No 2 (94) 2013
April - June

Real Painting

"Each time I am facing an impeccably white canvas, I feel deposits of pitch growing inside" - Seweryn Swacha confessed in his conversation with Piotr Machłajewski, a curator of his one-man exhibition in Jelenia Góra.

Anna Czaban

Culture expert, she lives and works in Poznań.

Anna Czaban

A MINUTE LATER HE ADDED: "the best thing is to befriend this dirt [...]". The raising wave of pitch - expressed in a gloomy aura (particularly in the latest series: "Dark Pop" or "Closed Eyes Effect") and the aesthetics of excess - has not been however a direct result of sharp criticism of the contemporary times and their ruling mechanisms. Paradoxically, this has been an indication of a great longing for beauty and authenticity of art, purely painting oriented passion, expressed by means of clumsy, misshapen forms of pictures, densely "sealed" collages or by graphic pieces maintained in deep black. On a given stage of his creative development, this type of representation seems to be the most relevant and sincere. The conviction about weakening power of a painting picture, and an attempt to bring back its vital strength have been for Swacha the source of constant search.

The "Closed Eyes Effect" series offers a portrait. Once dignified and stately format, has been deformed by the artist, gradually losing its earlier charm. He develops extensive typologies of human body beauty on the basis of celebrity images. The contemporary ideals of masculinity and femininity originally seem elegant against the black background which finally covers their faces. Next, applying the sfumato technique, the artist softens too sharp outlines of the presented silhouettes. These are offered in wide, baroque, gold plated frames in the form of polyurethane foam applied directly on the canvas. A contemporary portrait must show means of expression corresponding to its times. The latter, according to the artist have strongly mutated or turned biased and trivial. A quest for the lost aura of painting leads to a course use of outdated techniques, while generally overestimated computer tools to correct the picture reach the absurd.

The artist shows a detached and ironic attitude; first of all directed at himself; both as an artist (efficient methods he applies, strict rules of form and style) and as a player on the social arena (personal ways of the reality perception, flow of images, their remembering and recollecting). The vast majority of his collages and drawings from recent period have maintained this climate, for instance the "Dark Pop", his latest graphic work series. Swacha has transposed here pop culture figures, such as "E.T.", "Spiderman", "Batman: Dead White", constructing their computer hybrids, so as they offered rather a Frankenstein effect than digitally refined fantasy images. Most of the pieces by the artist develop the atmosphere of a black comedy (also in a literal sense of a scenery painted in black), resulting from inner uncertainty, fragile emotional condition, as well as conscious criticism of the consumption culture. The "Real 2010" is a vivid example of the above. The piece is an oil painting maintained in the convention by Friedrich, featuring a building of a popular supermarket chain in the middle of nowhere; haunting with its slightly warn out logo of the "Real" brand.

The artist has been convinced that the gloomy palette and uneasy subjects tinged with humor, will preserve images in human memory. At least these have been the codes of his personal experience. Discomfort brings about deeper, and more lasting reflection. Nevertheless, one should point out that the artist has offered unlimited ways to attract a viewer. He has been balancing between various styles and means of expression - graphic art, collage, painting, installation, nevertheless, he has remained a faithful follower of none. Swacha has been experimenting freely, contrary to market trends to define his original, unique style. According to him the art aspiring to be authentic must be rooted in contemporary realities, in other words, it has to be constantly changing - occasionally it must be plain and gloomy; or exaggerated and artificial in form; or attracting a viewer with a dazzling smile, showing perfectly white teeth that resemble a rabbit shape that is intently looking at us ("White Rabbit").

Seweryn Swacha, "Dark Pop", the Bałucka Gallery, Łódź, March 2013; "The Painted History of a Certain Case", The Artistic Exhibitions Bureau, Jelenia Góra, March - April 2013.