Big boy

Katarzyna Świeżak Interview by Katarzyna Świeżak

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Should you say, you’re a big boy?

Sometimes, I behave just like a little boy.

Is this because you cherish your early childhood time?

Yes, since I was very happy as a child indeed. Thanks to my parents. It was really merry there in our home. I didn’t ever hear a ‘NO’ word, they’d always say ‘YES’ instead. The climate of my locality was also of an import. Actually, it was a place very much like a village, not far from Częstochowa, where I was brought up: meadows, fields, a pond, cows, horses, hay carts, battles we fought with children from across the lane ... Attributes of childhood are still around me, because I now live in the town outskirts. But, in my paintings, I never return to my childhood but instead paint what fascinated me then: aeroplanes, battles, tanks, soldiers, and parades.

Is a childhood, then, any more interesting than an adult life?

My childhood was just fantastic, just like my young years, when at secondary school or doing my Academy studies; then, my working years, the adventure with art galleries and, obviously, the family. I incessantly encounter fantastic experiences. Well, how to explain it? One transfers through time whatever is important, strongly impressed in one’s psyche. If the atmosphere of one’s home was nice, then one would transfer this good ambience with himself somewhere else; joy, or pleasures, come by themselves then. You can reach just these and not any other places, you can meet only those and not any other people, you can select these and not any other situations. You just like it nice, always, and everywhere. And, so the things go around you.

Not excluding your pictures.

Well, I shouldn’t say my paintings are nice.

What are they like, then?

Rough, ‘touchable’. Just like relieves. Whilst painting, I use masonry tools: spatulas, coarse files or rough files of all sorts. To be precise, I do not actually paint a picture but scratch it. Perhaps this is rooted in my being fascinated with the art of early masters – Fra Angelico, Giotto. I get delighted with the ‘worn-through’, coming-off paint in their pictures, all those uniquely beautiful, ‘eaten-away’ bright blue spots. Important to me is a painting’s texture, its fleshiness and its properties to be used ‘of necessity’. So, I sometimes try to brush a picture over, or sometimes, to discover what is hidden any deeper down there. When I, for instance, paint on paper, then the paper sheet itself appears so genuine, so full of beauty, and is so unusual to touch, as to its texture and natural colour, that it’s just enough to draw just a few lines across it.

You have once said that the best paintings are conceived out of astonishment. Then, what may astonish the visitor at your present exhibition, particularly someone who saw your previous display at ‘Art’ Gallery?

When I started preparing myself to this particular exhibition, I thought I had to paint something new, and so started putting thoughts into it. Even some pornographic ideas have come to my mind, which are otherwise totally beyond my temper, and this is why I couldn’t ever make them come true. And then I arrived at a catastrophe. This is a worst thing possible, to set yourself up in a mode like: it’s a new show coming, then I’ll show you what I’m up to, you’ll all see a real big fuss. So, I’m not sure whether I will make anyone surprised this time. We’ll see what happens.

Some motifs of yours tend to reappear; one might even say, you’ve got a sort of ‘permanent repertoire’.

I haven’t ever ceased, true, to paint angels, for this renders me very pleased. Actually, they get self-painted, particularly, their wings. I don’t have to think much then. But, angels vary between themselves. One holds a flower, the other, a sword, another one, a child, another still appears fighting with a dragon.

I also paint soldiers, skinheads, pigeons, and, lately, swans. And, certainly, women.

Perhaps it’s because of my safety precautions that I avoid painting still life which is an open-ended composition, that is, has no end, and so, it allows you for making choices. Hard to tell from which direction to approach it, for any one is proper. But whilst selecting a human face or figure, I have my manoeuvring ground restricted. I can embrace everything, for the composition is close-ended. My paintings are almost symmetric, the figures placed centrally – and then I know how to operate within the thus framed space. However, no matter what is being painted, what matters is namely, how. If the situation were converse, I could paint but one single aeroplane, or, one human figure. Recently, a colleague of mine who is an abstract painter said it was impossible for a plane to become a painting motif; ‘a rape committed against the form, that’, he termed it. For him, a plane is just a toy.

And for you, it is an indispensable gadget, your identification mark, as testified by photos made by Wojtek Prażmowski, an excellent photographic artist and a friend of yours, which are published in the catalogue.

Just like me, he is fond of anything flying. I can confess to you he is an angel catcher, casting his net for any angels wandering in the vicinity of Częstochowa.

Have you caught but one such during your photo session?

Nearly. He was flying above the cathedral, but had a narrow escape, eventually.

I was thinking, could the mundane ever replace the air element in your paintings? What I precisely mean is the more and more frequently appearing car motif.

I was actually painting planes and one day, it just came to me that I happened to paint a tiny little car. Then, someone saw it and I received an order for a DKW-type automobile [German make popular before 1939]. As it turned out, a romantic adventure was related to it – my ordering party had gone for his or her honeymoon on such a nice jalopy of this type. Once I painted this vintage car, I proceeded with the business easily then ... But to tell the truth, the first such vehicle thing of mine was a cut-out with a car (a black Volga, namely).

I guess there’s no such artist who would do with practising but one domain of art. There’s forms of expression taken up to let off steam, and there’s others, to relax a little.

I guess you’re talking of a need to ‘see things from the other side’, aren’t you.

Your cut-outs, are these some ‘aside’ or additional thing to you?

Actually, I treat them very seriously, although it is an unusually simple technique: what you do is cut out, stick or mount, and, there’s a hint of a prank to it as well. At the same time, it requires a synthetic approach, a control, without which one could, couldn’t they, cut out just any single thing. This is something entirely different than painting, that is, operating with colours and textures. Perhaps these cut-outs have ensued from my keen interest in model-making. Please bear in mind, however, that I got my degree with poster art, cut-out being the simplest form of poster. I should wish that some day, posters might be made out of my cut-outs.

A certain way by which to check whether one’s creative output has an authentic quality to it may be looking for an ‘unconscious self-portrait’ hidden in works where the artist has not presented himself directly. Your photographic portrait from the catalogue of the previous display at ‘Art' Gallery made me astonished: a dead spitting image of an angel from Mr. Łydżba’s painted works.

I don’t like mirrors, so, I don’t paint myself. But attempting at representing yourself in paintings is something different – this is, namely, an essence of being a creative artist. However, I am not an angel. I’m certain of that!

Selected works

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