori. The masters of final forms are those who embrace sub specie aeternitatis and refer one to the Absolute. On the other hand, the masters of illusory forms are interested only in horizontal references to nature and to themselves, their personal situation. Completely devoid of religious references, they consider the entire process of perception to be operating between the viewer, the artist, and the image.4

Image, as found by Władysław Podrazik, relates to the eternal, the permanent, the ideal. Painting is a kind of special contact with oneself and with metaphysical reality to which the artist gains access in the process of creation. Therein one may find this particular overcoming of the weight of idolatry and directing it towards the Non-representable.


I testify
during the epiphany
there is a moment
stronger than time
and though it lasts
for merely several earthly seconds
it can only be measured
with a different measure

I know where this suspension comes from
and why it emerges

it is in the shining
tin plate of the heart
that the distant Ray is reflected
and falls on the dark square
of the awakening

In this stream of inspiration the experience of painting sometimes comes with poetry, which is exemplified by the above-cited poem titled On Epiphanic Image. The artist calls such compositions using the term Epiphany – which in Greek stands for appearance, revelation or sudden enlightenment. It is, as Podrazik states, “a record of the moment of certain impersonal presence, whose brief presence is preserved in earthly material through artistic act.” In excerpts from his unpublished book Podrazik wrote: “The (internal) form that reveals itself is always more spiritual and perfect in imagination than in the artistic realisation. Artistic form captures and entangles pure vision in the dark earthly matter. The artist’s task is to create such an artistic situation where the used material of art is elevated to the highest possible level in the epiphanic form that makes itself present…5

The emerging images are harmonious, often symmetrically ordered, and characterised by vertical, upward movement. At times, they contain arrangements of basic geometric figures – circle, triangle, square, rectangle, and rhombus. For over a quarter of a century, the period when he practiced epiphanic painting, his works evolved within a strong, unified vision.

This is how he produces various artistic manifestations that direct the viewer’s attention towards the visible. What emerges is dark or illuminated, even lucent compositions, simple or operating with both formally and colouristically sophisticated sets of figures and tones on the background of narrow frames-bordures. Configurations of geometric shapes evoke archetypal associations, at times with esoteric expression, at times much more straightforward. Frequently, they include typical gradation, a motif of symbolic “ladder”, at times, space seems to open inside through painterly suggestion of passages and overlapping layers. Compositions that have changed over the years are characterised by significant diversity and, in comparison to achievements of other abstract artists, also by a significant distinctiveness of expression. These works evoke a sense of mystery, drawing the viewer closer to an unfathomed dimension in the face of which human premonitions need to go silent. If this art is thoroughly analysed, one could find there both Eastern motifs, Hermetic, and Biblical, and Christian, depending on the period when they were made. They include as much hieratic silence, the darkness typical for the mystics’ experiences, as fulgent ascents, striking with their colour effects.

The very painterly matter, initially relatively flat, later turned into a particular kind of lively, vibrating quality, which makes it seem translucent, shining. Paint is applied thickly, alla prima, while the pictures are made quickly, somehow imposing themselves on the painter who stops them in his material.
The sets of colours come in wide variety – from almost monochromatic compositions to very individually selected arrangements, often with the use of the so-called mystical colours. Podrazik sometimes refers to Goethe’s division into the sides of the Day and Night, as well as to the symbols of Earth and Heaven. There are often discreet works, immersed in mysterious darkness, as well as compositions with powerfully contrasted spheres of light and dark, or with complementary colours. There are also decisively light canvases and those filled with bright, almost vibrant tones. The artist bravely operates with black, red, green, blue, yellow, and brown in various shades, drawing from the colours and forms extraordinary energies of great variety and richness.

Epiphanic painting concentrates the viewer’s perception and elevates it towards dimensions inaccessible to everyday perception; it directs thought towards transcendence and fulfils the need for the presence of spiritual element in the experience of art. As intuitive, spiritual, and intellectually ordered type of painting, Podrazik’s art brings solace to human consciousness which in our times is exposed to an excess of stimuli, enhanced with the civilisational expansion of the media. Contingency and changeability are being transcended here – it is a particular kind of alternative to the fragmentary and so-called realistic perception of reality. Podrazik’s paintings can produce a therapeutic effect of sorts, which is integrating thanks to the intensity of colours and the use of archetypal compositions. What comes with it is calmness and order stemming from either arrangement of colour fields or from centralisation and symmetry which, however, do not come with formal rigour, but with inspiration-based freedom.

Epiphanic painting speaks mostly with the language of abstraction, infrequently only containing synthetically presented human figure or a face immersed in a thick layer of paint, as if expressing the longing for transformed humanity. The image of the “Holy Face” is a kind of reference to the icon, though approached with the means typical for the artist.

Podrazik’s another, separate series is titled Angelos, meaning a messenger, an angel. As the artist claims: “Some pictures seemed to me different from those I made previously. I started to use the name Angelos for pictures that, to my mind, did not show aspects of indication, statement, and elevation that could be found in he Epiphanies. Instead, they had what I felt to be a kind of presence, a demonstration of some invisible beings with barely marked anthropomorphic elements.6
Whereas in iconography of Western art angelic beings were usually presented as winged creatures, human yet sexless figures composed into narrative scenes, here the image evokes an almost numinous sensation, as once did images of angelic hierarchies in Byzantine art or in some examples of Medieval Western art. The subtle painterly matter seems to pulse invested with the breath of unearthly creatures, leading the viewer’s sensitivity towards extrasensory spheres.

Władysław Podrazik’s vertical, usually large paintings do not find simple analogies among contemporary or older works, for their emergence is related to the deeply personal experience and its creative expression. The artist realises his own vision of painting, drawing from the internal search and from the wide spiritual, religious, philosophical and artistic context. Characterised by unique spiritual quality, Podrazik’s art is, nevertheless, a part of a wider metaphysical movement, universal and emerging in various times and locations, to mention such diverse manifestations as mandalas, icons, Jerzy Nowosielski’s religious art, abstract art of Malevich, Hilma af Klint, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Natvar Bhavsar, or Sohan Qadri. Epiphanic paintings create the space of silence where the viewer can again sense the breath of the Invisible, regain the contact with his own inside, experience the deep integration of various levels of his humanity. In this art, there is fulfilled the longing for visualisation of previously unknown forms of painterly revelations that draw from spiritual sources, leading the viewer to overcome visual perception and reach other dimensions.

Agnieszka Tes – born in 1976. Graduate of art history at the Jagiellonian University and a painter. Since 2012 a member of ZPAP. She published several dozen original texts, mostly of popularising nature, on selected artists and artistic phenomena of the 20th and 21st century in magazines such as “Glissando” and “Dworzanin” and in anthology Wobec metafizyki. Filozofia – film – sztuka.


  1. Poza granice widzialności. Z Władysławem Podrazikiem, artystą malarzem, rozmawia Agnieszka Tes, [in:] Wobec metafizyki. Filozofia- sztuka- film, Kraków 2012, p.400
  2. Ibid, s.395
  3. Cf. Władysław Podrazik, Ikona i idol,
  4. Poza granice widzialności…, p.408
  5. W. Podrazik, O pojawieniu się formy wewnętrznej [On the Emergence of Internal Form], excerpt from an unpublished book, “O Epifaniach i Mistrzach Form Ostatecznych” [“On Epiphanies and Masters of Final Forms”].
  6. Poza granice widzialności…, p.398

“Wiadomości ASP” nr 69, 2015