We would like to invite you to a new exhibition of Łukasz Huculak  Detale/Przestrzenie [Details/Spaces] at the State Gallery of Art in Sopot (30.01-01.03.2015) accompanied by a catalogue with a text written by the author together with Bartłomiej Skowron. “Sylabizowanie obrazu” [“The Syllabication of picture”] is an attempt to look at a painting from the perspective of philosophical theory describing the relation between the whole and its parts.

Łukasz Huculak on mereological aspects of the painting: I have always taken photos of fragments (in addition to taking photos of whole paintings). Sometimes the fragments were so minute that I could identify them only on another visit to the museum. But it is this lack of recognisability that is so attractive – lack of spatial consistence, lack of obviousness, lack of clarity. When we know the whole we can locate the rest in space and interpret it but when we see just a fragment then places often get mixed, the last may seem to be the first, small big and vice versa. This ambiguity is interesting for me, and I think that mereology may be a great tool in aesthetical analysis, extremely helpful in understanding perception mechanisms.


The entire catalogue from the exhibition Detale/Przestrzenie on-line may be found here. The text by Łukasz Huculak and Bartłomiej Skowron entitled The Syllabication of picture may be found on pages: 31-47 and below. On pages 55-62 of the catalogue you may find an interview with Łukasz Huculak entitled Myśleć zmysłami [Thinking With The Senses]. The interview was conducted by Bogusław Deptuła. The interview may be also found in extenso below.




Thinking With The Senses.

An interview with Łukasz Huculak by Bogusław Deptuła.


B. Deptuła: Why is a fragment more interesting than the whole?

Ł. Huculak: I’m not sure that “more interesting” is the right wording… however, wholes are usually extensive narratives which offer several options of seeing them, both in terms of the sequence, the direction of the gaze, and the method of interpretation. Fragments affect me by their simplicity and reductiveness, the fact that they are instantly grasped, but even though they are graspable at first sight, they are not easy to capture, to name. For me, details stand for a return to how I imagined painting and picture at the very beginning, when I thought that it should be devoid of narration, that it must not allow the viewer to name and put things together, that it should be a split-second situation rather than being protracted. What’s more, fragments embrace simplicity, a kind of ambiguity, they are hardly accessible to language. You have to speculate, you can hardly put your finger on spatial relations. It’s not always something, quite often it’s a je-ne-sais-quoi.

B.D.: Are you attempting to prop this up with theory?

Ł.H.: Painting takes up a lot of time, too much time to systematise everything in a scientific manner. However, there is a branch of philosophy called mereology which is a theory of the relations of part to whole. What interests me is how reality is made up of partial phenomena. I think it is fascinating that things meet, come together, work like a whole, but if you take the whole apart, you may discover that the parts lose the complete structural relation with the whole and break off. What seemed to be a whole turns out to be but a fragment of something else, something bigger. Or vice versa. Ever since the theory of relativity has become popular, we realise how important the reference system is: whether you see something at a distance, as a whole, or from up close, only as a “blown up” fragment. Depending on your vantage point, reality changes and so do things which are ontologically identical. Such entities are wholes but then depending on whether you look at them at a distance or up close they may be parts of another whole or a whole which, watched up close, reveals its further separate fragments, details which are invisible or irrelevant from another vantage point. What puzzles me in the practice of painting is that minute changes make a huge difference to the picture and its effect. Sometimes a single dot, a miniscule change of shade, turns out to be key. You can see it particularly well if you study magnified fragments of other paintings. What seems to be key at first sight or even on closer scrutiny will often turn out to be irrelevant. You then find that in fact the whole impact of the picture hinged upon something else, something peripheral that you failed to see in the beginning.

B.D.: I would be interested to know more about mereology: is it about science or philosophy?

Ł.H.: It is a philosophical theory of part and whole, a fairly precise system close to mathematics. It is different from phenomenology – although I believe that it could be reconciled with phenomenology – in that fragments provide insight into reality that phenomenology searches for and in addition explain some mechanisms of perception.

B.D.: I would think that your practice has a phenomenological foundation instead of what you would like to see in it…

Ł.H.: This is how it all started. Phenomenology has always fascinated me but I am also interested in a kind of “meta-reflection”. Phenomenology tries to avoid theorising and strives to walk the borderline, examine the moment of perception before it is covered up by methodology. I am often tempted in a purely formal sense to mathematise the process in terms of attempting to theorise something in an accurate and consistent manner, even though this is not quite my cup of tea as I am a humanities guy.

B.D.: A contemporary painter, one you would never expect, created very complex geometric figures to construct his paintings. And you who have the propensity to approach pictures in a systematising philosophical manner, would you not like to use a chart of some kind? Leonardo used to say that painting is a cosa mentale.

Ł.H.: Yes… it was a Renaissance proclivity to marry painting to science, and yet it is in the first place an activity which addresses the senses. Indeed, I am not eager to mathematise the practice of painting as I shy away from predictability. But on the other hand I am all for awareness of the process of perception; the picture is the ideal object for such analysis. Painting is first and foremost a matter of the senses, even if I do not stand for an attack on the senses in the Expressionistic vein. I believe that painting speaks to emotions but not only “bodily” ones. This is why I have a penchant for phenomenology: I am interested in perceiving by thinking or, to paraphrase the title of a Venice Biennale, thinking with the senses, reflective emotion which is neither cool calculation nor only a feeling. It is certainly not the key to understand how a picture has been made and how it affects me. It is much better to remain perplexed and to leave the sensation unexplained. Fortunately, so many coincidences work hand in hand in a picture that neither analysis nor synthesis provides the complete answer. Besides, I think that science also increasingly fails to explain things away as its answers turn out to be working hypotheses which open up new vistas onto the unknown. Contrary to the Enlightenment belief, intellectual efforts will not dispel all doubts in the end. The more you get into it, the more complicated it gets. Even though questions get answered, you also find out that the explanations border on an expanding space of the unknown and the unexplainable or even the illogical.

B.D.: Yes, it’s just like the structure of the atom. We used to think we know how it looks only to observe the emergence of further micro-elements and micro-structures…

Ł.H.: They emerge and often display contradictory characteristics depending on the frame of reference you take.

B.D.: We are sitting in your studio where you have amassed a huge quantity of fragments and wholes. There are postcards with paintings as well as your photographs of cut-out fragments, which in turn could become new wholes and often do so in your paintings. A while ago Tadeusz Różewicz referred to this in a very ordinary way: “Always a fragment”.

Ł.H. I have always been taking photos of fragments in addition to taking photos of whole paintings. Now most paintings are widely available, you can google them, so I practically only take photos of fragments. I don’t do it systematically: I tend to forget where a fragment belongs, as this is irrelevant. Some of these paintings are so derivative that I can only identify them when I revisit the museum, for instance Baldung Grien’s defragmented “Lot” in Berlin which I though was the “Pieta”. The unrecognisability, the spatial inconsistency, the non-obviousness are so attractive. Combine this with faults of the photograph: lack of focus, a shifting image, as some of the photos had to be taken undercover. Take “The Gaze”, which I painted from a copy: I was thinking it was part of an arm and then I checked the Bellini catalogue and saw that it was really a buttock. Once you know the whole, you can locate the part in space and interpret it but if you only see a part, the planes get mixed up so the background may look like the foreground, what is small may seem large; I find such phenomenological ambiguity fascinating. In abstract paintings, the fragment is identical to the whole: a Constructivist abstract painting is a composition of divisions at the level of the whole and at the level of detail. A mimetic or realistic painting may be realistic at the level of the whole and abstract at the level of detail. I find it fascinating that something may operate in the order of naming and narration and, a moment later, in another order, which is not subordinated to naming or narration.

B.D.: I like that you look at paintings, you are an artist who feeds on art. I also like that you are inspired both by high art and lame art, mediocre art, primitive art, the margins of art, like a fragment of an anonymous painting.

Ł.H. There are several reasons for my interest in less popular art. Naïveté and primitivism are certainly important as I assign these categories a positive value (here comes phenomenology again) in terms of pre-scientific sensitivity, being astounded, looking at reality in a not quite coherent or systemic manner. To boot, at some point you get fed up with the textbook names and develop an interest in more private discoveries; they may be of inferior quality but they are your own. You want to be an explorer rather than absorbing knowledge which has already been systematised. There is some naïveté to it as I often give in to the charm of things that objectively speaking have no value. What I find interesting here is the singular and primeval aspect of things that are not common or classified, also at the level of specific paintings, as pointed out by Morelli. Mature, well-educated painters working on an important commission were somehow predictable: they followed the rules, copied patterns. Naturally, it was not always the case. There were painters like Caravaggio who built their work on unpredictability, renewal; and yet many artists deployed specific rules in the construction of the whole painting or the refinement of details. What is interesting is that the painters took liberties with those fragments which were considered irrelevant to the commission. We may suppose or hope that they thus allowed themselves more honesty and more insight as painters. Such elements were not relevant to the iconography, so instead of focusing on the canon the painters were being more artistic.

B.D: Giovanni Morelli said that painters paint secondary elements in the background mechanically without paying real attention; this way, they were being more genuine and are easier identifiable at those moments. I have recently seen El Greco’s “St. Francis” at the Royal Castle in Warsaw. There is a rule to it: a fingernail painted by El Greco is always almond-shaped. It’s true of all figures in “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz”.

Ł.H.: Morelli carefully studied the earlobe, the nail, and the folds of textile. I am fascinated by it because such detail often conceals awkwardness. To my mind, originality is not only made of the things we know how to do but mainly the things we don’t. These determine more of our differences and diversity. In fact, our skills that we share make us the same while individuality is unmasked by handicap, by what is hard for us, what we avoid, and how we cope with it. Morelli’s details, both in architecture and garments, are intriguing with their spatial quality; they have a three-dimensional effect and yet they remain unrecognisable. On the one hand, they have the attributes of being realistic; on the other hand, they are abstract in a sense. At some point, it is no longer a button, a neck, or a wall but the spherical quality, the roughness, the acuity, or the liquidity of transition.

B.D.: And yet you have issues with transitioning to abstract painting… I’m not sure whether you don’t want to or can’t do it but I sense that you resist it. You actually fit into a long tradition of contemporary artists who never crossed that threshold. They stood there but never crossed it… Picasso, Matisse, Czapski, and others. They approached the boundary but could never cross it mentally. For a while now you have been making paintings that could be called abstract but that are not abstract. They are fragments which in theory do not represent anything but in fact accurately present something very real.

Ł.H.: I like other artists’ abstract paintings. Paintings which do not give the illusion of three dimensions. I have made such paintings but they do not satisfy me. This could be yet another kind of primitivism and yet I need to find out every time whether I can reliably represent three dimensions, depth. Besides, I think that if everything has been done, then it has been done in abstract rather than figurative painting, but I could be wrong. The rules which govern the construction of a plane, whether geometrically based on relations or emotionally by deploying gravitation and swooping gestures as in dripping, limit your possibilities. There are more possibilities where the rules of the plane collaborate, interweave with the rules of reality which is the original model for the plane. Although I do believe that reality includes fragments or even wholes that are abstract. All you have to do is take the right perspective, either make an approach or take enough distance to get rid of the context, to make things ungraspable, hard to name. On the other hand, some things which were executed as abstractions, such as Kandinsky’s famous “First Abstract Watercolour”, were subsequently easily contextualised within reality, such as within the world of microbiology. Quite often things which seem to be abstract remain abstract only until another layer of reality manifests itself to us.

B.D.: At some point, you flirted with Surrealism which in fact is not the kind of art you feel close to. This was entirely absent, covert, until at some point you made the gesture and it has been a constant constitutive part of your work ever since. What I mean is the series “Foams” and “Experiments”. It should be noted that your paintings can be divided by several themes which keep alternating and coming back.

Ł.H.: Indeed, I have never felt close to Surrealism in philosophical terms. I come from the position that reality is strange enough without being stylised as more bizarre. As a result, I was never swayed by fairy-tale Surrealist narratives. Having said that, I should be taking photographs, and yet I have never been satisfied by copying reality or its fragments directly. There is something to the practice of painting which seems to me to be more convincing and more real than a photograph, a copy. At some point, I found it more real not to paint a model but to try and recreate it according to rules other than direct visual proximity, showcasing the character and the properties of paint and of all the other means of painting.

B.D.: Without judging what you say, it would seem that the world of imagination does not attract you all that much…

Ł.H.: No, in fact it doesn’t. Not as a fully arbitrary construct that is independent of reality. But I am thrilled by it as a mechanism of mental reproduction of reality, turning physical images into visions and vice versa; constructing a physical image that is consistent with its imaginary image; creating a counterpart to a fragment of reality in a new environment, with paint, on a plane; a combination of these two worlds. This is the naturalness of “foams”: nature is not what is shown but what was used in the making.

B.D.: On the other hand, how does it matter whether you’re inspired by reality or imagination? After all, this is all your creation.

Ł.H.: I am fascinated unknowingly. Yet, this may not be about reality so much as about the moment you notice it, a phenomenological short-circuit. I think that the aversion to direct realism shows in the belief that a picture should work within a split second; however, what works within a split second is not the realism of the picture but its colour and structure. If the structure is too fragmented and the colour palette is too broad, all you can see is chaos and you get involved emotionally rather than reflexively. This is the origin of my narrow colour palette, which is in a way calculated: in the beginning, it was like solving an equation, achieving the colour cohesion by painting layer upon layer where the differences between the layers were minimal. This is also the origin of the systematised composition: while I do not like an obvious dominant, I like a picture to suggest a key to the composition. There is a contradiction in it: on the one hand, I have difficulty engaging in a purely abstract method; on the other hand, I tend to conceive of and systematise reality.

B.D.: I believe that you are a painter who is always dissatisfied with his work. Let me ask a naïve question: what would be a good painting, one that you would be happy with?

Ł.H.: True… Satisfaction offered by success is much less lasting than irritation caused by a failed painting. This makes you mad, especially that those states are so subjective… Maybe a perfect painting would be one of the details I paint now but much bigger? I would like to make paintings that would be absolutely absorbing spatially and absolutely unrecognisable but at the same time astounding through their size and completely engrossing physically.



Łukasz Huculak, Bartłomiej Skowron

The Syllabication of picture

From a distance – a whole; in close up – fragments. The whole is closed and consistent; details – open and inconsistent. Their openness contradicts the closeness of the whole, which, on the other hand, often hides the individuality of its fragments. Not all of them are of equal significance: the impact of some of them on the whole is bigger than of others. Sometimes the faintness of the relationship between the whole and its fragments is astonishing: individual images last in our memory as sections which are more striking individually than as an element of the whole. Separately however, they become something else, and we often discover that the fragment which seemed to be a part of one thing turns out to be a detail of something entirely different than what it was thought to be. Separately it is not the same as what it is as a part of its wholeness; the wholeness which is the objective, whereas the fragments are only its means. The wholeness gives its parts sense and meaning.         

Separately, like syllables, they become clear sounds. Detail gains its inconsistence through separation from the whole (de taglio means separation). By contrasting the practical logic of the whole and the disinterested incompleteness, the detail makes reality unreal. It kills off the aim, so clearly visible in the functional whole, which – if we know it – we can use. The detail breaks the relationship of sensation with function, it makes it autotelic, possessively directing our attention only to itself. By abolishing the physical relationship with reality, it cancels the legibility based on cause and effect relationships. Devoid of unambiguous relationships with the whole it becomes a self-sufficient phenomenon.          

It becomes indifferent like an image, disinterested like an abstraction, which the researcher of suprematism Andrzej Turowski calls the utopia of unity “in which a fragment meets the whole, and the particular becomes universal”. Not only syntheses have the power of abstracting; not only distanced glances.     

While for Mondrian abstraction is a generalization which struggles with the differentiating power of detail, for Doesburg it is the instantiation of the general, it’s its implementation in a detailed form. A fragment, while drawing us closer to reality, paradoxically, it deconstructs, at the same time, its subjectivity, it denounces the phenomenological objectlessness of objects, and in the resulting enlargement shows us not only details anymore but the details of these details, their atoms, elemental particles of other particles.      

On object

For the purpose of this article a wide definition is required, which would refer to anything, to any kind of existence. The definition of object will serve that purpose. An object then is anything; any thing. Anything what can be presented and thought of; imagined and dreamt of; accepted and rejected, etc. Objects may both exist or not exist. An unpainted painting is a non-existing painting, and the biggest natural number is a number which (in the view of school arithmetic) does not exist. There are many more nonexistent objects than the existing ones. They shape what exists, because they co-create the environment of what exists. The possibilities of existence are set out by the limits of non-existence. Existing objects are  Wittgenstein’s islands, islands of facts and existence in the ocean of possibilities and impossibilities.

Objects, despite the fact that they may not exist, may also be impossible. A burnt painting does not exist whereas a real flat painting with endlessly long sides is an impossible painting. Objects, if they do already exist, may exist in many ways.

Some objects exist in time, an example of an object existing in time might be “Stańczyk During a Ball…” by Matejko. Others on the other hand exist beyond time, for example platonic ideas or mathematical objects, such as perfect lines and concretizing angles in Huculak’s painting “Base” (50×70, 2014).

Some objects have spots of indetermination, they are unfinished, as for example literary characters, of which not all parts are described, or mathematical functions which for their fullness or saturation need arguments, or the just visible second plane outlines in the painting “Vault” (30×100 cm, 2014), or non finito sketches and partially damaged museum object (destrukt) which are in some sense not full, incomplete.

The sources of descriptions of features and parts of objects may be various; some objects have the sources of their descriptions in them. Ingarden called such objects existentially autonomous (existential autonomy is part of the mode of being) whereas some objects have the sources of their defining outside of themselves. What is presented in a painting has its source in the act of painting. The book, the concrete one, the one lying on this desk, has the source of its definition in itself: it stands for itself, it shows what it is. Both a painting and a book are of a dualistic nature: sometimes they are real objects, being created and lost, becoming involved in various cause and effect relationships, and other times they are referring to what is written or presented in them, not existentially autonomous, because they do not exist without their mediation.

On relationship

“Details and spaces” is not only an exhibition about fragments, escaping the reality at the speed of its own dividing. It refers not only to things or forms but also to the “space between”, relationships between them. I look inside and question not only the exterior outline of the whole, but the character of relationships which build it.   

It’s about mutual relationships between particular details, but also about the relationship of the parts to their whole, of the particular with the general. Separate with the mutual, of the exceptional with the common. The narrative potential of the coherent whole does not always turn out to be more privileged than the non-narrative details. Sometimes the detail ensures a better understanding of reality, showing not only its recesses but also the key meaning which the character of the relationships bonding its particular parts has for the whole. Without an awareness of the relationship bonding the separate parts our ability to make statements about the whole remains limited, likewise the awareness of these relationships enables one to make statements about the parts on the basis of the whole. Knowing the fullness but not its parts, we are still not able to recognize and name what they are understood as, taken as a whole, if the rule of their relationships is unclear.       

Matter (or material) and object’s form

Objects consist of parts. The definition of a part just like the definition of a whole is broad. Principally parts may be divided into two types: parts in the simple sense, like pages are parts of a book, a handle is part of a coffee cup, lasting is part of a painting, porosity is part of a wall, fullness is part of a whole and parts in the formal sense, that is the relationships which take part in both within the object as well as the external ones in which it is involved. The entirety of parts of an object in the simple sense we will call, after Kazimierz Twardowski, the ‘object’s matter’ or ‘material’ (Twardowski, 1965), whereas the entirety of relationships in which the object’s parts and the object are involved, we will call the ‘object’s form’. Formal parts of a coffee cup are spatial relationships between its pieces, for example the location of the handle in relation to the cup and the relationships into which the coffee cup enters with other objects, for example its location in relation to the saucer.


Looking at a chiaroscuro modeling we may recognize the character of relationships which bond the particular elements of the painting, we may even define the spatial relationships which it presents: what is closer, what further, what has an angular or a rotund shape, what is smooth or porous. Out of analogy to a realistic situation in which objects have accidental illumination, we also assume that we are dealing with a painting which represents. However, what is represented in it? What is the degree of surety that we may state that with? Where is the limit beyond which fragments become the whole, parts indicate their wholeness? The sensual cohesiveness of the picture obtained through the awareness of the rule bonding all of its parts, still remains fragmented on the level of interpretation. Perhaps it’s that spacing out between the sphere of sensation and interpretation which makes a painterly detail so intriguing: despite not being anything general, because it’s only a detail, it gets the abstracting going. If we cannot see anything concrete in the fragment we start seeing something general in it. A detail is then something particular which belongs strictly to its entirety, but which is at the same time general due to the separation from it. Mutual dependency of analysis and synthesis show it to us in one or the other configuration.             

Complexity of an object’s form

Both the matter of the object as well as its form are incredibly complicated. Only simple objects, that is the ones which do not have parts, have relatively simple material and – assuming that they are completely isolated and do not enter relationships with any other objects – the form. The rest of objects indicate a vast variety of parts which influences the richness and multidimensionality of their form. In the total of relationships in which an object is involved we may distinguish three types (compare Twardowski, 1965):

1. the relationship between the object’s wholeness and its parts,

2. the relationship only between particular parts of an object,

3. the relationship between the object or its parts and its surroundings.

An example of a type 1 relationship is the relationship in which secondary colors comprise primary colors or in which all colors comprise the color gamut of a painting (color is a part of a painting). A Type 2 relationship happens between a painting’s fragments, let’s say by adapting a certain frame of reference, its left edge and the middle. A Type 3 is a relationship into which the paining enters with its surrounding: frame, wall, recipient, etc. The relationship of which one part is the painting and the other is the gallery’s wall may take up a form which will in consequence influence the relationship of the artifact with the receiver. Despite the fact that it’s the same artifact, sensations and impressions accompanying the act of experiencing may then be completely different.

Type 1 relationships may be divided into two subtypes. Parts create a whole; the whole, so to speak, owns its parts, the whole includes the parts, it is a union of its parts, ties parts into one, it arranges the parts into a whole. These types of relationships between parts and the whole which incorporates them Twardowski called proper relationships. The second type of relationships is improper relationships i.a. that the whole may be larger/smaller than its parts, the whole may be similar/partly similar in some aspects to its parts, its existence may then strongly unilaterally (or bilaterally) depend on the existence of the parts.

If between the parts of the relationships which take place an object does not exist as a whole, and only parts of that whole exist (these parts may be type 1 relationships) then we are dealing with type 2 relationships. Fundamentally we may distinguish two kinds of these types of relationships. The first one is relationships which the parts of a given object are entitled to, as long as they are parts of that particular object for example the location of the sides of a square (if they were not sides of the square they could not be located in relation to one another as sides of a square). The second type are relationships the elements of which are parts of the given object, but independently of that these parts are parts of that particular object, these relationships may take place also when the parts become independent in separate objects. An example of this kind of relationship is the evenness of sides in an equilateral triangle. These sides, independently of the fact that they are sides of a triangle, still remain even.

Type 3 relationships are the widest class of implications into which an object enters. All binary relationships are included here, in which one element is the studied object whereas the second element is everything that is outside of the object. The place of the object indicated by the relationship in the whole network of connections is the ontological base, the basis of the object’s existence. It may also be suspected, which for example Lotze did that the particular place specifies the object’s existence. The existence is being in relationships, remaining in relationships and engagements.


When I am painting I stare at the painting, trying to guess its mechanisms, to discover what makes that particular configuration of proportions, directions and color juxtapositions exceptional. I often overestimate fragments which ostensibly seem to be more meaningful and I underestimate the influence the ones which are hardly visible have on the whole. It often also turns out that I am painting in a false belief about what I am painting. I assume that the picture of a detail which served as a prototype of the painting essentially presents “that” thing, the concrete something, and right after painting it I’m confronted with a discovery that actually – it was something different. A reproduction of the whole work shows that it is a different body part, in a different place, on a different scale.          

Besides, translating small scale into large scale and the other way round, is the most intricate task: it proves the direct dependence of sensations not only on the mutual proportions of parts, but also on the proportion of these parts against the whole, or even against the receiver. What works quite effectively as an intimate detail often fails in blow-up, in the role of expansive entirety. The detail is modest, it’s only a part of something that is worth attention as a whole; a proud entirety managing fragments which are obligated to serve it. While wholeness is affirmative – demands attention, the detail is quiet. The small picture tempts – the big one tells you to step back. From a distance the details merge into one, while the wholeness loses its clearness in too much of a close-up.     

It was the detailing, the indefinite blowing-up of details as an objectivism criterion and a way to get to the truth (Leeuwenhoek and the microscope) that the whole cult of detail in Dutch painting was rooted. At Antonioni’s work it is the blow-up which lies. The reality is a phenomenon for it with a few degrees of realness like a Vermeer or Chardin: rarely sharp and unambiguous, more often imprecise and mostly – completely blurred. Blurry detail is completely exposed to the prey of the whole. Distinguished detail may however become a separate whole. Extensive space seen unfocused becomes on the other hand intimate and close like a detail. Transition or limit, analogy or the opposition: they determine the three, basic kinds of relationships in a painting, on the dominance of which its expression depends: sharp and clear (separated, discrete), smooth-intermediary or completely blurred (connected and continuous).             

Relationships between relationships

The wholeness of an object is constructed of form and matter. Form and matter are multidimensional. Form comprises the relationships which were discussed earlier. However, that is only the basic dimension of form, above it, subsequent dimensions stack up and gather, i.e. relationships between the relationships, that is relationships of type 2, and then relationships the elements of which are relationships between relationships, that is type 3 relationships, etc. and so on indefinitely. There’s no limit in the dissection of a complex object such as this, subsequent rows of relationships can be distinguished indefinitely. An interesting example of mathematical consideration, of relationships between relationships, is the so called higher dimension categories, introduced in mathematical category theory. Category is generally the totality of objects along with the arrows between the objects (relationships which symbolize transformations of one object into another). Categories of a higher dimension, speaking intuitively, are categories in which additional arrows are introduced between the existing arrows (Baez, 1997).

In type 1 relationships we distinguish relationships in the appropriate sense and the inappropriate sense, however, these two types of relationships may be elements of subsequent relationships. The fact that a certain part of a painting is similar to the whole is strictly related to the fact that that part co-creates the painting. That relationship is based on the fact that if that part was not co-creating the painting, it wouldn’t be able to be –as its part – similar to that painting. The relationship is by implication (x implies y). Deliberating on type 3 relationships it might be said that part of the painting “The Wall” (100×70 cm, 2014) are relationships in which one element is the painting and the second is the surrounding along with its parts.

Part of the surrounding are the recipients, let’s assume that at the moment there are two of them. Each of them enters into a certain relationship with the painting, each of them does that in a way particular for himself. These two ways are however connected by various relationships, for example the first one may be focused on the entirety of the painting, the second one on the other hand may be focused on a fragment: for example the ceiling above the wall. One may be just a glimpse of an eye and the second one might be an extensive and detailed oriented examination. Certain relationships take place between them which for example, juxtapose these two ways of experiencing the painting; the first one is not a fragmented one, it’s synthetic and comprehensive, whereas the second one is more extensive, analytical and detailed, focused only on a fragment.

The End

The fragment has always interested me: partial sensations, which do not enrich perception but sublime it. They do not multiply sensations but attempt at purifying them. The fragmentation may be noticed in damage to layers of paint, in the interest in historical partially damaged museum object (destrukt), the handicap and incompleteness of it intrigues with the not so obvious expression that revokes contemporarily the phenomenon of digital “glitch” – a momentary disturbance in a stream of information.      

It may also be found in still lives which deep down is the enchantment of a fragment: a jug handle, a bowl’s rim, a table’s edge. Painting still lives may be a phenomenological task, targeting a purification of perception, the delight of seeing “for the first time”. That “innocence” of perception is most often accessible through a contemplation of a detail: of what is understated, infinite. In infinity two ways of interpretation are possible: devoid of end, endless, but also devoid of ending, i.e. unfinished – fragmented.      

What is full would then be complete: closed, limited, perfective. Completed, that is dead. The beginning and end are spatially-temporal features, a detail then, also evokes questions about limits: about how much can be omitted? In one of his poems Brodsky says that the Paradise of each thing is at its end. In the place of division or in the most highlighted of all parts. A painting is created in the process of cutting them out and composing. By what rule do I establish the division line? What determines the shape and reach of the frame? What is the reason that I save some fragments and reject others, why do I cut something here exactly?     

Essentially that is a question of specifying the state in which things obtain their optimum. Do we establish that place ourselves, or is it determined externally? Arasse wrote about detail and referred to Karel van Mander describing the practice of cutting out especially successful fragments of 16th century paintings. For one foot of an apostle you could get larger amounts than for the whole painting. Until this day it happens that the attribution of the painting undergoes a complete metamorphosis thanks to fitting it to a fragment separated earlier which was stored on the other end of the world (Carpaccio’s “Two Venetian Ladies”).   

Until the 18th century paintings were separated on the basis of two criteria: separating coherent wholeness and reducing overabundance, it was justified by the concept of “immediate impact of the artifact” and the idea of “painting accessible in one glance”. In order to implement that, Lessing proposed ignoring details, a detail amongst other details is a redundant wordiness. However when isolated and shown separately it may become silent, almost abstract.     

The Wall as an example of relationships between relationships

Other relationships between relationships may be exemplified by the following situation: the painting ‘The Wall’ may once be exhibited in a gallery and once in a place, which in a perfect proportion and dimension conveys what is presented in it, to the degree which makes it impossible to show any visual difference between the place without the painting and with the appropriately adjusted painting (let’s assume for a moment that a place or a painting like that exists of which Huculak’s painting ‘The Wall’ is a part). Then, between the spatial locations of the painting (which are relationships) there are relationships the scale of which may be adequacy, because we could say that one of the locations is more adequate than another. Which of them is more adequate depends on the assumptions made earlier pertaining to the nature of adequacy. Those types of relationships between relationships are deliberated on in logic and epistemology in the context of a certain view of the problem of truth, where the truth of a proposition is its adjustment (coherence, accuracy, harmoniousness, perfectiveness) of the whole outside of it: not only to that, to which it directly pertains, but to everything which is not that proposition, to the entire surrounding – to everything.

At this point a natural question arises, whether these objects, so extensively defined as something that may be presented; thought of and dreamt of; accepted and rejected; as any and all thing, scholastic ens, are specified objectively or subjectively. Whether they are subjects independent of consciousness, or only the content of the experience of the consciousness. That question, although so natural, seems to be wrongly formed. Objects are any entities, both the ones dependent and independent of the acts of consciousness. And then, considering relationships the elements of which are relationships between the parts of a particular object, we also consider the relationships within the relationships between parts of particular presentations and the superstructure of observations, fantasies and interpretations added onto them.

In this way the ontological research of Edmund Husserl (Husserl, 2000) came up with many results pertaining to the laws of natural necessity between the content of presentations. An example of such a law is the dependence which takes place between independent content: if their direct parts are not independent, then by necessity they are not independent in relation to the initial entirety of content (in other words: non- independent content of a non-independent content is non-independent in relation to the initial content). The content which is the level of lightness (a chosen color) is not independent in relation to the lightness itself, whereas the lightness is not independent in respect to the color, the lightness of which it is. Therefore the degree of lightness is not independent in relation to the color.

That dependency might be taken further: if color is not independent in relation to the extension then the level of its lightness is also not independent in relation to the extension. A similar example is the law that if an A content requires to be founded on the B content, then every whole containing A (and not containing B) as a part, requires a similar foundation. A law of that type, out of necessity coming from the essence, is ruled by any presented fragmentation (separating independent parts) and momentizing (separating not independent parts by thoughts).  By the same they set out the frames of possible picture division. They are like a matrix of the possible (and impossible at the same time) – a syllabication of painting.


On a closer look at the history of arts, the art pieces which are finished and preserved in ideal condition are relatively few – most are fractions: sketches, partially damaged museum objects (destrukt) and non finito. Many museum objects are renovated remains; Leonardo usually never finished, and Titian repainted indefinitely. Almost all modernist art is a peculiar non finito, with a total appreciation of the sketches in the conceptual stage – an apotheosis of the imperfective, a complete abandonment of the phase of execution in favor of the pure idea.         

Apparently some painters sketched details excellently, but they could not put them together into a whole. “Beset by insurgent details” like Couture, Manet’s master whose style Arasse compared to a “kitchen” of that academic. What was good as a sketch of a detail was not good as a collection of separate details in a finished artifact. The mystery would lie in that large painting still being only a detail, i.e. that the details of sketches merged in it into another detail, only a bigger one. Who understood that? These who made marks “not limiting the strength of a line” instead of details: Vermeer, Velázquez, Chardin, Manet. If a detail is to a painting what a syllable is to a word, the thing is that its fragments should only be syllables and not separate narrations. They should sound but they should not mean. “When a painting comes to life a murmur is heard”; when we recognize it, these murmurs become words. For that murmur to remain only a sound without narration, a picture has to be syllabicated.       


Literature and references:

Arasse D. (2013). Detal. Historia malarstwa w zbliżeniu [Take a closer look, 2013], Baez J. (1997). An Introduction to n-Categories, Category Theory and Computer Science, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, red. E. Moggi, G. Rosolini, Husserl E. (2000). Badania logiczne [Logical Investigations], Ingarden R. (1960). Spór o istnienie świata [Controversy over the Existence of the World], Turowski, A. (2009). Umarła abstrakcja, niech żyje abstrakcja, Twardowski K. (1965). O treści i przedmiocie przedstawień, [w:] Wybrane Pisma Filozoficzne. [On the Content and Objects of Presentation].