Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 4, 2002
Haunted by Christ's face
Polish painter's dream embodied in painting in Holy Rosary Church
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
From the time Bogdan Konikowski saw the suffering face of Christ in a dream, he knew he had to paint it.
Sleepless nights marred by thousands of faces going through his mind later produced a painting of the crucified Christ, now hanging on the wall of the Polish parish of Holy Rosary.
He saw the face in 1997 when his life was in shambles. Before that face he saw familiar faces in his dreams. But every once in awhile an unfamiliar face would show, Bogdan told the WCR.
He could not make out whose face it was. One thing he remembered, the face was in pain.
"It was coming to me every night and the face was in pain," said the artist, who is originally from Gdansk, Poland.
One night the face came with a body. "It was Christ . . . in really deep pain," said Konikowski, 54.
That night, Konikowski realized that he was one of the many people who made Christ's pain worse. "I was hurting him, that's why the face came to me."
"I was in a dark deep hole in my life," he said. For some 30 years he did not believe in God and was opposed to all religion although he was raised Catholic.
He felt guilt, which he never felt before. After that night, Konikowski experienced renewal and accepted Christ back into his life. "I felt like a newborn baby. I became a new man that night," he said.
Realizing that he is getting older, he thought that it was time to turn his life around and do something good not only for himself but for other people.
"It was a radical change and since then life has been beautiful," he shared.
Years before his conversion, his life was in total mess. He became separated from his first wife and children and did not paint for almost 10 years.
"I lost the feel, I lost the touch," he said. But after the dark night of his soul, he regained two of the most important things in his life - his faith and the passion for painting.
While attending Mass at Holy Rosary, Konikowski noticed the bare wall of the church. "It was simply white and there was nothing on it. It was waiting for me for so many years."
Having been presented the opportunity to do something for the parish, Konikowski painted the crucified Christ. This six-foot-by-nine feet oil on canvass piece is his way of saying "thank you" to God for giving him a new life.
Another factor that inspired him was when he heard a radio commentator saying that sacral painting is dying. "That also encouraged me to paint that piece."
The artistic inspiration of the painting was influenced by Rembrandt. In his perspective it is difficult to paint Christ who lived 2,000 years ago. He went through several paintings of the crucified Christ by various artists seeking inspiration.
Rembrandt's Jesus inspired him but the details of the face were from the image he saw in his dreams years ago.
For eight months, Konikowski worked on the painting and Jan. 13 it was unveiled at the Baptism of his son, Bohun.
"I'm really thankful to God for all his blessings, for the good health of my family, for all my talents . . . for not allowing me to waste my talents."
The painting is his reflection of how ungrateful to God people can become in spite of all that he has done.
The urge to paint came to Konikowski when he a young boy. He would sometimes skip school to paint all day.
"Painting brings some feelings from inside out, just like musicians, composers, poets. It's born inside of you."
Since he picked up his brush in 1997 and began painting again, he has staged several exhibitions in Alberta. Profits from one of the shows he did were donated to a foundation set up in memory of Magda Tomczak, a 14-year-old girl, who was murdered in 1988 by a man on parole.
Later, in 1998, he met his wife, Izabella, who is also an artist. Izabella, an art instructor at Grant McEwan College, went to a graduate school of art in New York. She was planning to establish a career in the U.S. but something pulled her back to her hometown of Edmonton.
Two days after she came back to the city, the two met and later got married. The couple have two children, Kasia, two and half, and Bohun, 10 months.
Besides his passion for painting, Konikowski also does a radio show, Angel of the Lord, every Sunday on CKER 101.9 FM. The show is directed towards Polish people, who can't go to church.
His paintings can be viewed at www.artiza.comand some are on display at The Art Zone at 8105-104 St.