Saturday Spotlight: Volume 029

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arctoa's avatar
An Interview with-

> Please introduce yourself, in your own words. What are your interests?
My name is Jakub: I was born in Krosno, in Poland, 27 years ago. I live in Wrocanka - a quiet little place near Krosno. I have always been someone who likes to learn - at school I was fascinated with the world of science, but later my interest turned to humanities. I studied English linguistics and Polish philology - that is why I would say that I'm still interested in how the world functions, but now I am more curious of how we perceive it: what use we make from our memory, knowledge and emotions.

Therefore words & arts are the main areas where my curiosity wanders these days, and what I like to do in my free time revolves around the massive amounts of music I listen to, admiring nature, painting, collage, calligraphy & typography, book art, and graphic design among other things. I am a mixture of a scientist and a self-taught artist - a most hopeless kind who is never bored, but tends to bore others when asked to speak, but I hope I won't get too... abstract, although the subject of this interview feature is encouraging me to do so.

> Where did you begin with artistic endeavours? How did you come across Abstraction or Surrealism?
I have always loved drawing and painting, especially realistic landscapes: these were my favourite subjects for a long time. It was only later - in my high school years - did I turn towards more surreal aesthetic, as I used to paint a lot of unreal scenes from my dreams. Naturally, quite early I fell in love with the paintings of Dalí and Magritte. I was fascinanted by the perception of a scene, and the feeling it evoked. At that same time I began my attempts with calligraphy, and - as if separately from it all - I used to indulge in 'making a mess' with oil paint on paper. I say separately because for some unknown reason I did not treat it as proper creating nor as artistic experimentation. It was just a play with texture, form and colour; a way to quench a desire, which I did not bothere to name nor identify in those days.

Then, at some point, these separate practices started to collide, and - giving more and more thought to the issues of perception and expression - I began to analyse what I was doing in order to make more focused use of imagination and the emotional weather of my mind, and only then I realised it is not merely a hobby, but a kind of transmission, self-discovery, or maybe even something more: it was sometime in 2005 when I discerned in my perception something that can be called 'artistic thinking'. With as little formal knowledge about Surrealism and Abstraction as I had, I still considered them the main ingredients of my art work and style. In December 2005, I joined deviantART.

> How would you explain the concept of Abstraction or Surrealism to someone with no experience with the genre?
If possible, I would show such a person some works of both genres and start to discuss about how much reality is present in both of them, what part of reality it is, and what is this 'something-else' that takes its place. I hope it would become apparent then that Surrealism makes use of a realistic vision yet it invites a meaningful, mind-boggling, unreal element - an imaginary object, an unusual juxtaposition, or a perspective unattainable in reality; while Abstraction makes a more direct connection to emotions - those named, those unnamed, and also those we had no idea of - through non-figurative means like arrangement, shape, colour, lighting, texture, and other means that capture our subconscious.

Surrealism and Abstraction make it possible to grasp and convey a feeling or an idea which we cannot express in any explicit way - and these are not only the feelings and ideas we get when we close our eyes, these are also those emotions and vibrations we get from the observation of the world. Since what we consciously observe and process is just a part of what we really perceive, Surrealism and Abstraction seem to me to be much about finding the way to speak of what is hidden there in the real world, and to wake up what is slumbering in the soul of the beholder.

> What inspires you to use Abstraction or Surrealism in your work?
Curiosity, the addictive experience of mystery, and the pleasure of discovery. These styles go so well with my attitude to life, and I feel the world is still mysterious. In my works I often deal with different concepts and emotions through the use of such themes as text, words and script - which represent certain level of abstraction on their own - and the genres in question were always there first at hand when attempting to invite the realm of words into the world of image.

The same is the case with so-called asemic writing, which is sometimes referred to as abstract writing, and which is a good example of how Abstraction serves my ideas. As a kind of writing without linguistic meaning, it allows to create the impression of writing, text and language, without actually using any existing language nor any established script, yet retaining the impression of a text through the tools used, shape, and form. It allows me to hint at the tempting possibility of some hidden code being there to decipher.

There is also a desire to engage in communication with something outside the consciousness, to turn something that seems accidental into intentional and meaningful, and to derive a valuable message for oneself from something seemingly nonsensical. I find it present and alive especially in the play with words, and also in the art of collage and assemblage - which sometimes has for me an impression of a divining art like throwing dices, here, by throwing various pictures onto paper to create or rediscover the message - just let us recall the Dada practices, out of which Surrealism emerged.

> What do you want to express with your artwork? What is the idea you're trying to put across?
On a universal level it is an invitation to reach beyond superficiality, to be a little more open and humble in face of the world around us - nature, people, creation. I would like my works to convey the sense of a mysterious kind of beauty - something which, hopefully, may teach us respect and the same time may give us a lot of pleasure and excitement from the experience of personal discovery. I hope that it is a kind of attitude that helps to rule out cynicism and pessimism.

Various themes and motifs I employ may then seem just the means to achieve the universal aim, but it is perfectly fine for me when a viewer decides to concentrate solely on them. As long as we all have our own preferences with regard to our favourite themes and motifs, the figurative also represents the sphere of our personal mythologies, metaphors and symbols, and this level can be no less exciting to explore and decrypt - but in the case of my work, it is not that crucial for a viewer to do so, although there is some kind of symbolic structure gradually taking shape. However, at the moment I would be happy if this level had just enough evocative power to allow viewers to reach and capture a feeling or an idea they would regard new and valuable for themselves.

> What are your 'tools of the trade'? How do you create your art?
A pile of paper scraps, glue, oils, ink, turpentine. There is a lot of torture given to paper. I rarely use brushes, because I am more interested in the texture and the effect of a monotype, and I usually put paint on paper with paper. For the calligraphic motifs I usually use homemade cola-pens. With regard to traditional techniques and handwriting, in fact every graphic tool that leaves a mark can be good, as at certain stages of work the unexpected result is what I need most, while at other stages the precision requires the use of calligraphic nibs and brushes.

With the kind of photography I take, a standard digital camera is fair enough for my needs. I also love to experiment with glass, mirrors, metal foils, different surfaces, translucent materials, and light - the problem begins when I have to categorise the work according to the medium used, because often the results I get this way become photographed and end up in Photoshop (in the past it was Corel's Photo-Paint) as a material for photo-manipulations. Recently I have also started to play with glitch-art and data-bending, which involves the use of sound-wave editing applications to corrupt the image files.

> Do you think the quality of a piece depends more upon technical perfection, or the message contained therein?
As much as the idea of perfection (especially the technical aspect) changes from age to age, it should not be overestimated. If we speak of 'a quality' of a piece, what comes to my mind is a sum of many parts that a piece may have, and then it all gets too general. When approaching a piece, I do it with the idea of focusing on a particular aspect, and mostly it is the 'essence' - the evocative capacity of a piece. Of course the technical quality can make the message shine through a lot brighter, but sometimes, when immaculate technical quality is everything a piece has to offer, this is too little. It is different between photography and traditional graphic techniques, in case of the latter the notion of perfectness is even more fuzzy, yet being experienced in using a particular medium usually contributes to the overall quality. Still, it is the essence I look for in a piece of art.

> Who are your favourite visual artists, and why?
Coming across the works of calligrapher Brody Neuenschwander was a turning point for me. It was almost 15 years ago, but I remember I was tremendously overwhelmed by his calligraphic mastery and the works in which he explored the nature and capacity of letters, words and texts. It was enormously eye-opening experience to realise what can be done with a text as a visual element. A few years ago, one of the deviant artists introduced to me the surreal art of Remedios Varo, which I immediately fell in love with. Apart from an original style and vision, there is inspiration with mediaeval art visible in her paintings, and I have always had an affinity to mediaeval aesthetics too. Among my favourite artists, there is also American painter and illustrator Maxfield Parrish, with his arcadian and fairytale-like scenceries and incredible vibrance of colours and detail - while not being surreal, acquired a distinctive dream-like look thanks to carefully arranged compositions and the original techniques he developped in his work. For some time I have also followed and admired the work of French Surrealist painter Anne Bachelier for a rare kind of dreaminess and eerie sublimity.

Of course, there are also many deviantART artists whose work I count among my absolute favourites, but if I began to list names, I would have to end up with bringing most of my deviantWatch list here. I should also mention several big names from history, as well as some contemporary book-artists and designers and many, many others...

> Which dA Groups would you recommend to someone looking to get involved with abstract and surreal art?
I am not very active in groups, but I can recommend 7panels for anyone interested in surreal and abstract qualities that are there in traditional collage. It is a collaborative group founded by KatDiestel. In each round, seven artists switch between each other seven panels to subsequently - in seven stages - work on every single of them to complete the seven pieces. It is a nice process, an interesting lesson and a lot of fun.

> What advice would you give to an absolute beginner in the genre?
From my own experience I would suggest to rely on one's own perspective; to try to see through the ordinary, and once there comes an epiphany, it will eventually find its way of expression.

> Any final words on abstract and surreal art?
I can almost hear "please, no" and it may be a good idea to leave this space for the unspoken - it is also a part of what surreal is about.

> In conclusion, pick nine works from your Favourites that you particularly enjoy.

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