Thursday, 28 January 2010

Janusz Dukszta: Portrait of a Patron

Janusz Dukszta’s home is a small one-bedroom, book and art-filled apartment on Toronto’s Park Road. The floors of the apartment are carpeted with a patchwork of haphazardly overlapping rugs that form a thickly rumpled surface underfoot. The many bookcases have been adapted to serve as the support for a complex installation of framed works of art that are variously hinged or slide mounted or simply wire-hung on a nail. Despite the sheer number of books and art work, floor length north facing windows and mirrors in the living room and dining room make the apartment feel sun-lit and bright and larger than it really is. The vibrancy of the colours and layering of the texts, both imagistic and literary, produce a mildly intoxicating effect. One’s eye is constantly tempted to dart from a colour in a painting to the bloom of a flower, from a patch of fabric on a cushion to the title on the spine of a book.

His apartment is a shrine to his life and passions. A psychiatrist by profession, a politician by vocation, and a connoisseur and a collector by compulsion, the books and art work that surround him testify to a socially engaged personality and an adventurous intellect. His art collection features little that is abstract, impressionistic or conceptual, reflecting instead his interests in people and places. Of the hundreds of works of art collected by Dukszta over the years, there are 70 group and solo portraits depicting him by himself or with family and friends. Beginning with an early conté sketch from 1953 by Olaf von Brinkenhoff, through to Goran Petkovski’s 2007 photographic documentation of his convalescent physiotherapy sessions, Dukszta commissioned some 55 portraits of himself. As a group, the commissioned portraits describe a life, from student to young professional, to middle-aged politician, to maturity. These solo and group portraits are the subject of this exhibition.

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The formal portrait is associated with power and prestige and mostly, it forms our visual understanding of history’s influential people. The portraits of the men, women and children of the past are studied in their roles as princes, politicians, merchants and scholars and engaged as models of manners and self-awareness. We look to these images of our notable forbearers for evidence of a kinship to distant relatives with familiar human characteristics and their curious and exotic fashions. But in the age of democracy and electronic media, a painted portrait has come to seem something of an anachronism. A portrait painting now, rather than communicating power and authority, is more often than not commissioned on the occasion of a retirement or a leaving, to celebrate the more socially acceptable virtues of sacrifice, service, orderly transition and institutional continuity.

Photography played a role in supplanting the official portrait, and also spawned its own uniquely popular traditions of portraiture. Photography made it possible for people of average means to have wedding pictures, military portraits and even death portraits made as tokens of affection and as signifiers of family and clan relations. Few homes today are absent the requisite confirmation, graduation and formal athletic portraits that trace family ties and milestones. The photographic portrait was also the basis for a whole new industry created in the service of the identification and the tracking of individuals. Photographic portraits were early on adopted as a tool of political and social control for use in police records and passports. The methodical cataloguing of “mug shots” reducing the subject to the sum of racial characteristics and physiognomic variations, is now a humiliation experienced by everyone who wishes to obtain a driver’s license, bus pass, health insurance card or a job in a department store.

While the painted portrait was gradually ceding its official status to the photographic portrait, an avant-gardist or anti-academic portraiture began to emerge in its place. Emphasizing the thematic or formal aspects of an art work over likeness and character representation, the modern artist depicted colleagues and contemporaries not as individuals of destiny, but rather as contingent, fragile and ineffable subjects in time and space. Such portraits often held tenuous connections with natural appearances, increasingly submerging the subject beneath dense layers of surface references and abstraction. The inverse of the portrait produced in the context of a bourgeois class relationship, the modernist portrait traced a shared subjectivity between the artist and sitter.

Beyond personal vanity, sentimental attachment, functional identification or formal abstraction, portraits, whether painted, photographed or sculpted, still hold out the promise of something more. A portrait can puncture the presence of pride and appear to touch real human emotion. Portraits have the ability to reveal the light of consciousness that the viewer shares with the subject and in so doing probe the shared experience of subjectivity. Countenance and bearing, the quality of the gaze, skin colour and other marks of youth and maturity and aging speak to us about the engaged subject and the complex of passion and intellect, memory and intention, physical vigour and frailty that characterizes the human experience. 

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To a certain extent, the Dukszta collection visits all of the varieties of modern portraiture. As a patron, the default position for a commission is the bourgeois or aristocratic portrait – a dominant/submissive and inherently unequal relationship where the artist hopes to earn money by pleasing a patron. If there are layers of conscious and unconscious motivation underlying a private portrait commission, certainly the pleasure in having someone else perform such a luxury would be one of them. Yet the commissioned portraits suggest a more complex ongoing ironic and reflective stance vis-à-vis the traditional patron/artist relationship.

An early portrait by Paul Young from 1964 called Thalidomide features Dukszta dressed in a suit and tie on a solid yellow ground. Dukszta is depicted as if both of his arms had been amputated at his shoulders. This visual amputation is underscored by his apparently awkward backward tilt, as if he had been seated on a couch during the drafting of the image, which had been later removed in the final painting. The effect of removing the arms and the supporting seat and backrest makes Dukszta appear floating, handicapped and defenseless. Clearly this is a portrait that does not flatter the subject by making him feel more powerful or important, but rather seeks to illustrate the subject’s vulnerability and fragility. 

A second portrait by Young entitled “Van Dyck” (1965) executed in the following year features Dukszta this time with all his limbs. In contrast to Young’s first painting, Dukszta is depicted as svelte, self-confident and self-conscious – his right hand casually in his pocket, the left leaning on what appears to be a plinth. The portrait consciously recalls the full-length dual portrait of John Stuart and his brother, Bernard Stuart by 17th century portraitist Anthony Van Dyck. In the Van Dyck portrait, the handsome young princes are clearly masters of their domain, proudly displaying their silk sleeves and capes with their arms prominently akimbo. The Paul Young portrait makes reference to this ostentatious display by giving Dukszta’s right arm a red and green striped sleeve. Additionally, where he rests his left elbow on the support to his left, there appears a skull, and above the skull, the head of a dark-skinned, hairless and apparently tormented soul. Above this head is a third bust – a reiteration of the original portrait drawing of Dukszta. Behind the standing Dukszta and to his left is a full-length figure in profile – a spectre of melancholy and old age.

Paul Young’s full-length portrait of the handsome young man haunted by melancholy and the awareness of death is in the tradition of the memento mori. Young had approached Dukszta as an artist in search of a stimulating subject (and sale). While making reference to the bourgeois or aristocratic portrait, the painting is the artist’s free interpretation of his subject’s character. Dukszta attempted to influence the development of the portrait but met the resistance of an artist with a strong vision. In placing the silhouette of a gun behind the head of the Dukszta, the artist declared, “Of course you are going to kill yourself one day. There is no question in my mind.” Indeed, in this portrait a role reversal is in effect where the analyst has allowed himself to be the analyzed.

It is difficult to say when Dukszta got the bug – his subsequent history of commissions is marked by the close relationships he formed with a select group of artists who responded to his intellectual curiosity and adventurousness. He made the persona, and specifically his persona, a problematic subject to be explored through successive portraits and figurative allegories and he succeeded in making it the artist’s subject as well. In the early 1970's Dukszta was introduced to Phil Richards, at that time still a student at the Ontario College of Art. Dukszta had been introduced to Richards through friends who had discovered the artist in the annual art exhibition and sale in Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto. The two discovered that they shared a mutual admiration for the Italian Renaissance artist Piero della Francesca and formed a friendship that was the basis for many commissions over the next 30 years.

Richards’s first portrait of Dukszta was the drawing “Janusz as Byron” (1971). The portrait shows Dukszta with the long hair, sideburns and handlebar moustache characteristic of the early seventies. The profile pose recalls the dashing, over the cape sideways glance, characteristic of the Romantic period and especially those portraits of Lord Byron. The reference to Byron, the famous aristocrat, poet, lover and adventurer goes beyond the pose, however. That Dukszta and Richards would both see Dukszta as a dashing “homme engagé” like Byron, in the year that Dukszta is first elected to the Ontario Legislature, is not surprising. And like the feminized images of Byron, Richards gives Dukszta a coiffed and swept hair, long eye lashes and an attenuated and elongated form to focus the viewer’s attention not only on the dynamism of the personality but also on the beauty and delicacy of the features.

Richard’s portraits of the 1970s depict Dukszta in a variety of guises and postures, painted in a style characteristic of 70s figurative acrylic painting. Absent the surface blending and scumbling of Paul Young’s oil portraits in the 60s, the acrylic portraits have harder edges and broader areas of saturated flat colour. In this respect, Richard’s paintings of the 70s have an illustrational character that recall the British artist David Hockney or Canadian artist Charles Pachter. In these paintings Dukszta is variously depicted as lounging casually in the nude (“Naked One,” 1973), in a jacket and tie standing in front of a Roman style mosaic (“Ambivalences - Dionysus and Apollo,” 1977), or sitting cross legged and curiously diminished in an open collar shirt (“Janusz in his office,” 1977). Relaxed and comfortable in his own skin, Dukszta again invited the artist to reverse the tables and become the analyst in portraying him as the romantic adventurer, the laid back hipster, the conflicted bourgeois and as the vulnerable analyst.

It is interesting to contrast the Richards’s portraits from the 70's with the silver gelatin photographic portrait “Janusz in a Thoughtful Mood,” by Jim Vacola (1997), which employs some of the conventions of modern photographic portraiture: the causal posture with the back of the right hand distractedly resting in the chin seems a so much more conservative image – or at least an image created in the service of acceptable contemporary electoral politics. The Vacola portrait tells us that the subject is relatively young and modern, unpretentious, serious and thoughtful man – but little more.

The end of Dukszta’s political career in 1981 coincided in Toronto with the emergence of a new generation of artists. Loosely gathered under the international banner of Neo-Expressionism, it was a generational response to the reductivist, formalist and academic aesthetics of the post-war generation of artists and critics. Neo-Expressionism represented a return to portraying the human body and the recognizable world, influenced in measure by the example of the German Expressionists of the first decade of the 20th century. This renewed interest in representation helped to refocus interest on the work of earlier figurative artists, as well as opening the way for the consideration of outsider art, non western art and other non academic traditions. In Toronto, this movement was given form primarily through the group of artists who called themselves ChromaZone. Formed in 1981 by figurative painters Rae Johnson, H.P. Marti, Andy Fabo, Oliver Girling, Sybil Goldstein, Tony Wilson and Stephen Niblock, ChromaZone energized and influenced the Toronto and Canadian art world for the following decade.

The sudden proliferation of figurative artists in the early 1980s was an opportunity for Dukszta to engage not only with a new generation of painters, but also to work with painters who were prepared to consider the contemporary possibilities within the genre of the portrait commission. Dukszta commissioned paintings and portraits by several of the artists associated with ChromaZone including Steven Andrews, Cathy Daley, Andy Fabo, Oliver Girling, Michael Merrill, Evan Penny, Rae Johnson and Tony Wilson. Dukszta was introduced to the members of the group of artists initially through Herb Tookey, co-owner of the Cameron House hotel and tavern, which became both a home and meeting place for many of the new generation of artists. There Dukszta met the ChromaZone artist Rae Johnson whose controversial work at the time was on exhibit on the tavern’s walls. Dukszta responded to the psychosexual themes being explored by Johnson and bought a triptych from the show. His support for the young artists was moral and financial – both buying their work and inviting them to his dinner salons to dine with his progressive friends and colleagues in politics, media and the arts.

Dukszta’s withdrawal from politics and the return of figurative painting may have been a happy alignment of the stars. Less than 12 years after having arrived as an immigrant to Canada he had achieved the distinction of being an elected member of the Ontario Legislature. The end of his political career marked his return to private life as a psychiatrist and to the possibilities of a less restrictive personal lifestyle. With the new generation of artists he was able to explore issues of identity and to share his social, psychological and aesthetic enthusiasms.

“Portrait – Janusz” (1984) by Stephen Andrews contains some of these themes. The vinyl hanging is dominated by a loosely rendered outline drawing of an empty suit and tie. At the level of the suit’s leg is a smaller rendering of another empty suit, this time handling (and being observed handling) two nude figures. At the bottom of the painting is a rough outline drawing of Janusz, naked from the chest up, holding up his left hand with what appears to be a stigmata. Bisecting the painting diagonally is a large diamond back rattlesnake. It is hard not to see this image as one of personal liberation – a release from the straight jacket of public appearance and social propriety and an open investigation with the artist examining Dukszta’s sexual, spiritual and social identity.

Andy Fabo’s painting “Janusz and Laocoon” (1984) depicts Dukszta as an analyst and as an observer. Alluding to Greek mythology and classical art, the painting is an illustration of the psychiatrist at work, observing a patient wrestling with a demon serpent. Oliver Girling also dealt with the theme of inner demons, this time picturing Dukszta, like Jacob, wrestling with his own angel or demon doppelganger in the painting “Warring Against Himself” (1985). Another painting by Girling, “Impostor” (1989), addresses the issue of identity, where Dukszta is depicted holding a television remote control while looking over his shoulder at a video shoot featuring a naked reclining male. Dividing the top half of the painting from the bottom half are large block letters spelling out the word “IMPOSTOR,” suggesting the inauthenticity of a double life. 

Probably the most significant interpretation of Dukszta’s life after politics is Michael Merrill’s adaptation of Hogarth’s “The Rake’s Progress,” into a series of three large canvases in 1984. Clearly, Dukszta was no Thomas Rakewell, (Hogarth’s protagonist), neither having inherited a fortune nor having squandered one in such a spectacular fashion. Yet, Dukszta is both fond of recounting his humble arrival in Canada leading to his ascent to membership in Ontario’s political class, and reflective about the events leading up to the end of that career. In this context, having Merrill depict him as a modern day Thomas Rakewell is both self-deprecating ironic.

Merrill’s three scenes are “In His Glory,” “The Last Supper” and “Janusz in Bedlam.” “In His Glory” is modeled on the painting “The Heir,” where Hogarth depicted Thomas Rakewell being fitted for a new suit of clothes during the reading of his father’s will. Merrill depicts Dukszta in a well-tailored pinstripe suit in the process of being painted by his portraitists from the ChromaZone group, Oliver Girling, Brian Burnett and Rae Johnson. Two additional references in this work seem to suggest an undercurrent of disquiet. While being immortalized by his “court painters,” Dukszta thumbs a book by Proust. Dukszta has read Marcel Proust’s “Remembrance of Things Past” more than once, identifying with the novel’s examination of the world of manners and social climbing in late 19th century Paris. Also in the painting, looking over Janusz’s shoulder is the face of the existential writer and philosopher Jean Paul Sartre, the author of “Nausea” and “Being and Nothingness.” Sartre’s existential ideas defined human beings as diminished gods, victims of their own freedom, where instead of a judgmental god, we instead mete out the most exquisite punishment to each other, as we probe the memory of our sins, desires, and past hurts.

The second canvas in the series “The Last Supper,” depicts eleven people, including Dukszta, around a table. The table in the painting seems to be either ovular or round, but the figures grouped around it are all facing toward the picture plane as though arranged on a proscenium stage. The eleven member group and the horizontal organization are really the only features of the painting which recall Leonardo’s “Last Supper.” The image portrays a rather happy dinner party with slightly too much wine, but that too may have been reason enough for Dukszta to give it religious references. The work seems to have been a loosely based conflation of two paintings by Hogarth, “The Orgy” and “The Morning Lévee,” both of which are quoted as hanging pictures in the background right and left of the painting and both of which comment on hedonistic excess and indulgence – quite the opposite of imminent mortal sacrifice.

The “disciples” in this case are the important members of Dukszta’s family and social life at one of their many dinner parties. Dukszta, in the centre right of the painting, has one arm around his wife Janet Churnin. To his right are his brother Andrzej and Maureen Duffy and Basia and Andrzej Jordan Rozwadowski and Maureen Duffy. To his left are Janusz’s sister-in-law Annette Dukszta and Frank and Marilyn Vasilkioti. Winston and Mary Jane Young are at opposite ends of the painting – a compositional solution that was resented by the Youngs and caused a rupture in the friendship. Mary Jane Young asked that she and Winston be altered or removed from the painting but neither Janusz nor Michael Merrill was prepared to change the painting and the friendship was irreparably damaged. Such was the closeness of the social group orbiting around Janusz Dukszta and his brother Andrzej that it had the power to generate such a strong emotional response from a fictitious seating arrangement.

The final painting in the series, “Janusz in Bedlam,” based on Hogarth’s “Bedlam,” is a dystopic vision of Dukszta’s last days as mad, naked and despondent, surrounded by a collage of images of the suffering of Christ. The tragic outcome that this last painting in the series represents recalls the Van Dyck portrait by Paul Young ten years earlier, where the artist prophesied a dark future for his patron. The allusions in the painting to Christ’s crucifixion also recall Stephen Andrews’s painting of the naked Dukszta displaying the stigmata – a theme of Christian symbolism that would be revisited in a number of major commissions by Phil Richards in the 1990s. “Bedlam” remains strangely anomalous – the first two paintings of the series seeming to far better characterize the stylish and social Janusz Dukszta that most people encounter. However, “Bedlam” is critical to understanding Dukszta’s desire to examine, and have others examine, what he calls his dark side.

Following the completion of the Rake’s Progress, Dukszta proposed to Merrill to undertake a series of paintings of scenes from the life of Christ. Merrill’s initial reluctance to take on the commission eventually gave way to Dukszta’s enthusiasms and Merrill produced a series of six canvases depicting the Baptism of Christ, the Sermon on the Mount, the Temptation of Christ, the Agony in the Garden, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. Unlike the Rake’s Progress, the person of Janusz Dukszta is largely absent from the series, Christ being imagined here instead as a young and physically fit rock star. Dukszta, however, makes a cameo appearance as the voyeuristic reflection in the pool enjoying the seduction and temptation of handsome young Jesus.

Religious allegory and group portraits of family and friends played an important role in Dukszta’s commissions. Dukszta credits his brother Andrzej as a collaborator and “enabler” in his art collecting, recalling that is was Andrzej who suggested the early portrait of the two brothers by Barbara Mercer (1963). Andrzej Dukszta and Barbara Mercer were friends and the artist had asked Andrzej to sit for a portrait. Andrzej, however, insisted that it should be a double portrait of the two brothers. The bond between the brothers was very close and over the years purchased and commissioned artwork was presented by Janusz both as gifts for Andrzej and his family, and as a form of repayment for outstanding debts. Janusz commissioned Rae Johnson to paint a portrait of the two brothers in “Janusz Sitting on Sofa, Andrzej Behind,” (1982) and Phil Richards painted “Family Portrait at Andrzej’s” (1985), depicting Andrzej and his children Monika, Witold and Tala with a porphyry bust of Janusz. “Two Brothers Take a Moonlight Stroll” (1990), also by Richards, depicts the close relationship shared by the two men, while sister-in-law Annette gazes out across the city and her son Adam sits in the lower right hand corner of the canvas. 

Motivated to reprise Michael Merrill’s “Last Supper,” Dukszta began talking to friends about a “Lamentation,” a reinterpretation of the Botticelli “Lamentation” in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich. It would be a large religious allegorical commission featuring the deceased Dukszta lamented by his close family and friends. Tony Wilson, Dukszta’s companion at the time was to have carried out the commission, but disagreements over the pace of the development of the commission led Dukszta to instead ask New York based-artist Yves Tessier to take over. Tessier worked closely with Dukszta’s friend Susan Teskey to map and compose the various significant people in the Dukszta orbit, also conscripting Andrzej’s daughters Monika and Tala to complete the four panel, 17 foot long mural which was painted in the living room of Dukszta’s apartment.

The “Lamentation” by Yves Tessier (1990) depicts Dukszta laid out in the middle of the painting, dramatically foreshortened with his head in the near foreground and his feet, caressed by Mary Magdalene (Susan Teskey), extending into the imaginary space of picture, while thirteen other friends and family observe the scene. Picking up from the religious themes he had developed with Stephen Andrews, Michael Merrill and Phil Richards, Dukszta had decided he wanted to be dead in the painting. In subsequent years Dukszta commissioned Tessier to do two more works representing the Duksza orbit. “Eight Heads” (1998) is a series of small painted terra cotta busts of varying scale representing Janusz, Andrzej and Annette Dukszta, Eleanor Beattie, nephew Adam, Janet Churnin and Jack VanDuyvenbode. A recently completed commission of small al fresco portraits in plaster by Tessier features the profiles of Janusz, Adam, Annette, Eleanor, Susan Teskey and Max Streicher (2009).

In the 1980s, Phil Richards’s style had evolved from his Hockneyesque broad flat areas of saturated colour characteristic of his work of the in the 1970s, into figures that began to appear more sculpted and spaces that were perpectivally deeper and more dramatic. His earlier, simplified rendering gave way to a photo realistic attention to detail and surfaces. These developments in Richard’s style appealed to Dukszta’s interest in Renaissance and Baroque art history and his increasing appetite for more, and more elaborate commissions, beginning a series of commissions quoting art historical styles and allegorical programs. Notable in this context is the portrait of Dukszta entitled “Janusz Reflection” (1985), quoting directly Raphael’s “Madonna della Sedia,” executed in the same year as “Portrait of Andrzej’s Family.” In “Altared States” (1990), Dukszta, the traveler and art connoisseur and fan of all things carnal is depicted as a 17th century aristocrat, standing in the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria before Bernini’s famous sculptural and architectural installation, “The Ecstasy of St. Theresa.” The constructed painting has its own light source and is remarkable for the rich rendering of the scagliola in the flanking pilasters and entablature and the rendering of the great folds of the apparently yellow cape, which is in reality, a raincoat. In “Janusz as Bernini” it appears that Dukszta has been interrupted from his reading of the guide book to the artwork, to turn and glance at the viewer, while a red curtain appears to have been pulled aside to afford him a private viewing of Bernini’s strange and erotic altar piece. 

Adaptations of well-known scenes from Renaissance and Baroque art continued to be an important part of Richards’s commissions through the 1990s. “Janusz and Jack” (1995), is a play on Bernini’s “Ecstasy of St. Theresa,” replacing St. Theresa with Dukszta and the angel of love with Janusz’s friend Jack VanDuyvenbode. “Roman Holiday” (1995) references Raphael’s “School of Athens” (including a cameo of the artist seated with his sketch pad in the lower left corner.) The major work of this time is a hinged, two-sided, polyptych by Richards entitled “Six Scenes from the life of the Virgin” (1997) that features scenes of “Mary and St. Anne,” “The Presentation at the Temple,” “The Annunciation,” “The Marriage at Cana” and “The Pieta.” Modeling the figures are Janusz’s friends Chloe Griffin as Mary and her mother Krystyne Griffin as St. Anne. Friends Jack VanDuyvenbode modeled the naked angel Gabriel and Alex Williams the business-suited Jesus of Nazareth and the Christ in Pieta respectively, while Janusz and Andrzej model themselves.

“Scenes from the Life of the Virgin” is the most elaborate and richly appointed of Dukszta’s commissions. Each panel is eccentric in its shape – constructed to accommodate the details of the images within and individually framed and gilded. Each scene is set in lush contemporary Edenic environments and interiors filled with white hollyhocks and lilies, scarlet satins, cerulean blue skies and gilded surfaces. The biblical characters are modeled by young, physically attractive people, whose contemporary nakedness sexualizes the otherwise religious Christian narrative. With the side panels fully opened, the work is dominated by large centre panel “Annunciation.” A blonde and naked angel Gabriel, seen from behind, reveals himself to the naked Virgin. Startled, she vainly clutches her breast in an attempt to cover herself. In the right panel, in a reconfiguration of the Marriage at Cana, Mary, dressed in a strapless evening gown, empties the last drop from a bottle of Veuve Cliquot champagne, while being watched by Jesus in the person of a dark haired gentleman in a suit. The side panel closes to reveal the climactic Pieta. Mary supports the dead Christ between her legs while the scene is illuminated by Andrzej, holding a lantern and revealed by Janusz, pulling back a scarlet robe. The lantern as the single light source intensifies the visual drama, sharply illuminating the features of Mary, Jesus, the two brothers and the broad expanse of the dead Christ’s flesh. Everything else falls off sharply into darkness. Revealed is the flesh of the mother and of the son – the central figures of the Christian drama, seen as objects of worship and carnal desire.

Around the turn of the millennium, the portraits of Dukszta begin to change. They cease representing the dynamic, mercurial, mischievous and feline character that we have learned to know from portraits past and instead, begin to profile the aging subject. “Janusz as Father,”(1997) by Phil Richards, “Janusz Deconstructed,” (2001) by Fabrizio Perozzi and Bryan McBurney’s photograph “Determination” (2005) are portraits which appear to contrast the drive to live with the inevitable process of aging. It is hard too, not to see the photographs of Vincenzo Pietropaolo, “Janusz and His Books,” (2005) and Bryan McBurney “The Light Shines on Janusz,” (2006) as expressions of saudade, elegies to the acquisitions and accomplishments of a brighter past. 

Dukszta’s life threatening illness in 2006 and his painfully slow recovery is documented by Phil Richards in “In the Hospital” (2006), where an apparently impatient and glum Dukszta reads a newspaper in a hospital bed. On the bedside table is a vase of flowers, a tomato and an exercise weight. His long illness and convalescence caused his muscles to atrophy significantly requiring substantial follow-up exercise and physiotherapy. A session in his home was documented by Goran Petkovski in a series of 15 black and white photographs in “The Physiotherapy Session” (2007). Looking at the ravages visited upon both the body and the will in these photographs, one cannot help but wonder if this is the same “Bedlam” Dukszta had in mind some 22 years before.

Over five decades Janusz Dukszta commissioned 70 portraits of himself, his immediate family and extended family of friends and companions. It is a body of portraiture that is a very personal record of the man, the friends and family that surround him, and the ideas and passions that accompanied him through the stages of his life. The commissions are a primary subject, but are also the artifacts of Dukszta’s personal, professional and intellectual engagements. They are a testament to his commitment to aesthetic engagement – an engagement with the artist and to a life informed and reflected by art. His accumulated commissions record the succeeding stages of his life’s passage, documenting his aspirations and fears, his desires and his melancholies, and the significant people who have played a role in it. With the artists he adored and debated and entertained, and with his family and friends as willing accomplices, Dukszta became the co-author of the artistic program that is his life.

Gordon Hatt, January 2010


1. Janusz Dukszta was born in 1932 in Lida, Poland. His father fled Poland for Great Britain after the Russian annexation in 1939 to be joined by the family in London after the war in 1946. He studied medicine in Dublin, Ireland. After finishing his studies he immigrated to Canada in 1959 where he specialized in psychiatry at the University of Toronto. Dukszta was the NDP member of provincial parliament in the Ontario Legislature for the west-end Toronto riding of Parkdale from 1971 to 1981. Following the 1981 election he returned to work at the Queen Street Mental Health Centre in Toronto.
2. The best known images of the early abstract genre are Matisse’s portraits and busts of Jeanette for example, Portrait of Madame Matisse with a Green Stripe, 1905, Statens Museum for Kundst, Copenhagen, and Picasso’s Portrait of Daniel Henry Kahnweiler, 1910, Art Institute of Chicago.
3. Paul Young was born in Toronto and attended the Ontario College of Art from 1955 to 1958. An earlier portrait of Dukszta by Paul Young, Thalidomide, set the stage for the Van Dyck portrait.
4. Cf. Anthony Van Dyck, Lord John Stuart and his Brother, Lord Bernard Stuart, National Gallery, London, ca. 1638.
5. The theme of melancholy is underscored here with the ominous silhouette of the gun behind the head of the spectre. According to Dukszta, Young declared that Dukszta’s fate would be a death by suicide, and painted this reference into the portrait. 
6. The memento mori (Latin: "Remember you will die") is a genre of art featuring symbols of death and transience. Memento mori references in art trace back to the Middle Ages and become a reoccurring theme in 17th century painting: cf. Nicholas Poussin, Et in Arcadia Ego, 1637, Museé du Louvre, and frequently found in Dutch still life painting such as Pieter Claesz , Still Life with a Skull and a Writing Quill, 1628, Metropolitan Museum of Art. 
7. Communicated orally by Janusz Dukszta.
8. “The gallery's home was in Oliver Girling's studio space at 320 Spadina Avenue. For the next two years, ChromaZone defiantly enforced their unusual mandate: to show figurative painting, practice inclusivity, be artist-supported and above all be spontaneous, alive and fun. Donna Lypchuk, Chromaliving, unpublished manuscript, 2009. 
9. Herb Tookey was a PhD candidate in psychology and a student of Dukszta’s and later part of the full time staff at the Queen Street Mental Health Centre.
10. Rae Johnson’s paintings were based on Polaroids made during a Halloween party at the Cameron in 1981. The paintings were installed in the back room a month later. Ursula Pflug wrote an article in the second issue of NOW magazine entitled "Art and Artsies meet at the Cameron," and the exhibition was reviewed by Jean Randolph in Vanguard magazine. The series of eight paintings depicted the band “The Government,” and Tim Jocelyn and Andy Fabo dancing and a triptych representing Oliver Girling and a female friend posing nude upstairs in the Cameron. The triptych was purchased Dukszta and installed in a prominent place in his apartment.
11. Represented in “Lamentation” are Tala Dukszta, Thade Rachwa≈, Janet Churnin, Jean Lee, Witold Dukszta, Vince and Julianna Pietropaolo, the artist Yves Tessier, Susan Teskey, Anthony McFarlane, Eleanor Bettie, Andrzej Dukszta, Monika Dukszta, Adam Dukszta and Stanis≈awa Dukszta.
12. Uncharacteristically, when asked why, the analyst is at a complete loss to explain Communicated orally by Janusz Dukszta.

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