Lacquer : A contemporary medium

La caresse du saule – 2008 – 18 x 27

The difficulties in the first place when discussing the techniques of painting by the medium of lacquer, is not to think of their distant oriental roots dating back more than 5,000 years. Lacquer has a traditional, cultural and iconic heritage, with a rich and certainly legitimate inheritance of teaching which warrants the continuation to confine the techniques of lacquer to the Asian continent and to assimilate exclusively to ancient times and to the traditionalist routes.

When talking about contemporary oil-based paints, we do not refer to the remote origins of painting on canvas no more than we recount the genesis of oil painting. The analysis of the chemistry of coloured pigments used in these paintings is not discussed either. The argument does not aim to mask the specific expertise of painting by the medium of lacquer, it rather tends not to reduce her creations to a restrictive and too technical speech to the detriment of art.

This is an essential point to comprehend Annie Sliwka’s painting and especially to fully grasp their significance in the history of contemporary art, because that is mainly what this is about.

Corail rouge – 2005 – 35 x 48

Before closing this question, let’s just say that over the years Anna Sliwka has experimented and has been very successful in developing a sophisticated combinatorial technological palette.

By innovative processes which are secret only to herself, she has extended and will leave behind a traditional skill with her being the only instigator and ambassador.

Let us add, without getting into endless identity and terminological squabbles, that Annie Sliwka’s lacquer paintings have nothing to do with decorative works or crafts which – without any pejorative connotation – belong to another register. Annie Sliwka uses lacquer as a means of expression to serve the art, a medium among others as found in the fields of oil and acrylic

Annie Sliwka’s paintings do not deliberately come within arbitrary criterias, they are often more speculative than artistic, which determine and define contemporary art in current artistic media. Sweet and magical dreams, sublime beauty, poetry, refinement, delicacy, grace, are not to be talked about in our society, nor in the opaque and scholastic conventionality of contemporary art.

These thematics go against the grain as they don’t reflect the established contemporary art. However, they are the personal choice of the artist in accordance with her authentic values, her deep sensitivity, her fertile imagination and her inner necessity. Aesthetics, musicality, poeticization are not synonymous of retrogression. The history of art is not being written in the short term and we may expect that with hindsight, many acclaimed works, now representative of the contemporary official art, could be perceived differently…

Putting aside Annie Sliwka’s extraordinary aesthetic paintings and the unforgettable multi-sensory experience that one feels in contemplating them. Above all, lacquer is a protean artistic means of expression whose impact and expansive opportunities are extremely rich, if not inexhaustible. It is in this sense that a new re-appropriated language, a contemporary desecrated medium is just waiting to be developed and exploited further enriching creativety in multiple and infinite directions, whatever the hybridizations of forms, stylistics and techniques. A revival of lacquer now offers many openings in the history of art. The future will tell us if that is indeed the beginnings of a major new artistic transformation that will change our view of the world and the Art.

Marie-hélène Barreau Montbazet , Docteur es histoire de l’Art