As early as 1947 I anticipated my “descent” to Inferno.
On the other side of the Styx or the Lethe. The Kingdom of Death.
At that time, in 1947, I drew back from the door. As though
I were afraid of losing too early the image of the man, which
was so precious.
Later the came a moment when I made up my mind to go ahead.
In the gust of wind, which I had not experienced before, I
tried to make out the dim outline of a human figure.
But soon everything became
MOVEMENT and MATTER.
Inferno. That was my “I N N E R S E L F”,
a battleground of passions, desires, all kinds of emotions,
despair and delight, regrets, nostalgia, memories of everything,
and thoughts that dash to and fro, like a bird in a storm.
That place was at the same time a volcano, a battlefield
and a recluse’s cell filled with fervid meditation.
I mean IMAGE only all the time. The image that became
a kind of “emanation” of my “I N N E R S E L F”.
Image, not “a r e p r e s e n t a t i o n”, but an almost
biological substance of my body.
I cannot see man’s figure any more. His outer shape,
which has always been identified with l i f e.
Life itself become suspect; its nature appears to have been
oversimplified and reduced to a banal image.
I can feel the breath of Death, the Belle Dame, as Gordon Craig
called her. Isn’t she perhaps the sovereign of art…
Lack of that life simplified by naturalism
and materialism, lack of “orders” sent out from the brain
to imitate “rational” actions.
That “l a c k”, at first sacrilegious, has become
my chief article of faith.
I experienced the action of forces “from the other side”;
they shook up the “pure” surface of my IMAGE.
I felt the MATTER AND THE “ASHES” blown
about by winds of CHANCE, to be
the ULTIMATE SHAPE OF MAN, his infernal image.
And to pass j u d g e m e n t on everything
a n d l e a v e i t a l l b e h i n d:
The hitherto sacred principle upon which, I used to believe,
the whole world rests and depends.
A rational, or even worse, a pragmatic process.
A means of creating something that, to put it simply,
would keep together.
A warrant of “s o l i d e x i s t e n c e”.
A guarantee of something “solid”. Almost a durable industrial
And one more thing:
the fact that it helped to produce a work, whose value and success
were determined by its COMPLETION.
After that there was only PUTTING INTO OPERATION.
How insignificant did that procedure seemed to me in comparison
with the element of the INFERNO- INNER SELF, with CREATIVITY
Tadeusz Kantor, “Intimate Comments”, 1986-88, typescript in the Cricoteka Archives, p. 6-7.
INFERNO a ceaseless M O V E M E N T, which is a manifestation
of unalloyed life, pulsating and boiling,
devoid of any practical purpose,
subject to continuous d e s t r u c t i o n
and unceasing revival.
With what indifference did I walk, that proud period,
past all those magnificent museum pictures
shut off by the perfection of their completion.
How many failures did I suffer when my paintings born out
of that irrational idea shut themselves off and in the end
as well as in my opinion d i e d.
I should have destroyed and buried the “dead corpses”
of my works, or hung them up like a funeral
standards. But I did not do it. Was it a lack of radicalism –
I don’t know. What remained was something
enduring, a sharp awareness of ideas
such as a “message” from “the other side of the Styx”.
DEATH would suddenly turn up at an arm’s length
in moments like that
and seemed to show me some warning signs.
He also advised me to refrain from any hasty,
He spoke as if even more shattering experiences were in store
With HIM at my side.
I felt that it was necessary to “salvage” the image. It was to come
in handy yet!
The journey was becoming
Something had to be done.
Make a decision.
I felt very lonely
and again the same cry:
I left behind me
all my signposts.
I got angry with history,
The journey took on
less and less material
grew to encompass
those of imagination.
Tadeusz Kantor, “Intimate Comments”, 1986-88, typescript in the Cricoteka Archives, p. 7-8.