Artwork’s Title: No-Face Floating
Materials Used: Oil, pumice and charcoal on jute
Studio Based: London
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
The process is always in motion. It doesn’t stop when I leave the studio, it’s in a perpetual state of flux. Thoughts, visual observations, words, body movements, sounds, are all active participants of the process. At some stage they start materialising in the form of drawings or notes, or just a single word or a couple of lines. They can go through several stages of drawings or be more immediate and encapsulate the energy and intensity of the moment. My painting is always in a dialogue with my drawings, they drive each other and mutate constantly. Sometimes I follow an auditioning process: I place lots of simple line drawings- slight variations of a particular motif- on the ground and pick the one which feels the most promising- on kind of opening. That drawing needs to carry some kind of potency within itself which will allow for the painting to develop dependently and independently of it.
I like to start my day in the studio early, usually I’m there by 9am and with my first cup of tea I’m going through whatever I’d worked on the previous day. Being there early somehow heightens the connectedness with the work, or as the day progresses, this connectedness strengthens and may develop in unforeseen ways. Depending on what stage I’m at, I might then go straight into painting or start warming up with drawing, making notes, or sitting and looking. Mostly I’d be listening to music throughout the day. I regularly make playlists for the studio, but I’ve also had certain artists and albums on heavy rotation for years! If it’s a day of studio DIY like stretching or preparing the surfaces etc. I’d often listen to podcasts.
How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?
Space, line, movement.
How did you come up with the “No-Face Floating” painting idea? Is there any story behind this work?
I don’t think of the painting in an ‘idea’ category. Rather, as a fractured narrative. An agglomeration of ‘stories’, which may be seemingly disconnected, but when you see them all at once, they should slowly unravel together, as one. As I see them, stories or ideas can refer to almost anything that can act as a generator of studio activity. This painting in particular, No-Face Floating, does ‘float’ around Studio Ghibli’s film ‘Spirited Away’. There is a singularity of atmosphere to this film, which was on my mind at the time. It can’t be exactly defined and that is precisely what makes it so appealing and what propelled the process of painting ‘No-Face Floating’. I absolutely love ‘Spirited Away’ for the very reason of its elusiveness, amongst many.
Do specific artworks have been created by random experiments in your studio or do you always come up with a particular concept or narrative in the very beginning?
Some paintings are developed through a direct material interaction which starts right with the ground of the work and prompts various aleatory incidents. However, as mentioned before, all things are always in motion and so I don’t consider any of these to be random. They may be a result of an accumulation of learned processes or a train of thought, while in fact being decisions.
Is there any particular theme that utterly triggers you to engage your art with?
If you can define ‘experience’ as a ‘theme’ then I think that would be the one. As various external triggers activate specific approaches, movements and states of mind, they all have to undergo a process of filtration, whereby they start to engage with my past experiences and hopefully form new configurations of thoughts which painting then responds to.
Large or small scale canvases dilemma; are there any kind of standards that drive you to decide which surface length is better fitted for your final painting visualisations?
I like to keep things flexible, so I tend to work between different sizes and surfaces. It keeps you on your toes and continues to shake things up, hopefully preventing from complacency. It’s just one of the tools to keep things open and active.
What would be the best way to exhibit your work?
Any space with good, large walls and plenty of light would suffice.
I also like to think of my paintings inhabiting the natural world, to be very specific, a scenario of them hanging from large cliff rocks, by the sea, in a kind of vastness, where wind and stillness exist at once and the horizon line quietly vibrates in the background. Some of the paintings, perhaps, the small ones, could be clinging to the surface of the rock like molluscs. Another setting I’d like to experiment with, whether it’s an urban space or somewhere out in the wild, is the light. I’d be interested to see how certain paintings behave in a nocturnal environment. Similar to Chris Ofili’s ‘The Upper Room’ at Tate Britain a few years ago but perhaps not as spiritual in its intentions.
Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
The list of artists is pretty long and ever growing so I’ll just mention some names I’ve been looking at a lot over the last couple of months: Elizabeth Murrey’s paintings, especially 80s-90s ones, also one of my all-time-go-to Polish artists Jerzy Nowosielski, Peter Saul’s 60s paintings and Goya’s black paintings.
Do you ever wonder if additional work was needed, when an artwork’s making process is finished?
Yes, it happens frequently, to my dismay! In those instances, I tend to leave it on the wall and keep on looking at it for days/weeks, while working on other things. I turn it around or hang it on another wall or shuffle the arrangement of the paintings and hang it in a company of different paintings. If that doesn’t work, I take it off the wall for a while, give it its ‘resting time’ and then, after some time, I look at it again, work on it for a bit. And the whole process may repeat itself. Other paintings may come together quicker, offer certainty, affirm themselves in the early stages, at which point I don’t question them and let them be. I think that sometimes you have to ‘behave’ and let the painting ‘misbehave’.
What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space look like?
My studio is in the ASC building in Bromley-by-Bow, London. It’s a good size with plenty of light. I’ve recently made some improvements to it, like storage and shelves, drawing table and devised a wall hanging system for my large paintings as an alternative to rolling them. I absolutely love being there. Many of my studio neighbours are good friends, a lot of them are fellow painters from Turps Art School, which I finished last October. It’s amazing to be able to continue the dialogue we had begun at Turps and to support one another, especially now. I feel very lucky to have them so close.
What does your mum think about your art?
My mum is very proud and amazed, she’s always been hugely supportive and encouraging, my No 1 fan. She has this innate understanding of my work and doesn’t cease to surprise me with her insight, and I suppose it’s how it should be, she knows me the best after all. She wonders where I get my ideas from and talks about how my painting has been changing over the years, how it’s a constant process of searching.
Which exhibition did you visit last?
I presciently managed to catch a number of quality shows right before we went into the darkness again. I got to see Michael Clark at The Barbican, absolutely loved it and wanted to go back but then it wasn’t possible anymore. I couldn’t resist it and bought myself a Michael Clark t-shirt with a very indecent image on it. I also went to see The Botanical Mind at The Camden Art Centre and Milly Thompson at Freehouse Gallery. All absolute delights!
Which are your plans for the near future?
My solo show ‘OFF-BEAT’ opened a couple of weeks ago and, along with government guidance, will open to the public after 12th April so I really look forward to that. There are other exhibition plans and projects lined up for later this year. Some of those were planned to happen last year but had to be put on hold when the pandemic started.
All images courtesy of the artist & JGM Gallery