Henryk Waniek is an art critic, essayist and prose writer, he was born on 4 March 1942 in Oświęcim (Auschwitz).
Art critic, essayist and prose writer he is principally known as an artist. His compositions include symmetrical and concentric pictures from the traditional symbols of magic.
Art critic, essayist and prose writer, Henryk Waniek is principally known as an artist. Waniek composes his symmetrical and concentric pictures from the traditional symbols of magic: windows, chalices, ladders, devils, rainbows, shooting stars. These pictures link geographical realities and spheres of human interest like a map; his essays are also maps of spiritual space which are clothed in words.
I am considered to be a painter of magic, a magic of describing the world. Magic depicts the world in symbols.
He has various strings to his creative bow: painting, graphics, books, poster painting, stage design. His work has been shown at over 50 exhibitions, alone or with work by other artists, and he has been awarded many Polish and international prizes. He has traveled to both Italy and the USA on scholarships. Waniek's 'sideline', his writing, includes philosophical fairy tales, essays, journalistic work and art criticism. He has also written two novels: Dziady berlińskie / All Hallows' Eve in Berlin (1986) and Dziady paryskie / All Hallows' Eve in Paris, completed in 1998 but as yet unpublished.
His texts roam through history, philosophy, alchemy, hermetics. Waniek defines himself as 'picture-teller' - his essays interpret the allegories and metaphors which fill the world. Waniek - whom M. Rabizo-Birek described as 'homo symbolicus' - searches incessantly for the sense behind the code - he asks questions, tests answers and contrasts them. His erudite prose is full of digressions, comparisons, journeys into the past, gentle irony, mild derision. The historical scenery of these journeys is Upper Silesia, through which Waniek takes us in his essay trilogy Hermes w Górach Śląskich / Hermes in Upper Silesia (1994), Opis podróży mistycznej z Oswięcimia do Zgorzelca 1257-1957 / Description of a mystical journey from Oswięcim to Zgorzelec 1257-1957 (1996), and Pitagoras na trawie / Pythagoras on grass (1997). This is a story of country and of countryside, this 'laboratory of elements', of people and spiritual ties which at different periods bound Poles, Germans, Czechs and Silesians to one another.
Whenever Waniek wanders through the land dear to his heart, he unveils the history of particular sites through signs he detects in the scenery. In his narrative, the Silesian towns and settlements, the ruins and monuments encountered on such excursions become a sort of palimpsest. The task of the storyteller lies in revealing successive layers of meanings enshrined in the cultural space commonly hidden to contemporary readers. In Another Hermes, the author stated:
We can have fun – if that's the right word – as follows: we pick up a pencil and spread out a map of Lower Silesia. We close our eyes. And then blindly and randomly, we ‘attack’ any point on the map with the pencil. We read the name of the selected city or its surroundings, and we write an essay about it. I assure you that wherever the tip of a pencil lands, there will be an inexhaustible reservoir of topics.
Henryk Waniek also writes fiction. In 1986, he published the (uncensored) fantastical book All Hallows' Eve in Berlin , and in 1998 – All Hallows' Eve in Paris, as yet unpublished. In 2003, he wrote a long, realistic novel, Finis Silesia. It is an attempt to look at Silesia through German eyes. The action takes place over an eight-year period between 1937 and 1945 in Gliwice and Bytom, both German cities at the time. While telling the story of two protagonists, Paul Scholz and Brigitte Kopietz, the author concurrently reconstructs the history of the German petit bourgeoisie (Paul’s neighbourhood) and a solid middle class (Brigittee’s family) in Upper Silesia; he recreates the last phase of that social and customary history starting with World War I to the period of displacements following World War II. Waniek’s literary endeavour was triggered by finding an album, Die schlesische Landschaft, with photographs taken in 1942. The narrator, himself immersed in contemporaneity, looks at the old photographs and on their basis spins a long story about the places once portrayed; above all he invents a biography of the photographer (Paul) and his bride (Brigitte) and depicts the story of their unfulfilled love.
Wyprzedaż duchów / Sale of Ghosts, published in 2007, is a journey through Sudety, a magical mountan chain, where reality confines with alchemy, with the spiritual and the metaphysical. It is also a diagnosis of the contemporary world, which lacks spirituality, where it can only be sold.
"Waniek creates a myth just to degrade it. He sublimates, to trivialize. Since nobody wants to explore the world of Sudety which passes away, it should be promoted - says the author, at the same time diagnosing the contemporary reality as lacking in what is metaphysical. Ghosts need to be sold, just as carpets are sold - wrote Magdalena Wojak ("Kwartalnik Literacki Wyspa", nr 3/ 2007).
The same year Sprawa Hermesa / Hermes's Case was published. It tells the story of Hermann Daniela Hermes, chair of the Great Consistory. Even though the action takes place before the French Revolution, it would be hard not to notice some references to contemporary world.
The investigation regarding Hermes could be compared to contemporary lustration, and read the novel as an answer to lustration, the modern 'which hunt'. With all its half-truths and lack of objectivism, which drowns out possible doubts as to who is guilty. Showing this process in a humorous manner, doesn't change the fact of the matter - as Waniek suggests, unequivocal judging of human feats must lead to abuse - wrote Marta Mizuro (www.instytutksiazki.pl).
Notatnik i modlitewnik drogowy / Traveler's notebook and prayer book (2013) is a collection of different texts: poems, short stories, miniatures, a type of silva rerum open to the reader, and Cmentarz nieśmiertelnych / Cemetery of the Immortal (2015) tells the story of artistic colonies created in Szklarska Poręba around the turn of the centuries, and where the most important artists, writers and philosophers of the time gathered.
His next novel Jak Johannes Kepler jadąc do Żagania na Śląsku zahaczył o księżyc / How Johannes Kepler stopped on the moon on the way to Żagań in Silesia, was written by around thirty years and started as a film script. That is how the author described the process:
Later, not thinking about a film anymore, I changed it many times, added and crossed out different parts, and later forgot all about it. I found it again in 1992 and from time to time I worked on it again. Around 1998 I showed it to two writers. Wiesław Myśliwski showed no enthusiasm, while Marian Pilot was kinder. I'm not sure whether any of them was right. From time to time I tried to make it better, but I always had something else to do. An anonymous reviewer of Literackie Publishing House, after reading two or three pages, called it picaresque. That's fine. I would rather call it a fable spiced with truth. But now it's something else still. What? Please, check for yourselves.
Henryk Waniek is the protagonist of Andrzej Titkow's documentary Sztuka błądzenia / The Art of Wandering (1998). In the film he travels around Silesia, visits Oświęcim, where he was born (even though there are no documents to prove it), Sośnicowice, Wrocław, Racibórz, Zgorzelec. He feels best in the borderland, he says: 'This is the right place for the human being. One doesn't have to chose one side of the barricade..."
Selected literary works:
- 1984 - Dziady berlińskie / All Hallows' Eve in Berlin , Warsaw: Oficyna Poetów i Malarzy Przedświt
- 1994 - Hermes w Górach Śląskich /Hermes in Upper Silesia, Wrocław: Wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie
- 1996 - Opis podróży mistycznej z Oświęcimia do Zgorzelca 1257-1957 / Description of a mystical journey from Oswięcim to Zgorzelec 1257-1957, Kraków: Znak
- 1997 - Pitagoras na trawie / Pythagoras on grass, Warszawa: Przedświt
- 2001 - Inny Hermes / A Different Hermes, Warszawa: PWN,
- 2003 - Finis Silesiae, Wrocław: Wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie,
- 2004 - Martwa natura z niczym: szkice z lat 1990-2004/ A Still Life with Nothing: essays 1990 - 2004, Kraków: Znak,
- 2007 - Wyprzedaż duchów/ Sale of Ghosts, Wrocław: Wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie,
- 2007 - Sprawa Hermesa/ The Case of Hermes, Kraków: WL,
- 2010 - Katowice-blues czyli Kattowitzer-Polka, Katowice,
- 2012 - Miasto z duszą / A Town with a Soul (foreward to the book by Michał Bulsa, Ulice i place Katowic/ Streets and Squares of Katowice), Katowice,
- 2013 - Katowice to wyborny temat /Katowice is an Excellent Subject (foreword to the book by Michał Bulsa, Grzegorz Grzegorek, Beata Witaszczyk, Domy i gmachy Katowic / Houses and Edifices of Katowice,
- 2013 - Notatnik i modlitewnik drogowy/ Traveler's Notebook and Prayer Book, Szczecin,
- 2015 - Jak Johannes Kepler jadąc do Żagania na Śląsku zahaczył o księżyc / How Johannes Kepler stopped on the moon on the way to Żagań in Silesia,
- 2015 - Cmentarz nieśmiertelnych / Cemetery of the Immortal, Wrocław
- 1979 – cameo appearance in Podróż do Arabii / A Journey to Arabia by Antoni Krauze
- 1980 – author of set design for Carmilla by Janusz Kondratiuk
- 1988 – co-author of set design for Dziewczynka z hotelu Excelsior/ A Girl from Excelsior Hotel by Antoniego Krauzego
- 1991 – co-author of set design for Ene...due...like...fake...by Andrzej Kondratiuk
- 1991 – co-author of set design for Głos / Voice by Janusz Kondratiuk
- 1998 - cameo appearance in Sztuka błądzenia / The Art of Ramble, directed by Andrzej Titkow
Source: www.polska2000.pl; Copyright: Stowarzyszenie Willa Decjusza, 2001, update: May 2015, source: instytutksiązki.pl