Totems of the 21st Century

Wojciech Tuleya Interview by Wojciech Tuleya

People who stand in front of your paintings first admire the view of the colourful mosaic made of small coloured blocks and signs. Next they begin to recognise the signs, wondering what the meaning is of these archetypal figures, almost hieroglyphics. Is this the right way to read your paintings – from general to detailed perspective?

The other way round is also possible, but – seriously speaking – I never enclose a user’s guide to read my painting properly. The surface of the canvas is a field of absolute artistic freedom and the same right should be reserved for the audience. In petroglyphs I can see a mystery, an area that has not been explored and discussed by experts. To my mind beauty also lies in variety, thus the mosaic of shapes and colours.

Krzysztof Pająk Krzysztof Pająk

Your paintings are mysterious. Is it all about composition and harmony, or also about some message to convey?

What intrigues me is the process of entropy in the world, its continuous transformation and decay. I believe this is when the line between the abovementioned general and detailed perspective fades away. A certain type of ‘oceanity’ that I am very fond of in painting, which is a kind of game that has neither beginning nor end, it lasts forever. This process cannot be illustrated with only one painting, and thus my multi-segment compositions and the conscious variety of shapes and colours. I think the seeming chaos is not a bad thing – it’s more of a mysterious, ciphered puzzle, which is quite difficult to solve, unfortunately.

Does the combination of signs result from the desire to subjugate the world in the canvas?

Yes and no. There is this view that the world in any form of art should be clear and comprehensible, but there is also a different one, saying that if everything was clear, there would be no art whatsoever. What I am trying to do, however, is to make the combination of signs result from the desire to subjugate and to comprehend the chaotic and continuously evolving reality.

You draw inspiration from the art of prehistoric people as well as the 20th century avant-gardes. You manage to combine the motifs and gestures of Klee, Miro and Pollock with the motifs of African tribes. You create a peculiar mixture or a melting pot of cultures.

Yes, that’s true. I find the variety exceptionally alluring. It’s a cocktail that invigorates me. I strive to refresh the archetypes of prehistory by means of the times I am living in and vice versa – to calm our changeable vibrant electronic present day with the Neolithic code and the yearning for the beginning and the lost contact with nature.

You often use glaring techno colours to create the patterns of cave paintings. Are these the totems of the 21st century?

It’s not a secret my palette of colours has been greatly influenced by city lights, displays of electronic meters and broadcasting devices, which I once operated, as well as the space where they were installed. It’s no use pretending that nothing has changed in our aesthetics of shapes and colours. Nobody paints grass in the colour of an old violin any longer.

Many of your paintings are exhibited in ultraviolet light. Is this a way to enrich a painting? Another bonus for the audience? A possibility to read the painting in a deeper, more profound or different manner?

It’s more likely my curiosity to discover what lies hidden to the right and left of our white spectrum. On one side, there is quasi ultraviolet and, on the other, infrared, but beyond that there must be something else. It is where one can discover completely new colours. My conscious endeavour with ultraviolet light is an attempt to approach the unexplored area with – I do hope – some new bonuses for everyone.

Selected works

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