(Cleveland, Ohio, 1952 - )
When is a fish more than just a fish? In the paintings of Leonard Koscianski, all manner of images function beyond superficial appearance; they act as symbols, metaphors, and allegorical references to the world around us. Koscianski is known for dramatic, brilliantly colored paintings that suggest psychologically disturbing places and events.
The settings of Koscianski’s encounters are silent, ominous lands where man does not willingly venture, but instead stays safely in the background, tucked away in tiny, banal houses. Just beyond those mundane walls and the mundane lives they conjure lies the world of the hunter and the hunted. As in Red Fish, the drama is usually acted out by wild animals locked in a battle for survival. The heightened realism and eerie illumination—which the artist creates by a process of painting and glazing in layers—enhances the cinematic effect of arrested action. The fish is eternally in mid-leap, trapped in an unnatural habitat. These animal encounters are allegories for contemporary society, where each person struggles to make peace with inner demons, often in circumstances in which he or she may feel foreign or alienated.
As metaphors for the fight to survive, Koscianski’s works share an affinity with those of nineteenth-century Romantic painters such as Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863), who was known for his depictions of violence in nature. Delacroix’s images were likewise associated with the subconscious and the fearfulness of nightmares. The unpredictable leads to fear. Which nature will we experience: the benign and nurturing environment, or the vicious and destructive one possessed by evil and savagery? (1)
(1) Leonard Koscianski, essay by Tom Heller (Newport Beach, CA: Newport Harbor Art Museum, 1984), p. 6.
American Paintings from the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, 2006. cat. no. 106, p. 244.