IN MEMORIAM ALOJZY
These are memories of an artist, and above all of a man, who was a utopian by today’s standards, for the times in which he had to live. From birth and character he was a Western Kresowiak, a native of the Upper Silesia; from adult development an artist; by choice a Suwałczanin (a resident of the Suwalki region in the north-east of Poland).
Art is a reaction to the world around us; Alek only chose beauty that surrounded him, both external and internal. Like everyone who practices art, he needed gentle “warmth” and tranquillity, appreciation, love and tender care from his family. The need for beauty and higher feelings places him not only within the sphere of the beauty of nature, but also of life.
He was brave, and his courage could already be seen in his diploma project, a personal work, part of the daring journey into the world of art, full of promises but also of inexperience, which is the privilege of youth.
Subconsciously, he began his journey in the world from which he came from, his family home, the images of life of those years, and the legacy of an environment in which he grew up, because it was a lasting trace on his memory.
He was the son of a Silesian insurgent (one of eleven insurgent brothers, each playing a musical instrument: zither, lute, harmonium etc.) and the daughter of the founder of two choirs “Lutnia” (Lute) and “Lira” (Lyre), a Polish patriot and activist in the Upper Silesia. All this shaped Alojzy’s identity, his hierarchy of values, while music was present in his life from early childhood. It was his mother who had to listen to his teachers’ complaints about his constant drawing “everything and everybody” during lessons.
In the next phase of his life, at the secondary school in Bielsko-Biała, he came into contact with sculpture (also in sandstone), which made him choose his university degree course and became the greatest love of his life.
The first stage of his training in Prof. Ludwika Nitschowa’s studio was an extremely fruitful period, a leap triggered by various intellectual influences on his development, widely supported by philosophy, literature, theatre and the continuing fascination for music.
The training under Prof. Franciszek Strynkiewicz bore fruit in sculpture, through his growing independence and maturity, which led to a prize for an independent carving executed in the Carrara marble.
All his existence, from his early childhood (“exploring” the nature of the river), through to his later choices of communing with what surrounded him, shaped his work and places his art in the realm of serenity. One thing is certain; it was never his intention to shock, if only through exaggerated expression, but to provide the viewer with pleasant feelings, a sense of calm, without weighing on him.
The need for beauty, for noble feelings places his art not only within the sphere of nature, memories of childhood and youth, but also in a realm free of brutality and unnecessary anxiety, in search of what sculpture is meant to be. His carved figures reveal the beauty of feelings and forms as well as of “internal” life.
For me, the most interesting aspect of his sculptures is not the final work of art of which he was the author, but the process and choices of often very modest means by which he was able to convey the inner life of a person or phenomenon.
Expressions of beauty or drama are the features that the viewer can see, although perhaps only partly, and this applies to both his carved figures and portraits.
But a mystery will always remain, probably not just for me, as to which means or spatial forms in his sculpture constitute the knowledge of the inner life of a person resulting from communing with him or her. The mystery of how they are processed, even though it may seem that they do not even exist looking at the “economy” of his forms, and yet they are there. This is the secret of his art; it is his personal “mystery”, the mystery of the artist.
The reception of the same work by different people (depending on their sensitivity, the frequency of contact with art in general etc.), of “what, who it is”, is probably only a fragment of what the “inner” aspect of the sculpture carries.
Portraits are a great art that can reveal the character, the internal life, and the nature of the person.
Looking at one of his portraits, we can see not only through the form but also its expression that it is a portrait of a conductor, with all its complexity; his casual every day gentleness and simplicity, and on the other hand, the determined conductor who is watching the entire orchestra and “what” he is meant to play.
In turn, another portrait (also of a conductor) shows absolute precision, elegance, and a kind of “causticity”.
Several portraits by Alojzy are carved in stone (marble or granite), which is already rare in contemporary sculpture. He sculpted portraits of artists from all the branches of the arts, but not only, as he also executed sculpted portraits of his family (daughter, wife, his self-portrait, etc.) in different periods of his life.
My perceptions of his portraits, of his sculptures, are my impressions with which I had to tussle as the first “judge” of his work, living under one roof with the artist. I hope and I think that in this judgment there is humility and imagination, and perhaps even tolerance?
Both his portraits and his other sculptures (except for “Beginning of the End”, “Sunset on the Wigry Lake” and the early metal “musical” sculptures made at plein air workshops in his youth in Mielec and Bydgoszcz) were the result of a fascination with the human being, the values that subconsciously create humanity.
The medals of the figures he left behind are also a continuation of this fascination with men and women, the result of admiration for their creative contribution to the global development of the world, not only to civilization. They all “send out signals” about the imperishable and universal values that make up the human world. Other medals are only of informative or natural science character.
My knowledge about his paintings goes back to his self-portrait (aged 19), my portrait, a painting of Ecce Homo (after Guercino) made for his mother, and the landscapes from near the Kłodnica River in the Pszczyna Forest. The first three paintings are in my house; our portraits were painted in the style of Old Masters. A year before graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts, Alojzy obtained the permission from the then Director of the National Museum in Warsaw, Bohdan Marconi, to copy a painting by J-B. Charpentier, Boy feeding the chicks.He was closely observed by Marconi during his studies, after which the latter repeatedly offered him the post of a conservator of monuments in the National Museum. Immediately after his graduation, Alojzy returned to painting (due to the lack of space), mainly depicting nature (landscapes, fighting birds, flowers…). He exhibited his works in 1974 in his first exhibition abroad in the Ter Meulen Gallery in Arnhem, The Netherlands.
Later he came back to painting from time to time inspired by an event that took place or natural phenomena. And so the Crucifixion and a painting entitled Solidarity were created. Both have lost nothing of their actuality and meaning. Both will remain forever the expression of the greatest dramas.
The cycle of the underwater world began when Alek returned to the memories of his childhood, to the river, to the things that he only fleetingly encountered in life (perhaps also in film), but which left a permanent mark on him. In short, he reacted and returned to the beauty of nature. And so these cycles were created: the underwater world; landscapes (a few of Hańcza, in different seasons); and three cycles of flowers: “those from the garden”; those cultivated specimens from a florist; and those inspired and found during walks across the endless magnificent meadows surrounding the house that we both loved so much (as in Mickiewicz’s sonnet “The Ackerman Steppe”: “Across sea-meadows measureless I go…”).
He also drew landscapes, flowers, everything that was around him with pastels; the “depth” of the late-autumn forest in one of the pastels is unique for me.
Alek was also a great draughtsman, as sculptors often are, and this is not just my opinion. Their drawings vary depending on their requirements or purposes. Examples are the drawings included in the text: for sculpture (not only portraits), for paintings, and those conveying in just a few lines the spirit of a person.
Alek also participated in “bringing” to Suwałki the “Integrart”, the plein air art workshops, which for several years were organized by Elżbieta Pietras in the Kotlina Kłodzka region. The workshops introduced art into the local community, and for their participants (not only Poles, but also Lithuanians, Belarussians, Ukrainians, Russians and Germans) it was not only about their own work, but also an opportunity to exchange views with other artists not only on art. The plein air art workshops always ended with a local exhibition, another exhibition in the Z.P.A.P. salon in Warsaw, and in Vilnius in Lithuania.
Music, which Alek experienced from the beginning during his family gatherings (when all the brothers Nawrat were playing) and through organ music and church singing (we often recalled “God is Born”, a Christmas carol sung by the faithful, while the massive church of our Silesian parish shook…) and at a later age through friendships in the high school of music and then the Katowice Conservatory (with among others a pianist, oboist, flutist, and singer; when we also briefly met Jan Krenz and Henryk Górecki…) led us both to regularly visit the Silesian Philharmonic – the home of music in Katowice, and the Bytom Opera.
An early contact with music led Alojzy to participate in music events during his student life (from going to concerts to listening to night broadcasts on the radio or recordings in audio tapes). What’s more, already during those years at “Dziekanka” (the residence hall for art schools in Warsaw), he noticed a lack of closer interdisciplinary relationships and interests among students, which for all artists could be a source of new experiences, inspirations, and visions of future works. It was Alojzy, who organized meetings for future artists, actors, and singers in the “Dziekanka Club”, which he founded (for example the well-known duo “Marek and Wacek”, Jerzy Maksymiuk singing the blues, or Bohdan Łazuka performing there as well as many others) along art exhibitions of young and promising artists. He also encouraged visitors to attend the end of year exhibitions at the Academy of Fine Arts. Music never left him and was also present in the Suwałki period of his life. The building of our gallery was basically a pretext to realise his dream of promoting art by attracting all kinds of artists (but not only) to the gallery. The life of the gallery was enriched by interesting discussions about the world around them, right up to philosophical debates about its origins led by famous professors in the field of physics and sciences. Alek initiated the ‘life’ of the gallery by exhibiting all the Warsaw artists living permanently or visiting the Suwałki region every year. The following events were most often associated with music; firstly the so-called ‘Summer Music Salon’ (it lasted until a music hall was built in the Suwałki School of Music), where talented and musically-trained children and young people performed, and these were their first public performances. These live events organised in connection with a permanent or temporary art exhibitions were for both of us and their participants a source of great joy resulting from a well-performed concert, but also from our observation of the eager young musicians.
The chamber concerts were also performed in the gallery and musical shows combined with exhibitions’ openings by many outstanding artists. The multi-directionality of what Alojzy created was his personal contribution and his expression of an admiration for the arts, the arts embedded in all kinds of creative work, especially music, since it most inspired him in his creative work, but also for the sciences and the beauty stimulated by technology. The gallery was not only visited by visual artists, but also by actors, conductors, and composers. The gallery was and still is open to everyone from May to October, and is included in the guidebook of the Suwałki County. Its existence and activity was not financed by any institution or sponsor, and was always financially independent. Alojzy was also an enthusiastic admirer and propagator of the Aukso Summer Philharmonic in Suwałki. His friendship with the orchestra conductor Marek Mos led to the first interdisciplinary concert organized by the Aukso concert hall called “Unism in Music and Art” (with the participation of Zygmunt Krauze and Andrzej Strumiłło).
He was also a collector of everything beautiful. An example of this is his collection of musical instruments, which includes a piano by “J. B. Wiszniewski senr.’ Danzig, 1754; a piano by “G. and E. KANHAUSER Stuttgart, Vien Preis medaille ” 1873; a bandoneon from a well-known Czech label decorated with mother of pearl; a violin; a 19th c. German copy of a Stradivarius violin, a lute, guitars, another good quality piano, unfortunately requiring a lot of renovation. Alek also gathered about 1,000 vinyl records of classical music including best performances, to which he could listen at any moment. His most important archival vinyl record was by Beniamino Gigli. Music, live or recorded, accompanied him permanently. He constantly strove to commune with beauty. In connecting with nature he found the meaning of life, and from it he drew the joy of life, joy transmitted to his way of life and the people around him. That’s what lay at the basis of his choice of living in the Suwałki area, which already in his student years charmed him with its beauty, until he fell in love with it for the rest of his life. He saw and chose what is most beautiful in nature, in flora and fauna. This is how, among the fields and meadows that could be seen from our farmyard, the “ornamental gardens” took shape, full of flowers and the most beautiful animals – Anglo-Arabian horses as well as two friendly and cute stray dogs, surprisingly both pedigree. The first is the Tasmanian devil, the second a Pony, which still keeps me company on the farm to this day. There were four horses in total, one Lipizzan and three Anglo-Arabs; the youngest was born on our farm and received the name Dominant.
Alek cared for horses by himself, but rode little, since he enjoyed watching the horses grazing on the meadow, so beautiful and filling him with pride. The unforgettable walks among our 25 acres of fields provided the house and the gallery with the most beautiful bunches of wildflowers.
In communing with beauty Alojzy had no limits, because he was fascinated not only by beauty in art and nature, but also in technology, which he always “welcomed” with admiration. An example was the purchase of an old Mercedes car with the first use of gasoline injection engine, unfortunately requiring a major overhaul. Car repair shops did not want to undertake such a renovation, but Alek restored it by himself, and even achieved an optimal setting of the level of petrol combustion. No garage had such an ability.
Alojzy Nawrat’s work is a chain of man’s beauty and nature’s beauty, not only external, but also internal. His works are simply PORTRAITS OF BEAUTY. His “Four Seasons” is a synthesis of the female beauty in all aspects. All his work and artistic activities put him par excellence in the sphere in which the human being is the highest choice.
I was also fortunate to commune daily with what is beautiful, the everlasting impressions that drew their form of beauty and delicacy. Until the end of his life Alek read “little”, but every now and then he would return to Michel de Montaigne’s “Trials”, Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, or the Holy Bible.
Alojzy was also a religious man, and this was not only a manifestation of his faith but also a search for ideological values that order and support life choices. Nor can he be accused of the lack of a sense of humour, which at times got him out of “trouble”, diffused awkward moments he witnessed or brought his opponents “to the ground”.