Saturday, December 24, 2011

CorrespondAnce: NY< – >DABROWA DOLNA–the edge of the world

It is a great distance between New York city and Dabrowa Dolna, a quiet village situated in central Poland at the foot of the Bald Mountains (Łysogóry), or as Radoslaw (Radek) Nowakowski puts it, “maybe the oldest mountains in Europe, who knows...” Time and place, encounters, brushes or immersions with them influence what we do. I met Radek in 2006 when four of my Moleskine books with drawings had been accepted for International Book Art Festival VIII edition Łódź, Poland; curated by Alicja Slowikowska. Soon thereafter came an opportunity to visit Poland. In early 2011, began a new thread in our on/off correspondence resulting in CorrespondAnce, a book written, designed, and produced in all aspects by Radek at the Liberatorium, with my drawings of dance(rs). 

4th Sheffield International Artist’s Book Prize

CorrespondAnce by Radoslaw Nowakowski & Venantius J. Pinto (Poland/India - joint runner-up)

To understand another human being you have to gain some insight into the conditions that made him what he is. 
—Margaret Bourke-White

In early 2010, an opportunity to observe and draw dancers presented itself. The venue was the Fiorello LaGuardia High School of Music and Art & Performing Arts, in the Graham Technique class conducted by Elisa King. Dance as a conduit of phenomena fits into my concerns with consciousness, sexuality and religion.
My relationship with dance and dancers has been most variegated: regularly attending performances; designing graphic organs with  Sandy Graff for dance companies; painting bodies for Celeste Hasting’s Butoh Rockettes; and reading on dance. Although I have drawn performances seated in the audience, this opportunity at LaGuardia High was different. It brought me closer to  and into the world of getting to observe dancers as aesthetic objects in the making. “Aesthetic objects? Dancers may become that in the public mind. And we may further wonder if the dancer will eventually evolve into that which bears the full status of a work of Art.” (Friedman, James Michael 1980. Dancer and Other Aesthetic Objects. pg 108. San Francisco, Ballet Monographs, Dance Unbounded). Movement although it stirs within us, much of it is learnt through a praxis of a lived aesthetic and imbuing techniques. 

It pleased me that Micky–Michelle Mathesius, the Vice-Principal approved my presence at class, and I embarked to get a sense of the core of dancing via drawing. And draw I did — a few hundred drawings. 

For a dancer to dance requires a combustion of motivations within ones core. (vjp) 

I felt I had to share those drawings out to those who matter to me. On March 30 of this year I shared some of those drawings with a few friends, among them Radoslaw/Radek Nowakowscy. Radek responded suggesting a CorrespondAance! 
CorrespondAnce begins with text written by Radek which reveals how the book came about: One day I saw on my monitor sketches; or sumi-e paintings, Venantius had made at a ballet school (Dance Dept. class, Fiorello H LaGuardia HS of Art & Music and Performing Arts, vjp). The very next day I saw in my mind a book. This was a big surprise to me because I have been involved in some other projects. Because I am not a dancer. I am a drummer, writer, translator, designer, and whatever else, but I am not a dancer. My head is full of ideas and visions in no way related to dancing that have been waiting patiently to be completed sooner than later and there should be no space for anything unexpected. Nevertheless the next day after that “very next day” I wrote to Venantius and asked him: Would you like to correspondAnce with me? He answered immediately: Yes, I would. So, he would, I would, we would: Good. And?

Speaking for myself, I was happy to see those drawings would have life in a book designed and written by Radek; certainly of a kind I could not have envisaged for them. In the next few days I sent him more and then stepped back. And waited. In equanimity, I waited.

Radek continues:
Well, it looks like in my case the process of making a book is a reverse of making an ink sketch. The brush is like a lightning, but before it strikes, heavy dark clouds must gather. A book, entirely ready, appears in my min as fast as a trace of brush dancing on paper. Yes, just a flash, and it’s ready. There, In my head. Now, how can I get it out from there? Oh, this takes much more time and effort than to imagine it…

Yes, there is the ocean of water, of culture, of tradition, of experiences between us. But it’s not that bad: thrice upon a time I was in New York, five years ago Venantius visited me and spent in Dabrowa Dolna a few hours – what a visit it was! as intensive and colorful as his paintings are, as precise as his carvings. What does it mean? Does it matter? Dance it matter?

There is an ocean of language between us. Which and what language? He does not understand at all my mother tongue. I don’t understand his mother tongue. He doesn’t understand my father tongue. I don’t understand his father tongue.  He doesn’t understand my brother tongue. I don’t understand his brother tongue. He doesn’t understand my uncle-and-aunt tongue.  I don’t understand his uncle-and-aunt tongue. He doesn’t understand my cousin tongue. I don’t understand his cousin tongue. And so on. Up to friend-and-enemy-of-ours tongue …… to the acquaintance-tongue which we share to some extent …… or rather the acquainDance tongue …… Tongue or tango? Or maybe T’ang…Oh! Language is the most crazy dance ever.

To create bokuga (ink drawings/paintings) requires an understanding of unique relationships — of ink to paper, viscocity of the ink, transparency, and layering. One works fast; and in drawing dancers almost as if one has to get ahead of oneself. I knew that this medium and approach would complement my absorption of movement and rhythm — allowing me line and tone, the possibility for traces of the brush to show, as well as well bleeding ink into paper — essentially a broad idiom, along with the spontaneity developed over the years.

Manifestations are visions of  separate elements coalesced into a unified experience: a totality of meaning. (vjp)

The opportunity to travel to Poland in 2006, was a flash out of the blue. A friend who worked in security for Ogivy NY. had won two round trip tickets to Poland in a raffle from a Polish bank in Williamsburg, NY. Freddy offered them to me for the price of one! Thus Cecilia and I made it to Łódź, Poland and hand delivered my Moleskeine books that had been accepted for IBAF VIII ed. Radek played a huge role in facilitating the interaction, and then extended us an invitation to visit him. That was essentially a liberation, moving into unplanned territory and getting to hear about his Liberatorium. I guess he saw that we were easy-going, and wiling to take things as they come! This opportunity brought us to Kielce and Dabrowa Dolna to Radek and Krystyna’s home. It was a splendid meet up, essentially “at the edge of the world.” At his home/studio he shared his love of books, the books he makes, his polymath being, and the entire process of producing a book that resides in his mind out in the open as a physical entity.

Collaborations come about in various forms. Often the intent is not at all to collaborate, but things happen—and what seems as a collaboration is not such. I see ours as a concert, an alliance — indeed a cor-respondence, a correspondence, a correspondAnce from a number of factors, beginning from our interaction in 2006. I see correspondAnce as stemming from shared kinship and respect with Radek. CorrespondAnce-Sein is a level of consciousness, different from what I experience/d when drawing the dancers. That difference became apparent upon reviewing the text and design which lent the book its nature! Some collaborations are very involved, there is a lengthy back and forth; others are reflections; in some collaborations the material is hashed over, reworked and peered at closely, argued and integrated towards a comfortable whole; yet others strive for a more precarious balance until both/all parties feel they are on the same page. In our case it was a correspondence by virtue of a particular brand of trust. Two individuals who take their own skills and modalities seriously, and respect the same in the other(s). Is that not what a part of dance is also about; about hitting one’s mark, about not being dropped, about being supplemented with counter energies that complement  as well as provide tension to one’s own movement in space?

To my knowledge, CorrespondAance is in the collection of the University of Poznan, Poland, Joicy and Johannes, in 2013 six copies were bought by 
Fiorello LaGuardia High School of Music and Art & Performing Arts…

To purchase a copy:

Or contact Radek Nowakowski at Thank you. 


Asia said...

Great idea, beautiful visualization, wonderful sumi-e art which is over languages and cultural barriers, Congratulations!

Venantius said...

Thanks Asia.
Also see: Ode to a Fragment of Silence
Sumi, gansai in a Chinese concertina book. 156" x 10.10".
(Reads from right to left. Must be viewed large:

Some quick ones here: