Karol Bak was born in 1961 in Kolo, Poland. From 1984 to 1989 he studied at the State School of Fine Arts (now ASP) in Poznan, at the Graphic Art Department. He completed his studies with two prized diplomas, at prof. Tadeusz Jackowski’s graphic studio, and at prof. Jaroslaw Kozlowski’s drawing studio. After graduation in 1989 Bak dealt with copperplate engraving and drawing. For the next few years he was busy with designing and took part in his artistic travels. In the second half of the 90s he started to paint on canvas, and from 2000 he has been engaged in it professionally. Bak paints using oil on canvas and often works on a few paintings at the same time. The main theme of his paintings is a women's beauty. Many of his figurative works have been inspired by myth and mythology. The artist’s works combine the following subject cycles as: “Sailing-ship”, “Dialogs”, “Cocoons”, “Aureoles”, “Four elements”, “Judyta and Salome”. Karol Bak’s paintings were displayed on a dozen or so individual exhibitions, and on group exhibitions, mainly in Poland, Germany, and Holland.
Nowadays Karol Bak deals with easel painting and wall-painting, applied graphics, and also designing, and interior decoration. He lives and works in Poznan, Poland.
Karol Bak - Mysterious paths of admiration
Karol Bak is an admirer of women. He is a glorifier of womanhood. He paints captivatingly beautiful phenomenal shapes. He seems to desire to reveal their souls. Therefore, by various methods he examines the deepest parts of their nature. His seraphic heroines flow in the dream, appear in immense space; they are angels, pearl-divers, personification of elements and winds; incarnated murders (Judyta, Salome) and even death (Thanatos); from time to time their dimension is galactic – they are super new or the Milky Way.
Karol Bak makes himself extremely great task for his intention is not to show women only from their physical side. However, he is aware of the fact that the woman is noticed not only as a body-subject from a point of view, but also as spiritual-physical human being, loving, delicate, and tender-hearted to utmost emotions. In other words, woman is variable and almost imperceptible. The artist wishes to show the woman’s nature throughout her body and more and more limited accessories.
To reveal in visual arts the inside nature of the portrait-painted person was not easy, and the great artists had known about it ages ago. Leonardo da Vinci concisely said: “A good painter paints two matters: a human being and his spiritual inside. The first stage is easy, the second difficult for should be presented b gestures and motions of the shown body.” It is necessary to mention here that the genius of Renaissance, as we know, painted “from nature”, so the presented figures and scenes were revealed from the background.
On the other hand, the Poznan artist in his own way takes advantage of tradition for his needs. In most of his works he shows one elegant person who is characterized by clothes, and lately by an enlarged head-dress in style of aureole, nimbus, and halo. In the last case the author materializes what is invisible. Additionally, in various ways he “attaches” the woman to the picture’s background, who sometimes like in “The dreaming pearl” appears in several spheres. In another composition (“The angel patience”) there is a God’s messenger somewhere high in the heaven, as a strong and tempting blond woman, who is drawing out from herself an eternal landscape. It seems to be similar with another “Wandering angel” where the hero of the picture is somehow a part of the matter already left by him. There is a kind of primordial existence, insect’s something.
Taking into consideration the cycle “Cocoons”, where from the silk cloth female and male torsos “are being born”, and among others “Ring’s secrets” in which gorgeous head’s ornaments like of exotic birds or lizards, linked with the dress – which seems to be – a part of the painted female body, we can state that Bak shows primitive, animal beauties. (This subject reflects the transforming woman in the story “Struggling species” by John Shirley and William Gibson from Gibson’s collection “Johnny Mnemonic”). Additionally, his fascinating worlds seem to be created from the same substance. Thus it could be understood that he is a follower of the argument of the lost world’s unity.
The mentioned subject is continued by the cycle “Sailing-ship” which is the most realistic art piece blending ship in the process of building and the Babel tower. This unfinished structure, surrounded by scaffolding with sails, is already pushed by the wind, and starts its almost impossible voyage. The next unreal visions of sailing-ships are shown as still not able to sail because either they resemble rushing whirlwind or – in other example – clearly outlined hull overwhelming most of the sails, covering the space, or a part of the ship. Especially sails flowing in different directions, and falling into layers, combine the background, and from which they should distinguish. There is no way to verbalize these visions in extended space and somehow emerging from one matter; they are a query or the artist’s joke, what could be explained by the material’s tear visible in the upper part of one of the compositions (“Sailing-ship VI”). It enlightens the viewer on the fact that behind the life presented world, there is also any unknown reality.
Briefly discussed variations on the subject of sailing-ships show that the painter is not an illustrator telling stories, but a creator using all possible painting means to paint and activate imagination of his audience. These and other Bak’s compositions cannot be presented in other means. However, they could be only somehow brought nearer to those viewers who are not familiar with the artist’s painting yet, and outline some important ideas of his art. But, substantiation and interpretations of the Poznan artist’s world presented in his works depends on individual intuition, feelings, and cultural experience of the viewer, whom the painter seems to invite to join his process of creation. Thus, imagination exactly, aspirations and research horizon of the viewer will decide on “reading” these paintings and certainly not only esthetic satisfaction.
Coming back to the most numerous and most impressive Bak’s compositions of “picturesque” women, it is worth paying our attention that the artist exploring and presenting their spiritual conditions, wishes, with positive or negative energy arising from them, at the same time appoints them to roles: biblical, mythological or personifying elements.
Thus, as we can assume, there is certain theatrical manner of poses, artificiality, and intentional decorative value.
In contrast with these art works, it is worth paying attention to the persons heads surrounded by enriched ovals, which are not only fascinating structure components of painting, but decorating the presented women. These figures traced from the cycle (the ideal figure, together with a triangle, professionally used by the artist in his graphics) are parts of dress, and also the materialized aura corresponding to aureole. Their meaning is symbolic. They mark contradictory emotions, confused ways of labyrinth (Ariadna II), emotion explosives (Ignes) or solar ring (Rosa Mundi), motion symbol, everlasting while, and the solar rose can represent labyrinth, life pilgrimage path.
Development of symbols and particular significance of the listed paintings, as the examples, depends on invention and knowledge of the viewer. When we look at fascinating works of the artist from Poznan, we should notice that the forms around the persons, as emanation of their emotions, relate directly with the space surround, and also with the air space.
Of course, at the beginning there is a feeling, connected with the art piece, and later on its understanding. Certainly many viewers who are keen on Bak’s art works leave away “the ballast knowledge”, and continue – what is accepted – “breathing” with the beauty of the presented women, according to own personal taste and life experience. Other viewers – as I think – get satisfied also from the picture stage and composition of the paintings. The pay attention to the beauty as the esthetic category, what in case of the discussed art, has the following meaning: harmony, accuracy, and equalization. We can mention here that Bak has been continuously developing his painting skills towards the ideal beauty, which due to Hegel “is placed in undisturbed unity, peace and perfection itself”.
And finally, there is a group of viewers who are interested in explaining the idea of the art works. These viewers base on their own emotions, knowledge, and according to titles they will recall complex cultural and philosophical context. The beauty could get various shapes and could be shown in variety of ways. It is – according to Elias Canetti – pathetic and cold at the same time. “It always includes – due to this writer – something fascinating like something what existed some time ago, and then has disappeared for a long time. (…) We cannot love it in spite we miss it. Thanks to the mysterious paths of admiration the beauty itself is getting richer than anything else we can have in us ourselves.”