More info at: BWA, Warsaw / Galerie De Expeditie, Amsterdam
Awards and residencies
1998 Artist-in-residence at the Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art, Helsinki. / 2001 Grant from the Minister of Culture of the Republic of Poland. / 2001 Artist-in-residence at SMART Project Space, Amsterdam. / 2002 Award of the ArtsLink Foundation, New York. / 2002 Artist-in-residence at Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas. / 2002 Award of the Department of Culture of the Gdansk Province. / 2004 Artist-in-residence at Villa Arson, Nice. / 2007 Pro Helvetia Program at F+F, Zurich
Selected solo exhibitions (2012-2009)
*2012 ‘Yes, Indeed’ Benveniste Contemporary, Madrid, Spain
*2011 ‘Nobody Knows That For Sure’ BWA Warszawa, Warsaw, Poland. / ‘Tomorrow is now’ Centro Cultural Sao Laurenco, Almancil, Portugal
*2010 ‘Mark – Territory’ Komuna / warszawa, Warsaw, Poland. / ‘And What About Enthusiasm? Shall We Kill It?’, Museu Municipal, Faro, Portugal
*2009 ‘Close Enough’ Galeria Le Guern, Warsaw, Poland
Selected group exhibitions (2011-2009)
*2011 ‘New Order’ Art Stations Foundation, Poznan, Poland. / ‘Plundering the Ruins of Reality’ BWA Warszawa, Warsaw, Poland. / ‘Eu Podia Fazer Isto’ IPA, Espaço Atmosferas, Lisboa, Portugal. / ‘Desires, claims…’ Gdanska Galeria Miejska, Gdansk, Poland
*2010 ‘Neoplastic Room, Open Composition’ Muzeum Sztuki, Lodz, Poland
*2009 ‘Lost in Colour’ Gdanska Galeria Miejska, Gdansk, Poland. / ‘Anabasis – Rituals of Homecoming’ Ludwik Grohman Villa, Lodz, Poland. / ‘Good Night, Sleep Tight’ Upload Art Project, Trento
About Jaroslaw Flicinski work> In conversation with Jaroslaw Flicinski by Mark Kremer
Mark Kremer: I’d like to start with your exhibition at Ujazdowski Castle. It had a number of ingredients. What were they?
Jaroslaw Flicinski: I formed the exhibition with several elements. Three correct wall paintings, a light installation, a sound installation, a video presentation, four touristic photos enlarged plus a room installation with non-correct wall paintings as well as the last small oil painting from a series that I painted ten years ago.
MK: How did you conceive a show with so many different elements? Was it in response to the architecture?
JF: The variety of media which I decided to use had nothing to do with the castle’s architecture. The invitation from the CCA reached me in Arizona in the winter of 2002/03 when I was on a kind of an endless artistic journey. I had left my home studio in Gdansk in the late fall of 2000. I was in France, the Netherlands, several times in the U.S., mostly Texas and Arizona, then Italy, Switzerland and Germany. The reason for all those trips was always art. I came back to Gdansk for short stays in between. Always I had to build a studio from scratch as well as make all the contacts. One day it occured to me that, as an effect of my life on the move, it would be natural to shift my paintings from canvases to walls. During that period I took plenty of photos and recorded hours of video material, I drew and wrote in my notebooks. When the invitation came, I thought, okay, it’s the right time and the right place to make something around those works and notes. So, I drafted the form of the exhibition on a paper. Of course the final shape of individual works was subject to change until the last moment but the main plan was made almost instantly after I received the invitation.
MK: You didn’t mention the titles of the works yet; what were they? I’m also intrigued by your use of the term ‘correct’. What do you consider a correct wall painting?
JF: The exhibition consisted of seven works:
1. The wall painting in red, almost 30m long and 4.80m high, done in latex paint, plus a natural light installation with red foil on six windows. FREE IS GOOD, MORE FREE IS BETTER.
2. The wall painting in yellow, crossing the first one, partly done on an artificial drywall curved wall, 18mx3,5m. THE KISS IS NOT ENOUGH.
3. The sound installation — a transmission of real sounds coming from the restaurant mixed with sounds from a park and in the background city noise. A special mike was installed at the terrace of the restaurant. OUT THERE.
4. The video projection in a dark room, of a 12 minutes looped scene that had been recorded in April 2003 on the Baltic Sea beach. ON WITH THE STORY.
5. The irregular room, 4mx3m, built in the central space. Only in that room a small canvas could be hung. The walls of this room were painted in a special shade of white but this was done in a rather rough way, as if the painters had been in a hurry — I call it ‘non-correct’ wall painting. THE CASTLE.
6. Four photos from my big collection of easy tourist memories. There is always a story standing between characters and a space which we can only slightly feel. The photos were enlarged to 90x60cm lambda prints. AT LEAST ONE MORE DAY.
7. The wall painting, white on white, latex mat and satin paint, irregular concentric rings. 4mx9m. EVERYTHING IS ALRIGHT. That was also the title of the whole exhibition.
MK: I’m still puzzled by the term ‘correct’. So let me ask again: What’s a correct wall painting?
JF: Ah! That’s actually an important question. But I used the term in a more innocent way. In fact it already had an instinctual link to the general judgement of paintings. This work (THE CASTLE) was partly about it. The walls in the room for my canvas were painted irregularly with different kinds of white standard paint. Also some small holes for nails were only slightly covered with plaster. Because I wanted to give the impression that in this room before there was already an installation or something just removed. Only the one small oil painting hung there. The walls were not covered with a final coat. And in this special context — next to it you have to picture two big colorfull striped walls — a ‘non- correct wall painting’ was just a thing. However, for me it was an ideal wall painting, as it dealt with less presence.
MK: Right. But let’s address the structure of the exhibition. There were phantasized pictures — the paintings — and recordings of the world: the sound of people talking; the video projection of the disk rolling on the beach; photos of a street somewhere in a city in the South of France. Why did you combine such different categories?
JF: The exhibition was about painting but the paintings there were about everything else. A video, light, a sound could only provoke a better and clearer understanding. A sound just changed a bit the silence, light led to a better color on the floor, a motive from a video brought some distance and a new point of view to the whole exhibition. I am more interested in differences than similarities. There are natural and attractive tensions in territory borders of different objects and figures. I am always curious how deep-rooted the differences are. But after a longer or shorter period of research you can discover some common base everywhere. And that’s a great moment!
MK: Where do the motifs of your paintings come from? What are their sources?
JF: My motifs are simple but it always takes time before they appear on canvas, board or wall. The first impact comes from reality, which I then transform. Sometimes it takes just a moment, sometimes months. For instance: THE STAR came from a photo I took of the winter sun above the Atlantic Ocean, FAITES VOS JEUX came from patterns of original Polish blankets. But JUMPS INTO THE WATER came from my head.
MK: The video of the disk blown ahead on the beach by the wind, to me suggested something of an existential situation — I couldn’t dissociate it from your wandering life as an artist; you mentioned it yourself. But it also refers to the nature of your art — a wandering kind of painting that comes and sits in a place and then leaves again to completely disappear — as Angelika Stepken remarks in her catalogue essay. How do you see the potential of painting within the current arts spectrum?
JF: The acting disc from the video comes from a real situation. Once I went to the Baltic Sea beach and suddenly something passed me by. It was a plastic disc. For seconds I walked and followed it with my eyes; then I began to run after it. It was funny but the thing didn’t stop. It was running, turning, taking non visible energy from the blowing wind. I though okay, it will crash soon; a branch will stop it. I couldn’t believe when just before a branch, the disc jumped, went over it and rolled on faster and faster like a living object. Then, after 500 meter, it just stopped, without any visible reason. I was completely struck by the phenomenon. Then my girlfriend said: “You should record it”. So some days later I was again at the beach and ran for hours with the camera following the same disc.
I think this story about the video gives some information about my way of working — also about painting. I traverse the world, I collect images and subjects, I non-stop learn about cultures by reading here and there, about our life. And then I stop and make art. I still see big potential in painting. Every year I see exhibitions with new paintings on both sides of the ocean. Of course it’s not the right language for the first pages of the newspapers, but that’s not a task for painters.
MK: How does your art connect to the constructivist painting tradition — in Poland and abroad? In Amsterdam, in the context of the exhibition ‘Höhere Wesen befahlen: anders malen!’, you made a very beautiful wall painting. Called ‘Finnish tango’, it took and elaborated a motif from a painting by Vasarely.
JF: I discovered Polish Constructivism at an early age. But I always read it in a much larger context than only as a system of lines and colors plus its manifestos. The context was that of a young country, a young society, young times. In Poland in the era between the wars, a large number of artists were dedicated to the process of constructing a new language and not only in the field of visual arts. The streets of new cities like Gdynia or Lodz became filled with a new modern architecture. For me, especially in the early eighties, work by constructivist artists such as Kobro, Strzeminski but also by people with different visions like Witkacy, Szymanowski, the composer, or Gombrowicz the writer were very important. You could find in their work a very strong form but at same time a strong individual potential. I think I was always more impressed with this second element.
In Amsterdam during the process of making a project for that exhibition I bought three old postcards which I chose from hundreds of books and magazines in one of those Amsterdam shops with everything for sale. Two were typical tourist images from the late 1950s with a beautiful blue sky, green leaves and a piece of architecture, with a round entrance and columns. A third card showed a reproduction of a Vasarely painting from 1971. He depicts a typical late 1960s ambience: a balance of innocence, sex and futuristic coldness. I decided to combine images from the three postcards. So I drafted the project. I built a slightly curved wall. I enlarged a piece of Vasarely’s motif to the dimensions of a wall. I used blue and green colors for the background. The circles were in different colors and interacted with the grid of the building when the work was ready. I think that was the main reason I chose such a subject.
MK: The building in which the wall painting was realized was a typical example of late 1960s grey Modernism. So I wonder if your work, in particular the choice of a Vasarely motif that you talk so casually about, does not in fact have a deeper sense, i.e. the wish to redeem something of the constructivist heritage?
JF: I don’t want to denounce my sentiment towards the early abstract visual language. I still see a big potential in that language — something I couldn’t say ten or fifteen years ago. But my work, which indeed can be gently linked with constructivism, was also formed for some very different spaces. For instance, a few months after the Smart show, I exhibited for the tiny Amsterdam house of Zsa-Zsa Eyck, Galerie de Expeditie. While the wall painting as well as most of the canvases presented there refered to the early abstract language, they had also a link to patterns from blankets (as I mentioned before) — a design which was linked to geometric abstraction.
I painted the first two big canvases (later called Faites Vos Jeux ) on Suomenlinna, the island off the shore of Helsinki, during a terrible, early, hard and dark fall. Soon I shifted the subject from canvases to the wall. That happened for the first time in Karsruhe at the Badischer Kunstverein, a building of late 18th century architecture. Then again in Liguria, Italy, in the small eclectic town hall of Rossiglione, and two times in the U.S. In Phoenix, Arizona in an old storage house where now there is a gallery, and in a former butcher shop in Marfa,Texas. The last place belongs to the Chinati Foundation, which is Donald Judd’s heritage.
MK: There is of course a dramatic quality in your paintings. Colors and motifs create vibrant and pulsating effects. But there is also an emotional undercurrent in the abstract language itself. It is interesting to hear what you said about Vasarely: in his colors you found a balance of innocence, sex and futuristic coldness. The colors seem to be about expectation and longing, but also about something else — a sense of disappointment?
Can you elaborate on color and emotion?
JF: I try to be very cold with emotions when I choose or rather decide colors. I want to keep a distance. On the other hand I discovered that I can use spontaneously sharp reds, contrasting with blacks, browns or oranges plus greens which might be seen as a result of very dynamic emotions. It started to be more obvious when I began to use a technical, high quality paint instead of artistic, regular colors, and when I changed from canvas to harder backgrounds like walls, MDF or aluminium boards. I choose colors with the NCS system which means I have a large palette of printed colors with numbers on a paper. So I can more or less imagine the light which will be reflected by a designed, colorful wall. I always think about the light that will be in the exposition room after the wall painting is realized, and when the painting reflects and gets mixed with the original light. When I start I choose a key, a predominant color and then I construct an interior life of the painting.
For sure colors have a strong effect on humans. In the mid 20th century we had a large number of amazing and good realisations done by less or more known designers/artists in public spaces. I like to find such places. I don’t want to glorify them but it’s nice to project your imagination unto all those spaces which will never come back for real. I have the feeling that those colors promising a better future which unfortunately never happened still offer us hope.
MK: Give me a few examples of places where in the 1950s public works were made that inspired you! Characteristic of your work is the casual constructivist streak on the one hand, and a longing to reach out to daily life, that is conveyed in a rather stylized way. The result is a recognition of how fragile the artist’s attempts are to connect life and art. And how beautiful it is when the connection works, and art’s energy indeed flows into our lives!
JF: I would like to mention some good examples but there was no chance to see them in reality. They didn’t exist anymore already years ago; they just disappeared and gave way to new projects. In front of me are some images from old magazines for instance Architecture d’aujourd’hui or Life or a set of some movies. Once I spent a week in Paris searching for places which were built in the 1950s/1960s with some interesting details. But they were just gone or covered with tons of new paint coat.
Constructivism and all the so-called Modern movements were based on or linked to ideologies. With time, ideologies changed moderators and moderators changed costumes and most of the spectators just went away. A happy future for the masses was the next slogan. But the new people never came. We are still the same. Probably only the media achieved commercial success. In that sense a better future never happened. Of course people led happy lives — mostly in the west. Modernism was replaced by some more ‘progressive’ thought for business. All those sentences have a bit of a political smell. I don’t like politics but because of that I’m partly interested in it. You should really know what it is that you do not like and why.
This is one of the reasons I keep a distance to all kinds of art which are linked to the ‘big human problems’. At the same time I can’t stop being fascinated with daily life, this cocktail of strength and weakness, desire and self-distractions, how we should be in day and night. I don’t feel I have the instruments which serve to give an opinion about a whole planet or continent. I’m glad when I have a chance to make the next project and meet new people. The coherency between my life and art just appeared. I remember how strongly I was impressed by works of such people like Ben Vautier and Dieter Roth. I met them in person at the end of the 1980s and on the very beginning of the 1990s in the CCA Labege, near Toulouse, while they were preparing shows. Here I should also mention the names of Titi and Jean Luc Parant, a couple that embraces a special mixture of philosophy, art and life also in France. The crash with their world was a kick for me.
MK: You say you don’t have the instruments to present an opinion for the whole world. But you like to make work where a coherency between your life and art appears.
Going back once more to the titles of your works in the castle, the visitor found them along his way during his stroll in the spaces. Their sense, for me, lay exactly in the suggestion that here an individual talked about his problem with big ideas, about the trials and tribulations in daily life, about his own fear and trembling, to quote Søren Kierkegaard. The viewer saw works that were a bit like stations, places where (s)he could look and reflect, and feel the pulsating energy of a world that invites you to take part in it, however dangerous the participation may turn out. At the stations a promise was made: there’s a reward lying ahead. When you’ve said what’s to be said and done what’s to done, absolution will await you. EVERYTHING IS ALRIGHT. I was under the impression that the true artist is never satisfied?
JF: You’ve connected those last two sentences very well! They of course are about the same coin, but create two opposite sides. What else could one add?