By Wojciech Tuleya
A Dried Lake is a title of Tomek Karabowicz’s painting. The real dried lake is in Karczunek, the artist’s home village located in eastern Poland. I was shown this picturesque wilderness when I visited him in summer.
Tomek left home when he was 15. It was the art teacher at the local primary school who had discovered his remarkable painting talent. He then studied at a well-known Secondary School of Arts in Zamosc where he had to board. According to what he says, a suffocating atmosphere at that school seems familiar to the one described by Musil in The Confusions of Young Törless. Tomek was an exemplary pupil – at that time he would paint very good landscapes, Kapist-style stills and nudes. This matter of his painting style disappeared when he got accepted to the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Since then his style has become recognizable: cold, lined with eroticism. Every single paining would impress with the amount of work it required. Tomek has mastered a cold veristic technique. His series of family paintings has been astounding as there is something Van Dyck-like about them even though they portray simple people from the Lublin region in Poland.
The circuit of Warsaw’s arty club scene quickly has become Tomek’s natural habitat. He would make portraits of the befriended barmen, DJs, and sometimes - for money, some businessmen he had got to know.
Every time when Tomek shows me yet another portrait of some club scene celebrity I can tell how deeply fascinated he is with his model. He often portrays the same person many times as if he was trying to exhaust his desire to capture the beauty of man’s body. Sometimes he runs out of patience and leaves unfinished hands or a barely sketched background. He says his goodbyes to the model as the next one is waiting in line. Tomek is a Narcissus – he often paints self-portraits to capture every new experience on his face.
Once he told me about a banquet he had been invited to. Nan Golding, a New York photographer who was just having an exhibition in Warsaw, attended this banquet together with a few painters and curators. Because of the importance of the main guest the party didn’t finished with the usual drinks in the Aurora pub. The posse continued partying until dawn in a luxurious Bristol Hotel – first in a hotel restaurant, and then in one of its apartments.
The guest list was a parade of sexual perversions and the stories about the devastations in a ‘ball room’ could only remind one of the post-gig rock stars ‘demolition’ parties. And right in the midst of this - Tomek, who will shortly return to his squat. He will spend the summer in Karczunek paiting hard marrows and swollen pumpkins brought to his studio straight from the field outside.