Krystyna Ziach
Melancholy – drama between ratio and emotion, by Mirelle Thijsen, 1990 (English, part II)
Mirelle Thijsen is an art historian and a former art critic for the Dutch newspaper
Het Financieele Dagblad
photo : Irrational Space from the series Melancholy 1989-1990

The basic elements, such as the complex polyhedron, the circle, the ladder – referring to a building under construction – and the magical square with the numbers – which makes a historical association with Malevich’s magical, religious square very tempting – are the geometric and astrologic attributes of a very tense, naked Melancholia figure. Very intuitively Ziach chooses elements from Dürer’s engraving, which become essential archetypes in her vibrant visualisation of the ideal dimensions and the striving for order. The mirror, a perpetually returning and dominant element in the entire series, always refers to the introvert, narcistic nature typical of the artist. The mirror made its first appearance in Infinity from the series Japan (1987), where the mirror is essential to the culture of that country and associated with the infinite imagination of the gods. The mirror further refers to confusion, fitting in with the tradition of the melancholic character, and in the works Odalisque, The Image of Deception and Irrational Space with the tradition of the trompe-l’œil, the illusion of space and infinity in art. The odalisque form is almost a thematic cliché in art history, but Ziach analyses the form conceptually and associates the anatomical pose with the geometrical shape of the pyramid. In Divina Proportione the magical square reappears again, now as a screaming but dignified red backdrop for the homo universalis figure who, as it were, floats on the clotted blood of Saura and has become entangled in a cosmic constellation of perspective lines. In the work Human Geography Ziach enters into a dialogue and searches for an intervention with the universal human proportions after Da Vinci. In Divina Proportione she integrates the
16th-century knowledge of a genius with the suprematist theories of Malevich, in order to strive for a contemporary moulding of the Absolute in the ideal anatomical proportions. Model for Flying Machine is again a triptych, based on the brilliant thoughts of Leonardo Da Vinci about, as well as his drafts of a flying machine which – in the tradition of the classical myth of Icarus – would allow a human being to fly by his own volition. Ziach makes an abstract and conceptual image analysis of a literary theme. The constructed wings in the side panels are in fact blow-ups of reproductions of a similar line-up made after drawings of Da Vinci. Again the original is used as an objet trouvé. This invention as well as Ziach’s vivification of it again mirror the irresistible urge of the melancholic character to approach the Impossible, the Inaccessible. In his essay The Unknown Leonardo Da Vinci (The Writer and his Fantasies, Buenos Aires 1976), Ernesto Sabato describes the double life of Leonardo. On the one hand the eminent bohemian of the Renaissance, on the other the withdrawn thinker ‘striving to reach the Absolute, the skeleton of infinity’ in his laboratory of inventions. The passion and emotion underlying this rational striving are time and again the true source of inspiration for Krystyna Ziach. The desperate, melancholic reaching for the Absolute, which finds its expression in his anatomical and geometrical research, immensely fascinates her, as does the capacity of the melancholic to ask questions rather than to give answers. The colour inherent to the melancholic character is black. Although the series Melancholy is printed in colour, the work is mainly based on the monochromatic non-colours black and white. Sometimes the black has a dark blue glow, sometimes the white verges on the typical red of daybreak, but in fact primary red and a warm sepia hue are the only discernible colours, the sepia coloration being imbued with the atmosphere of the sketches of Leonardo Da Vinci. In Space of Imagination the research of the illusion of space is continued, in particular by again allowing mirrors to create confusion in a rational set-up. A model posing in foetal position is – by a horizontal line, the symbolic separation from the imagination – cut off from all kinds of geometrical elements above her, which in turn constitute the image of imagination.
Perhaps the dream of the contemporary melancholic creates such visions, in the same way as, according to Goya at the end of the 19th century, the sleep of reason was begetting monsters. In her earlier work Calligraphy from the series Metamorphosis (1984-1985), Ziach already showed her fascination with shapes and symbols from the sciences of geometry and astrology, detached from their theoretical foundations; while Geometry from the same series could be interpreted as a kind of intuitive aura, a precursor of the research into the ideal spatial and anatomical dimensions in the series Melancholy.
Krystyna Ziach may have given a photographic form to the obsession of Robert Burton, who in 1621 wrote in his book The Anatomy of Melancholy: “I write about Melancholy, by being busy to avoid Melancholy…..”.
Translation : Hanny Keulers