Wlodzimierz Cygan weaves light and darkness into a cosmic meditation

By STUDY28|Violette Stepaniuk

Why art? Simple. For those moments of instant connection. When you walk into a room and there it is. That one piece. The It. Staring at you. Calling you. Pulling you closer. As if created just for you. Everything else becomes a blur because you have eyes only for It.

I found my latest It, or It found me, at the Light and Darkness exhibition by Polish textile artist Wlodzimierz Cygan at the Galerie Montcalm in Gatineau. The It is an “eye”, or rather a large natural fiber tapestry showing waves or clouds of thin off-white lines and dots radiating into darkness from a pupil-like centre. [Goosebumps]


Photo by Violette Stepaniuk

Light and Darkness exhibition by Wlodzimierz Cygan at the Galerie Montcalm in Gatineau,  on view until tomorrow, October 2.

A giant eye. A galaxy of an eye. A deep, questioning, and piercing eye. But also a wise and gentle eye. A seeing presence. An interstellar reminder to live mindfully, to look purposely, to reflect, to inquire, to be curious. About the world and ourselves.

What did the artist intend it to be? An eye? A spiral galaxy? Sun rays streaming through the clouds? Waves of light?


Photo by Violette Stepaniuk

Wlodzimierz Cygan | Fireworks | wool and sisal | 69 in x 138 in | 2011

Fireworks…at least that’s what the title of the work suggests, Fireworks. I didn’t think of that, but I can see it now. An explosion and its epicenter. And yet to me this is still an eye. A cosmic, kind and mindful eye. Ethereal and pulsating, like northern lights.

Like all the works in this exhibition, Fireworks is magnificently crafted. Cygan’s skill, attention to detail, and designs are more than impressive, they are breathtaking. But all this brilliant work gives way to something greater than the finest weave or any physical perfection.


Photo by Violette Stepaniuk

Light and Darkness exhibition by Wlodzimierz Cygan at the Galerie Montcalm in Gatineau.

Cygan’s tapestries are alluring, enigmatic and engaging. They exude energy and a sort of otherworldly presence. They are more like celestial bodies floating in the void than inanimate objects. Strange but friendly passersby from eons away. Or perhaps they are microscopic life-forms.

The exhibition notes explain that “in contrast to traditional tapestry created from the bottom up to form a rectangle or square, Cygan weaves fibers as in basket making, from the centre out beyond the edges of the frame.”

Perhaps it is this combination of lines and curves, and the mix of natural, synthetic and optical fibers that makes these modern, geometric works strange yet familiar. What could be cold and hostile is actually gentle, calming and inviting. A dance of light and darkness. A meditation in black and white.

So that’s why art. For moments like these. When you are touched in a new way. From inside out. By this IT. This one piece of art, and/or the exhibition at large. And it doesn’t matter if it’s only for a minute or for the rest of your life, all that matters is that you have been altered. You are different now. Expanded.

Wlodzimierz Cygan is a professor of textile art at Strzeminski Academy of Fine Arts in Lodz, Poland, and Lodz University of Technology. The Light and Darkness exhibition is presented as part of the third edition of the Triennale international des arts textiles en Outaouais 2016. Sadly the show is coming to an end tomorrow, October 2.

Thank you for the goosebumps, Prof. Cygan.


Tony Godfrey, Introduction to Understanding Art Objects

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