The undercoat, the base of your works, is usually very unusual – you opt for old wooden boards and used tracing paper. Why is it so?
As the base for my paintings and drawing I use old tracing paper found in dustbins all over Lodz, covered in designs by local architects and town-planners from many, many years ago, or old drawing boards to which they used to pin the tracing paper. The boards have thousands of tiny holes left by drawing pins and some ink blots. I am quite willing to reuse materials, because I reckon we have too much stuff around. New items are being produced and the old ones just end up in the bins. It’s better to reuse old materials, to give them a new life and after some time allow their natural annihilation. I would find it conceited to produce objects in order to let them last for several generations. We have enough ancient and modern works that have lasted for centuries and need no more of them. The art that is known to last for a short period of time seems to be perceived in a more intense way.
You like to make your works look old – wax and soil them. Is the new boring and void inside?
It’s not that I make things look old, I just don’t renovate them. I simply leave them as they are. Wax preserves and protects them against damage (not always though, sometimes dirt sticks). I use wax also to consolidate collage drawings and give them appropriate texture – sometimes smooth, other times with traces of a brush or palette knife.
I do not purposely make my works dirty, but if one of my cats walks over them, leaving paw prints, I have learnt to live with that.
Works made of paper get dirty, because I do not lock them up in glass frames, since I want to preserve their working, technical nature. What’s more, these are large-format drawings, so I store them in my drawers, folded like maps, and exhibit them nailed to the wall.
Dividing objects into ‘new’ and ‘old’ seems to be an unfamiliar concept to me. I simply accept what I find in my surroundings. The important thing is not to waste or throw away existing objects, to reuse them and give them a chance for a second life.
I believe this to be my life motto. It also concerns my three cats – I found them on the street, adopted them and now they have a new and quite decent life.
The materials I use contribute to my private recycling. Naturally, I also have good fun using the beautiful development design of the city of Lodz (a utopian plan that has never been implemented, perhaps to the benefit of all). I am very fond of using old drawing tools that nobody uses any more, such as dip pens, French curves and compasses.
Your works are meant for connoisseurs. One need to discover the beauty of drawing, lettering and restrained colouring. You also show the wealth of traditional hues in the drawing paper you use. Is black, violet and navy blue more than enough for you?
These are very kind words, but are they supposed to mean I try to coquette my audience? I definitely avoid ‘gentleness’, and yet I by no means try to make my works ‘ugly.’ To my mind, the concept of aesthetics is well justified when it comes to industrial design, but nowhere else really. I wish for my works to be raw and direct, just like a pictorial manual, a map, a technical drawing of machinery, a city plan or an architectural design. This is the key to spur our imagination, to motivate us to create a painting ourselves, and it’s great there are still some audiences for whom such a discreet stimulus is enough.
Besides, I have been ‘in the business’ for years now, so I have seen a lot. I am simply overwhelmed by the amount of shapes, colours and technical perfection, which probably means I have had enough! Modesty and conciseness help me focus on the essence of the matter (just like in a technical drawing). Naturally, I don’t expect everybody else to share the opinion, but it makes me glad to meet people with similar beliefs once in a while.
Did the work on the plans of Frankfurt take you very long?
I have the feeling it took me awfully long. I started with some research and conceptual work, studying the city plan thoroughly and paying special attention to its most characteristic parts. I found Ms Bielicka extremely helpful. I am deeply grateful to her for sending me the beautiful albums with the photos of Frankfurt, where she marked her favourite spots. It also took me so long, because I work in quite an irregular manner, in spurts. I realise that the concept of inspiration has been totally discredited, but how can you explain the fact that sometimes I feel a sudden urge to draw and everything goes smoothly then, while some other time I am really reluctant and if I eventually force myself into doing it, the results are no good? I find work very satisfying once I have soldiered on through a period like that. The problem is it usually means the end of the work…
And, apart from that, working with a large format requires a lot of time and appropriate technical and painting skills.
You paint and draw subjective maps of cities, towns, familiar places populated with buildings, networks of streets. Do these maps contribute to the making of your grand inventory system?
Everything I create becomes part of the great CENSUS, where I register cities, towns, buildings and objects. The drawings of architecture are a piece of the series. I consider architecture something more than just another aspect of artistic form. To me, it is an integral part of a set of economic, ecological, cultural and religious issues that keep bothering us nowadays. Due to its longevity, architecture protects us against forgetting the past – both the moments of glory and disgrace. And in that sense it also receives a more political meaning.
What often inspires me is the architecture of my hometown, Lodz. I am interested in both regular buildings and unusual places, connected with the unique past of the city.
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