Interview by Katarzyna Woźniak
My works of art comprise the search of unity in multiplicity, of your own individual voice, while maintaining the elusiveness and lightness of the form carried by Eros. Daniel Zarewicz on the powerful effect of the classics, maturing to creation and the courage to find your voice.
Who am I meeting today?
I am an artist. The greater the artist, the greater the sensibility. I create matter, but let us stick to the spirit. I like my collages, because I have managed to find the right formula of self-expression. They are as light as the Japan calligraphy, but they are not copies of anything. They reflect my manual dexterity and the great amount of inner work I have done.
Why the classics?
I understand you ask about my education and the way to creation. It took me over 20 years to build the intellectual foundation of what I do now. I have always had big ambitions. However, they have never dimmed my conviction about the inner imperative to create visual things. When I published my doctoral dissertation in 2017 I felt this was the end. That I no longer wanted to work on notes, methodology. That I was ready to create my own things.
I am a child of the Palace of the Youth – the jumping section of sport acrobatics, I was brought up in the swimming pool. As the high school graduation exams were approaching, I felt a hunger for knowledge. I felt that I had to study something unique, something that would satisfy my desire for cognition. I dedicated the whole time of my classical studies to work on the Greek culture, which resulted in, among others, the first Polish translation of the so-called Orphic Hymns. In 1996 I met professor Stefan Swieżawski, a philosopher and a historian of philosophy, who had a fundamental effect on my development. When I was in my first year of university, he was 89 and I was 19. This was love at first sight on my part. Like the encounter of Plato and Socrates, as in our case it also lasted 8 years.
A good teacher teaches how to love and a bad one how to hate.
Like in Michelangelo’s painting, I touched people who taught me to love wisdom. It began with professor Swieżawski. Philosophy was for him a tool of building wisdom and sensibility. Another person who has a fundamental influence on my sensibility is Zbigniew Mikołejko. He is a rock man among the academics, and being that he is both very delicate and uncompromising. Contact with such a mind gives you a sense of freedom. Unexpected and beautiful was for me the encounter with Jerzy Prokopiuk – a wise man, who, at 89 has the energy of a 20-year-old. Włodzimierz Langauer, my supervisor, is undoubtedly a master. He has never tried to limit my freedom and affect my individuality. This genuine philologist and historian very patiently tolerated many of my actions which were far from academic. I eluded him all the time and he accepted it. In retrospect, I get the feeling we were two separate planets which, nevertheless, had a common gravity system – the ancient Greek culture and the passion for science – which made them influence each other. Once we got out of the student-master relationship, we became friends. And now the most important: Kinga Karpati, my partner, my kindest, unfailing friend, with whom everything has its dimension, meaning, taste and sense. I believe that the power of my works results to a great extent from experiencing these friendships and encounters.
It seems that encounter, as a phenomenon, is a meaningful element of your life.
I feel honored. Not many of us are so lucky to meet such fascinating, different personalities in one city throughout so many years and to be with them so closely. The most significant encounter of this year was with Wojtek Tuleya. I had waited for it for 21 years. I mean the real encounter, as we have known each other for a long time. Maybe Wojtek does not even know that it was Hermes who made him go on my website on that day and see the publication of a collage collection. Inexplicable, but it actually happened. This is exactly what fascinates me about meeting people who change our life. There is this term kairos – the moment when you meet the right person or the thing that was supposed to happen at that exact moment happens. Then there is anagnorisis – the recognition of the god or the god speaking through a human. This is what fascinates me about encounters with such figures as Prokopiuk, Mikołejko, Swieżawski, my Kinga or Wojtek Tuleya.
The encounter with Galeria Art needs a close-up.
I met Tuleya in the late ‘90s. I was not even twenty when I hung around the gallery – it was already one of the most prestigious ones at that time. I felt that this was the world which I wanted and could belong to, but this would require time and work – finding my way. One is for sure, I never had any doubts as to the fact that it was exactly Him that I wanted to work with. His talent is not only about the ability to sell paintings, but to select, out of many artists, those who people truly want to have near them. For him paintings are not only a product – they are a work of art, so they have their place in the hierarchy of needs and desires. Today it is difficult to imagine a Galeria Art without Wojtek as the manager, it actually seems impossible.
It is such a sweet talk now.
Perhaps all these years had to pass for Wojtek to notice my works and for me to mature to this encounter. What is particularly important for me is the fact that he appreciated not only the collages, but also my creative attitude and way. Wojtek and Małgosia Czyńska were at my place on the day the works were spotted on my wall on Facebook. It was like an earthquake for me.
Social seed corn.
Forty-one artists exhibit in Galeria Art and two hundred would like to. These collages cover long years of my inner work. The fact that Wojtek appreciated not only the collages but also my creative attitude is of particular meaning to me.
Awaited, worked, and lived.
Awaited perhaps no, as I follow the rule saying that if you do not know what to do, learn. There is a master, but the student must be ready.
While meeting somebody extraordinary, the man can or even should assume that he meets a god, but he can never be sure of that. You notice a man, seize the moment, you can count that the inner investment will bring a return, but you cannot be motivated by your interest. If you follow a person not out of calculation, you can say that you deserve them. In the psychological, existential, rather than possessive, sense. Their occurrence has a fundamental effect on our existence, our fate.
What is it that you are looking for in art?
Authenticity, uncompromisingness and joy at the deepest level. I respect courageous explorations within yourself and beyond.
It is a bit too easy to create these days and apart from it – you have to have something in you to create out of it.
Does art come from experience?
Or even drama. I heard that Ola Waliszewska used to paint with gouache because she could not afford oil paints. There are theories saying that big art comes out of poverty. Affluence makes the artist capricious. It is as if you had five computers and did not know which one to use for work. An artist should have where to derive from internally. At the graduation exhibitions at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw you see the same boring things every year. Art should come from inside the man – his experiences, fixations, weaknesses, cognitive and emotional processes. Art is not doing homework, but being yourself as much as it is possible.
For me an artist proves himself not with a list of individual and group exhibitions in which he participated to show his activity. In reality he happens to show the same works all the time. It is the emotions he evokes that should be his weapon in the fight for attention. The place where he exhibits his works is also meaningful. That is why I feel honored by Wojtek, who is for me the personalization of a genuine merchant – a collector, salesman, but above all a subtle critic and a sophisticated connoisseur of art.
How much of the Greek experience does your art contain?
What I have derived from that culture is the combination of art, sensibility and religiousness. These processes are beautifully described in Realność bogów by Wiesław Juszczak. This is also connected with the colors. Not only those of the reliefs – it is about perception in the colors of the Greeks’ intellectual sensibility, great liberalism to the life of humans in the context of the life of gods, diversity, changeability of shapes, trust in intuition. I try to avoid repeatability in my collages and the consistent changeability along with topic unpredictability are my power. My works of art comprise the search of unity in multiplicity, of your own individual voice, while maintaining the elusiveness and lightness of the form carried by Eros.
In his interview The Brutality of Fact Bacon said that he wished he had learnt the Ancient Greek. This is because it is the Greek culture that reflects best what Bacon’s art reflects: the concurrent power and weakness of the man, submission to the unpredictable fate. His characters manifest misery and ecstasy, fulfillment and hunger. The Greeks saw the man torn between the fear of unlimited, omnipotent gods that are watching us and the desire for his own power and happiness as an entity. The Greek culture shows the man limited by the closed range of actions – trying not to make the gods angry on the one hand and to achieve the status of a hero on the other. Ancient art was an attempt to add divinity to the life of humans on the earth, to make it look like the man may communicate with his divine nature. The scale and extent of those attempts and realizations are absolutely unachievable today.
How do you see your role?
My art is supposed to give energy, enhance the mood and blood circulation. For me the basic aim of art is to provide mental power and sensual pleasure. Eros is both a god and power – it turns our life upside down. It gives self-fulfillment. It touches not only the bodily sphere, but is also the beginning of a completely new order of the universe. We experience it thanks to a fulfilled love. It was thanks to it that I started to create, opened myself, and became free. Kinga said to me once: “You are a phenomenon, remember that you must nothing”. By saying that she gave me freedom. In the case of a deep feeling, it is the irrational and heart-driven, unconditional choice of a human by another human what counts. When we experience the extraordinariness of an encounter, a sense of great power, on the verge of omnipotence, is born. It follows from the fact that the other person puts your work first, as she knows very well that this is the only thing that can make you truly fulfilled. The freedom of thought, creation, and action – it is the most beautiful gift true lovers can give to each other. Sometimes I quote a tragedy of Euripides, which says that god is the moment (i.e. a state, a sense, an instant) when lovers meet. The mere moment of illumination which accompanies mutual recognition of two people and the accompanying joy can be considered a god. I feel it all the time with Kinga. If it is so, you can speak of a meeting two interpenetrating parts rather than two halves.
So art is a kind of emanation of divinity in the human being.
Yes, it is. You asked me who I was. An artist whose sensibility – and it is a great, divine power – makes him turn it into creativity. We live in a system according to which if you break a wall in a gallery without a diploma of an art school, you are a vandal and if you have the paper – you are an artist. For me being an artist is the moment when you stop calculating and start to act unconditionally, in spite of the times and the fate. When your sensibility demands to be materialized. Whether someone notices it afterwards depends both on the Greek gods and your own reflexes which will not let you miss an opportunity. In this case human intelligence is the catalyst of divine plans. I am a Doctor of Philosophy by education, as this feeds my mind, but I am an artist by calling, as only creation allows me to arouse, satisfy and comfort the desires of the body and the passions of the soul. My favorite classic Zen Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki is the author of the maxim: “Great works are done without calculating and thinking”.
You said that sometimes collages are made in big quantities at once. Is cutting them an addiction?
Yes and no. This is above all a sensual pleasure. As Gemini (born on the same day as Andrzej Wróblewski and Jan Berdyszak), I do not want to be particularly attached to anything, the mere word “attachment” implies limitation, but on the other hand – I do them passionately – in hundreds. This is like singing, dancing, a purely sensual joy which is hard to refrain from. Maybe not the mere necessity to multiply collages but the moment I am doing it is an addiction. The same thing is with love – when somebody uncovers you to the world, you want to sing about it, create and share the good message. Then the energy never ends.
While making the collages, do you render the gods the things that are gods’?
First of all, I render me. My senses. Because it is a sensual activity – like sculpturing, but on paper. It is about the amount and intensity; you know your body tells you “no”, you must get up because of the cramps, the heart, because it’s not good for you if you sit for too long, but the pleasure is so great that you do not think about it.
That is why it is so difficult to quit an addiction. Because the body is relatively easy to satisfy.
It is not the physical creation that is an addiction, but the moment when I am doing it. Restoring an object in memory and creating it, as if, anew fascinates me. Zdzisław Nitka and Pablo Picasso would say that, whereas a painting is made quickly, it is the thinking that comes before that may take a long time.
Do you feel insatiate?
I would consider it in terms of dionysusness. The oldest Dionysian myth talks about the beginnings of the phenomenal world. Dionysus is the fruit of the incestuous relationship of Zeus and his daughter Persephone. Hera, jealous of the child, sends titans to harm Dionysus as she is afraid he will replace Zeus – the king of the universe. The titans throw him a mirror in which he sees himself. In consequence, the young god stops to look around him, but looks at his own reflection, losing focus. The titans catch him, tear into parts and the god-world, a unity, breaks into pieces. Multiplicity is created out of unity. To punish them, Zeus strikes them with a lightning. Apollo collects their burnt bodies and combines them with Dionysus’ heart. Originally it was Dionysus who was going to be the king of the world, but it was only his dissolution that created our phenomenal world. In consequence of the dissolution of original unity and putting it together anew with addition of a titanic component our material world was born along with the human being, who, as a result, combines two natures – the divine and the mortal one. From then on, nothing has ever been constant anymore. The reality resembles a collage – a mixture of the divine and the human, the eternal and the temporary. In my works I look at the world which is a multiplicity and I somehow create it anew – in the form of my own colorful hypostases. It is a greedy, reckless cutting-out of the world anew. Sometimes when I sit down to do a few collages after midnight, I end up doing several dozens of them.
Energy is multiplied, released.
In Kabbalah, permutations of letters, world-symbols create new meanings or redefine them. In the ancient times, the word and the letter had a world-forming character, which means they created our phenomenal world. The intensity of my creation results from the deep sense of living the life and the need of creating my own world anew.
Małgosia Czyńska, looking at my collages, defined their essence most accurately saying that you do not get bored by them and that they are unpredictable. Kinga speaks the same of them, so you can say I am fully consistent in my work.
Sometimes I process one theme, but the new composition already creates it, as if, anew. This is, in my opinion, the cathartic dimension of the art. By creating something extraordinary, we clean ourselves of the routine of everyday life and give it a new, personal meaning of our own. This is what galleries are for, temples of the contemporary art, to give us a sense of awe, which is more intoxicating than drugs.
I can see you enjoy the collages.
I am glad to have found the form – my own, colorful and modern one. The shape and expression of my collages are directly influenced by eroticism, humor, body, soul, joy, sorrow, the Greek culture, philosophy, religion, Kabbalah and finally my attitude to literature, music and art, which I have been in contact with for over two decades. The moves must be decisive and confident and the effect fresh and attractive. Then I am aware of what I do and of the fact that I enjoy it.
Dionysus blessed by Eros.
Contact with the art is a moment which cannot be captured or described by the language; a moment when a work of art, in an irrational way, makes you feel better and thank yourself for seeing it. I believe this is the emanation of Eros. Thanks to him our life becomes better. Eros is a god born out of surplus and shortage. In the platonic definition, Eros is also a never-ending strive for what is beautiful, the desire for fullness, perfection, which is renewed in every action. That is why the notion of awe in the process of creation is so familiar to me – if an artist has it, the strive for the beauty, the search for the ideal form, the unknown – then the work of art gives us unforgettable and inalienable spiritual and sensual experiences, at the same time making us more beautiful – both metaphorically and literally.
Can the man be immortal here on the Earth when he loves and when he creates?
They say that you are a poet from time to time. The same applies to immortality. This is a moment which cannot be captured or described by the language; a moment when a work of art, in an irrational way, makes you feel better and thank yourself for seeing it. It seems that this is what life is about: Dionysian joy, demonic beauty and love, which is the sense of existence. For me there can be no feeling of full joy of living without a fulfilled love, beauty and unconditional reciprocity. However, it is different for everybody.
So the “defining moment” in Galeria Art is a form of a reward for you for the work you have done on yourself.
It follows 20 years of activity in various fields, such as the University of Warsaw, Teatr Academia, Faculty of Sculpture of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, where, for a moment, I wanted to know how it feels to be a creator and a material. Many of the people I met at those places are not present in science or art anymore, their potential often ceased to exist the moment they left the academy and most often it was never there. Not long ago, already after I had finished my PhD and published the book (Przywoływanie Bogów, 2017), Wojtek noticed and appreciated my works, he sensed the moment and the spirit which demanded to be materialized. This was the above-mentioned kairos – it was worth the wait without a doubt. My attitude to the time of creation is personal and similar to, perhaps, the one described by writer Eustachy Rylski. After his debut, he waited 20 years to publish another book. He says he does not create for some indefinite pleasure, but for a moment of illumination which is difficult to define and which he experiences while finishing his work. For me the publication of Big Book of Collage 2018 was exactly this kind of illumination. I cannot wait for the next one.