Marek worked at the Polish section of BBC Radio for decades as an art critic. That occupation, along with the books he wrote on the subject and actually being an artist himself, meant he was, unsurprisingly, quite opinionated about it all.
I don’t know if The Times ever published the letter he quotes. I hope so, as then there’d be a written record of my dad’s use of English, rather than just my translation. Throughout his memoirs, he quotes several letters he wrote to The Times and The Observer. He was a bit of a busybody by the looks of things. – AZ
The year is 1965. The years pass with reckless speed. I don’t have time to write memoirs, I have to paint.
The scale of my paintings grows spontaneously, but their content is becoming less and less expressionistic. From romanticism to classicism? I don’t know. Either way, I increasingly get the urge to paint extensive spaces of luminous colour – and I’m becoming less interested in texture and the physical structure of paint.
I’m also still doing the “Round the Galleries” programme for the Polish section of BBC Radio. I do reviews of London exhibitions and critical assessments of them. It’s interesting to me. Owing to this, I have to, how does one put it, keep my finger on the pulse. Discussing art amongst the likes of Robert Melville and Marghanita Laski is driving me to despair.
I sat and wrote a letter to The Times:
“Dear Sir, yesterday I was the most amazed I’ve been in quite some time due to a discussion on BBC Radio 3… Art is not and has never been mainly entertainment. It demands effort on the part of the consumer as well as their active participation. New forms of art are often difficult and beyond the pale for the average viewer or listener armed with outdated criteria. They have to drag themselves to a new stage of comprehension – which is obviously no fun. The goal of all art, including theatre, is not to entertain but to broaden the horizons of our perceptions and to deepen our understanding of reality. As to the matter of financing art, the opponents of subsidisation using public money should keep in mind that in ancient Egypt the state paid artists a fixed wage, while in ancient Greece they were exempt from all taxes. The results of those policies speak for themselves.
“Certain things, such as waterworks, sewer systems and opera, have to be subsidised because they are not, unfortunately, commercially profitable. They count as fundamental needs of a civilised people. Art is something without which would only lead to great moral losses. In other words, as Herbert Read said, if art dies out, humanity will return to a state of barbarism.”