Krzywokulski’s Universe
by Ashley Crawford

The Abstract logic of dreams
1 – 22 June 2013
Artman Gallery, Caulfield Sth. VIC.​

Skeletal, emaciated figures go about their business oblivious to their nakedness, zombified horses and irradiated dogs peer into an abstracted future, alien bricklayers toil while apocalyptic horsemen from far away planets ride the zeitgeist.

Ezra Krzywokulski is an artist of impulse, a visionary on the edge of gnostic revelations, phantasms and fantasia; a dark, somnambulistic poet illustrating a world awry, a world on the edge. There is nothing as banal as literal imagery here – it is the stuff of dreams and nightmares and day-long visions recorded with urgency like a somnambulistic reporter from the edge. He is what has often been described as an ‘outsider’ artist – indifferent to the tides of fashionably, indeed, running against their feathery seductiveness, driving his own road into a cataclysmic end game. It is safe to say that Krzywokulski does not fit in today’s art scene. But that is arguably a good thing. He does not kneel to the gods of theory and fashion, the modes that audiences have been taught to accept. He perhaps fits more closely under the term ‘outsider art’ which was coined by English critic Roger Cardinal in 1972 as an English synonym for what Parisian artist Jean Dubuffet dubbed art brut, a label created by to describe art created outside the boundaries of the official art world; the raw, the rough, the unharnessed.

Krzywokulski speaks from the gut, his visions unadulterated for the sake formalism or postmodernism. He is something of a skate-punk – and in that he is far from alone – his regurgitated skateboards are aesthetic weapons, launching full-blaze at the throat of the establishment, their gaunt Gods and Goddesses, blinded, awaiting flight and martyrdom.

With subtle nods to the work of Francis Bacon, or so one assumes, his bodies are distended and twisted, victims of sufferance and plague. Often ‘censored’ by the artist they are unable to view their own captivity and bizarre activates. There is a strong underlying sense of religiosity at play here; the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse loom powerfully. But his is not a Judaic or Christian haunting, indeed it borders on the Pagan as seen in such works as Cow, a portrait of pure derangement. At times it is also an almost Gothic aesthetic, a Death Metal soundtrack close behind while on the surface a heavy helping of pure Surrealism at its most macabre, as seen in Horse diptych with Huysmans quote from Against Nature (a brilliant title if ever there was one and a similarly brilliant source, proving the artist to be as literate as visual). 

It is tempting to discern an element of alienation in these works, a sense of youthful dismissal of the world around him. But one suspects that quite the opposite is at heart here. If these works are in some form remedial it is a remedy that can be shared by many in a world of devastating media imagery, a world of undeniably cruelty and, indeed, alienation. But Krzywokulski’s world is shared by many and it is, thankfully, the zeitgeist to cause affront against this world (just witness the success of the ‘outsider’ art magazine Juxtapoz). Krzywokulski’s brethren are multitudinous, seen powerfully in so much art, music and writing creeping around the edges of the mainstream, not quite ready to storm the bastions yet, but certainly ripe to do so.

– Ashley Crawford, 2013

Ashley Crawford is a freelance cultural critic and arts journalist based in Melbourne and is the author of a number of books on Australian art, including Transformations: The Work of Sonia Payes (2016) and Spray, The Work of Howard Arkley (co-author, 1997). He is a regular contributor to The Age, The Australian, The Guardian, The Financial Review, The Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Art Collector, Art Monthly, and numerous other publications.

© Ezra Krzywokulski 2018