Life’s crème de la crème
Edward Dwurnik deludes and seduces. For years he’s been manipulating and playing with journalists. He provokes and astounds people with his lifestyle to such an extent that in interviews the art of painting recedes into the background, and the conversation is about success, women, money, Comme de Garcons clothes and the latest models of Mercedes. Martyna and I also ask Edward about these constituents of his life, but we never forget we are talking to an artist who has painted over 5000 paintings and, even if he takes some rest, it’s no more than one, two or a maximum three days off. He changes cars, and his women come and go, but he remains faithful to the art of painting.
Martyna Sztaba: We were wondering what structure this interview should have and we have chosen the three main points that may be most important to your painting – women, luxury and work. Do you find it accurate? And do you believe it’s the right hierarchy of values?
Edward Dwurnik: That’s an excellent choice! They are parallel themes, but the sequence also counts: women are of the upmost importance in my life, since they sublimate me and, thus, document me in a way. Thanks to women, the rest happens – my lifestyle, my work. The work is a perfect complementation.
Małgorzata Czyńska: Do you want women to find you attractive, do you like to be worshipped by your surroundings, to be desired?
ED: Naturally. I live my life to the full, I cream off the best part and siphon off the profits, life’s crème de la crème. I do not like false modesty, because it makes no sense at all. I do not like the vision of an unhappy artist that has got some kind of idée fixe and wants to save the world, since I also consider it nonsense. Your work should give you satisfaction and profits. A good artist is usually healthy, rich and contented. Frequently it’s bad artists who are poor and sick.
MC: You may adore women, but it was very late that you began to paint art nudes. Once you even said that they were the most difficult for a painter. Was it a challenge for you?
ED: I had always planned to paint art nudes, but to paint a female art nude, to express body colouring and to capture the spirit, you really need a lot of painting experience. I waited for 50 years and finally came to the conclusion that I could paint complexion, body and express the whole madness of womanhood. Most often it’s young girls that sit for me. Older ones feel too embarrassed. The ones around 60 possibly think that with time they have lost their attractiveness, become ugly and have got worn-out bodies. And that is so untrue! In my opinion, even 80-year-old ladies are beautiful.
MC: Would you like to paint art nudes of elderly women?
ED: Very much so, but I think I would have to hire professional models. And that’s what I am probably going to do. Or maybe I am wrong, maybe there are women who, regardless of their actual age, believe in their beauty and would agree to sit for me.
MS: For a very long time you’ve had a very special unfinished painting stashed in your studio. It’s called Sixty Polish Women Masturbating at the Bus Stop. Where does the idea come from?
ED: For the last few years I’ve painted art nudes of pregnant women. It just so happened that numerous friends were expecting babies. Then I also painted their partners, the perpetrators of these pregnancies. And I would really equip them well, emphasize their attributes of manhood. I painted whole families, including homosexual couples. And then art nudes of non-pregnant women. And whenever I work on a theme for a longer period of time, I like to close the series with a huge composition. Once a girl who was sitting for me declared that she found doing nothing really boring and decided that she could be masturbating at the same time, and, thus, she gave me the idea for this huge painting. It’s a canvas stretched in my upstairs studio which I rarely visit these days since I usually paint downstairs. But I do go there once in a while to add something to the painting and then leave it again.
MC: Are these girls happy with the results of their sitting?
ED: They usually are as they are very decently painted – well-proportioned and with nice colouring. Although it once happened that one of them looked at the painting and left without a single word, possibly offended. I still have no idea why. I do happen to make some corrections, improvements – that’s the whole magic of painting. Recently I had a look at the portrait of Kazia Szczuka and decided the legs were too short, so I lengthened them by 30 centimetres and it’s splendid now.
MS: You said you equip men well.
ED: When their attributes are flaccid they all look the same and you never know what they are to be like once woken up, and, therefore, I always add an extra 20 centimetres to my models, which makes them exceptionally pleased.
MS: And how do you actually work? In complete silence?
ED: No, not at all. When I am at work, people may talk in my presence, watch and talk to me. I’m used to it, because in the 60’s and 70’s when I travelled around Poland painting landscapes, people did talk to me a lot. There was always a small gawking crowd and some jokers that chatted to me. Now and then I would allow myself to make a joke and e.g. paint an elephant in the middle of a field. And all this to the delight of the kids peeking over my shoulder!
MC: Do you need order at work?
ED: Oh, yes! There must be order. Once you are done, you must always wash and dry your palette, segregate and order your brushes.
MC: Do you paint every day? I remember a sentence you once said that a painter must be always alert and have a wet brush.
ED: Yes, I made three underpaintings yesterday. I am a workaholic and I paint daily. I do have the odd day without painting, but not too many. I paint and repaint over older stuff. I often buy paintings by other artists so as to have ready-made underpaintings. These days I have been working on an exhibition of paintings which I painted over in the past. The list of the overpainted works is really long, from Andrzej Wróblewski and Wilhelm Sasnal through Łukasz Korolkiewicz, Rafał Bujnowski and Marcin Maciejowski to Przemek Matecki. It’s really convenient since starting a painting is the most important thing for a painter – when you stand in front of a blank, white canvas. And when you paint something over, it’s much easier, because someone has already started something.
MS: You actually painted over Wróblewski? Is it some kind of a joke?! Please, tell me that you are at least sorry.
ED: I regret painting over Korolkiewicz. I splashed his painting with so much paint that you see nothing now. And the one by Wróblewski was bought at an auction by Andrzej Starmach, who said he would remove my layer of paint.
MS: Now we know how you work, but what about your life? Are you into luxury?
ED: Today I put on an Armani dinner jacket with jeans. I am not sure you’ve noticed that.
MS: And what stage of your life are you in at the moment?
ED: The final one.
MS: Oh, c’mon, stop teasing. Tell us the truth.
ED: It’s not a lie. Next year I will turn sevent…, sixt…, fifty, and some people say it will be seventy.
MC: Rumour has it that the jubilee exhibition in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków is supposed to be the real icing on the cake.
ED: I have wanted to make an exhibition, but maybe it’s not such a good idea. It could be quite sad, actually, since people may think that Dwurnik really is 70.
MS: They will think something completely different. They will think that he’s 70 and he drives a great car, comes to interviews wearing great clothes, and everybody likes him even if he offends them in interviews.
MC: Are other artists not jealous of your success?
ED: They very much are. But mainly of the fact that they themselves cannot paint. I can’t even be bothered to mention the surnames.
MS: Is it true that you holiday in Miami?
ED: My holiday destination always depends on my current female companion. She chooses it and I just go with it. I always adapt to the preferences of my partners that are most important and I like looking after them. I recently got back from the Canaries, where we used to spend quite a lot of time in the casino. I was really happy to see her losing all the money and having so much fun because of it. But I am rather reluctant to leave Sadyba. I have got a beautiful garden that is blossoming now and smelling so nice.
MC: Women are important, work is important, and how about cars?
ED: Cars are also of the upmost importance! They are a kind of extension of manhood. I have had some really cool cars – the Porker wasn’t bad at all and now I have a 500 HP Mercedes. But soon I should have a black Ferrari delivered. You’ve got to ride with style. Once I lied in the interview that I had an electric Mercedes S-Class and later got myself in real trouble, because everybody was really surprised that I had a car that hadn’t been delivered to showrooms yet. In a good car you can sit in traffic, listen to music and you don’t get tired.
MC: So, what does Edward Dwurnik dream of since he’s already got everything?
ED: I wish people fainted upon seeing my paintings. Or to have peals of laughter. It was only once that my art moved someone to such an extent that they vomited in the gallery, having seen my painting! Unfortunately, nobody has ever died or lost consciousness at the sight of my paintings.
MS: How do you feel in the interiors we are sitting now? Do you like what the paintings look like here?
ED: I absolutely adore paintings in real, authentic interiors. And these ones here are almost ideological, as the title of the enterprise suggests. I have said that before and will say it once more – I do like luxury. When still in nursery or primary school, I once read a horoscope for my star sign, saying that Aries liked elegant women. It made such an impression on me that I transferred the rule of elegance to all aspect of my life and I have always followed it.
Photographs: Cezary Hładki. Interiors: Basia Dereń-Marzec