The Art Of Making Art

Text.  Prof. Mauro Pratesi,  Academy of Fine Art – Florence


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In the ever-changing world of contemporary art where one can more and more frequently chance on pieces that seem to have been created as a result of real research, works of a Polish painter Robert Latoś, who has been educated at the prestigious Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow, have an invigorating and old-fashioned touch. The charm of his paintings is astonishing, alluding to the legacy of the great Balthus.


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Painting as an activity is intrinsically an act of courage and faith, meaning that one believes in this field of art in its topicality, compatibility and relevance in the context of art trends, which nowadays change so fast that in some cases a conversation about painting is construed similarly to those about archeology or forgotten, outdated customs.



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Therefore it may be surprising that a young artist approaches painting with creativity and refined lyricism, and that he develops his studies of the mysterious world of that elegant, rural gentleman – count Balthasar Kłossowski de Rola, known as Balthus. It is not easy, or simply it is exquisitely difficult to rival Balthus as a painter; Balthus, a great master whose painting does not inspire anybody to imitate or interpret it, apart from mediocre epigone devoid of artistic importance.



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That artist indeed dismissed every single one of his disciples, direct or indirect, as he was not wont to give interviews or to express any opinion on art or other phenomena. It was because he believed that written word was not worth focusing on: painter should express himself solely through his works.


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On account of his view, and also concerning the values he believed in as a painter, Balthus did not do it to speak about himself, but rather about his masters. By doing so he left more space for painting itself; his ability to evade answering questions concerning interpretations or explanations of his works was proverbial. Whoever dared to hint at any possibility of interpreting Balthus’ works was given an answer consisting of a long silence and a look of artist’s beautiful, greyish green, narrow eyes. He would then stolidly say that he is not able to say anything, because he regarded painting as a separate language, untranslatable into words; as is well-known, for Balthus creative act was prayer.


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Given the aforementioned circumstances, it may seem simply unbelievable that other artist could
draw from his works. Meanwhile young Latoś – whose Polish origin, though relating him to the master is beside the point – gets surprisingly close to Balthus’ painting. He is not doing that to imitate Balthus’ mysteries, but to gain completely new means of artistic expression, different than those of his great predecessor, due to his temperament and style.



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Latoś accomplishes an innovative interpretation of themes clearly referring to Balthus’ works; however, these motives are mainly scenes from life, either real or imagined, enriched by oneiric imagination – they are not aspiring to play a simple role of a tribute to an artistic genius.



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However, it is obvious that Robert interprets Balthus the way the latter interpreted and understood works of his beloved old masters, from Giotto to Sassetta and Massolino, and above all Piero della Francesca, whose works Balthus studied and admired during the years he spent in Italy, discovering in them his homeland and images arising in his imagination when moved by a surge of joy.



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Robert draws from Balthus’ works in a way similiar to that of Balthus when he was seeking inspiration in Piero della Francesca paintings, although he did not copy the old master’s works. This is why Robert Latoś seems similarly anachronistic: his beautiful paintings, technically excellent and full of content, are old-fashioned. At first glance they seem unsettling when compared with today’s alleged avant-garde and artistic ferment it is causing – like Balthus’ works once did.
One may suppose that Robert has deliberately chosen such a niche to place himself in the very heart of painting. His works take place in that fraction of second that separates the figures in paintings from the real world – that fraction of second which makes the viewers feel they arrived either a bit early or a bit late.


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