The Smoke visits the KCL’s Art Society new exhibition, Wojttek: Painting – Myself, on show at KweekWeek Hub (Islington) until the 23 December.
Wojttek, a young Polish painter, has recently moved to London where he hopes to find a wide audience for his autobiographical, heartfelt artworks. Helping him realise his artistic ambitions is Agatha Korbus, BA Liberal Arts at KCL and president of the KCL Art Society, curator of the exhibition.
While visiting Wojttek: Painting – Myself, The Smoke interviews Agatha on the challenges of organising a show, and Wojttek on the autobiographical significance of his art.
Tell us the history behind this exhibition – how did you come to curate Wojttek’s show?
Agatha Last year I interned at an Internet platform called Art Stack. My job was to contact Eastern European art schools and galleries to convince them to cooperate with Art Stack. As Wojttek was a member of the Student Union of Warsaw’s Academy of Fine Arts, we started an e-mail conversation. Email after email, he sent me some of his works and explained his approach to painting. I immediately found his vision fascinating, to the point of offering to help him in moving to London and finding a wider public abroad. We decided to organise an exhibition, his first in England. Actually, he is here for three months only. Organising an exhibition in such a short time is quite a success!
What was most difficult in organising the exhibition?
Agatha The greatest problem was doubtlessly finding a venue. Renting an exhibition space is usually really expensive, a big problem for an artist who is not yet represented by a gallery. Suddenly we got in touch with KweekWeek, a new start-up run by recent graduates. They offered us the space rent-free – the only condition being that people book a place to see the exhibition via the KweekWeek website. Finding a venue took so long that we were left with only three days to set up the actual show – it was incredibly hectic. We then had a very successfully vernissage with a great public turnout, and the exhibition is open [booking required] for the next couple of weeks. We have appointments with press and galleries.
Can you explain the key ideas and features of Wojttek’s art?
Agatha As you can see, Wojttek is an abstract artist, and his works are most striking especially for his use of colour. His art is pretty difficult because it is not very universal. Of course, it is universal for its aesthetic qualities – if someone contemplates these paintings he is able to feel the emotions and message conveyed by the paintings, yet most of the works are based on his personal experience and emotions. He is trying to transform the inner feelings of his soul in a visual way, to convey emotion via colour and composition. Thus, contemplating these paintings is a process of discovery.
Since we are here at the show, why don’t you give us a concrete example?
Agatha I usually explain Wojttek’s art though these two paintings. They are among my favourites. This is a small series, the first one is called Isabella’s Arms, while the second is Isabella Reckoning. As many of Wojttek’s paintings, they are based on his emotions towards a girl he was in a relationship with. The first painting, whose central shape is evocative of a chromosome or a vagina to some viewers, communicates strong erotic feelings. You can see love and passion here. The motif of the arms is repeated in the second painting of the series, underlining the thematic relationship of the group. Yet, the emotion is totally different in the second work: this is the Reckoning after the break-up. It is the last representation of a one-powerful emotion, or, as Wojttek says, an attempt to deal with romantic and sad emotions. Emotion can be felt in the way paint is applied to the canvas – these are expressionistic paintings, although there is great precision and care in the disposition of colour. This does not mean that there is no experimentation here, for Wojttek has a theory he calls ‘accidentality on purpose.’ When he starts working on a composition, he has a pretty clear idea, a purpose he wants to reach. Yet, he continues taking risks with the artwork’s material qualities and tweaking the original ideas until he is completely happy with the work’s appearance. Every risk taken makes the whole more accidental. Visual appearance is as important for him as communicating his underlying plan.
Wojttek joins us, and I turn my attention to him. Wojttek, biography seems very important in your art. What point of your life does this exhibition mark?
Wojttek I decided to come to London to take a break from my studies at the Art Academy in Warsaw. The Academy is quite traditional. There is a curriculum students have to follow, following on mimetic painting before moving on towards more personal forms of expression. I agree that one should learn the rules before trying to break them, and I gave time and effort to learning the traditional way. Yet I received extremely harsh criticism when I started painting my own way. My lifestyle and ideals also made the tutors biased against me. All this motivated my decision to take some time out of education. At the same time, I am convinced that art schools should have rules and authoritative frames. When I will be able to put up with this frame, I’ll go back to education. I definitely don’t want to break with school completely, and I hope I can continue my studies in London.
What is your aim in organising this exhibition?
Agatha We want to show Wojttek’s art to as many people as possible, not only members of the public but also to the press and to galleries. We hope that someone influential will appreciate Wojttek’s work and invest on it, showing it further and to bigger audiences. Every painter wants to be seen, recognised and have influence.
Wojttek I paint for myself, expressing what is true to me, without thinking of the viewers’ reaction. Yet at the same time I want to communicate with viewers, to give them something of me using the tools of painting.
Wojttek, how do you think that your art will develop in the future? How will this exhibition change it?
I don’t know…I don’t know. I just need to be in the studio and paint.
For more information on Wojttek’s paintings, visit: www.wojttek.com
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