For we have always made art from the Earth. By heightening this intimacy with organic material itself, the artist participates in a shamanic rite, both honoring the source and enlightening it with invention.
Growing up in Poland during the Communist Party’s occupation, artist Xawery Wolski inherited an atmosphere of both regression and rebellion. Not until the death of Stalin in 1953 did political freedom give artists more opportunity to express dissent. The strongest influence however in Xawery’s formative years was with his father, who did scientific research in the cross pollination of plants for the Polish government. This brought Xawery, a city boy, into nature, where he could observe the natural environment first hand. This education no doubt contributed to his love of seeds and fibers and the products of the natural world, which he used later as a medium for his art. Still, for Xawery Poland was too isolated, and he left in 1982 to study in Paris, then later in New York.
From his restricted life under Communist rule in Poland, Xawery has became dedicated to the pursuit of freedom, especially for the artist. “Knowing that we are all alike…we have a desire for freedom, happiness…. we fear disease, bad luck, death…and finally, no matter which cultural, social or moral patterns we know, we look for communication.”
Xawery’s predecessor’s in minimal sculpture, Brancusi, Judd, Morris, to name a few, inform the art he creates with the simplest organic materials: seeds, beans, rope, clay, shells, stone. Even when he deviates to working with bronze, he prefers to conceal the underlying metal under a patina of matte white, abstracting it into a prime, pristine posture, as if exhumed from a dream or a distant past.
His work with seeds illustrates the continuum of form and of life. A seed contains all that its maturity will be: its birth, death, and its return to life. The use of seeds and other organic material for Xawery not only is a homage to nature but a way to connect with the metaphor of continuation, cycles of earth’s history.
In Xawery’s work there is a sense of the exhumed fossil, the basic skeletal structure of nature: bone, shells, cocoons, stone. These he elevates into icons or esthetic networks, the connectivity he deems so essential to life. He also makes very large ritual necklaces and gowns, made from fish bone, wire, bean. These are hung on walls like museum displays of a past civilization. If worn, these ceremonial garments would connect the wearer or initiate to the forms of nature. Xawery also is fascinated by drops of water, and will draw hundreds of water drops with meticulous repetition, again connecting the network of living matter on paper.
In his studio, there is a wonderful wall sculpture of an enormous dense black mound, called “Melancholia,” an abstraction of the curve, height, and descent of a mountain form, constructed of thin polymer that hovers between drawing and sculpture. Xawery’s concern is always with reducing his subject to its essential matrix, but not mathematically as much as sensually. Often he does not complete a woman’s figure, but leaves her essential form floating as a suggestion. He avoids the blatant realism of the figurative: a part can signify the whole.
The large chain link sculptures are another demonstration of connectivity and communication for Xawery. Fired from terra cotta they are painted and burnished to an immaculate white matte. Reminiscent of Claus Oldenburg’s gigantic renderings of common house objects like light switches, but now seamless classical icons, they symbolize the inseparable link of ideas and their strength. They are not only large, but give an illusion of weightlessness as they hang from ceilings or extrude from walls.
Xawery has exhibited his work in countries throughout the world. He has been awarded residencies in Asia, South America, Mexico, The United States, and Europe. As he travels, he continues to collect the natural products of each country as inspiration for his prolific art. Whatever is born of the earth, sea, wind, or even the insect world, he will emphasize its inherent design. In one large hanging piece he tightly pasted together pure silk abandoned cocoons to form a massive wall. It becomes a startling presence by displaying its basic fibrous architecture. He will also humorously set apart a few exaggerated water drops of terra cotta, coated with a platinum patina, to ripple freely down a wall, or small links of white chain that lie about like found objects. Freedom to express the simplest forms, the warp and woof of his sensibility, makes Xawery’s art seem the most ancient of crafts elevated to the freedom of modern ideas.