Artist of the Month: Karolina Ptaszkowska

Loophole, 2016

Published: 01 September 2016

Tell us about your practice, how would you describe the work that you do?

My work is derived from painting and about painting. I am drifting between abstraction and representation and very often what my painting presents is very different to what it depicts. In my works the literal layer and depictions serve as an introduction or a bridge to my real subjects: painting, codification and questions about the distance to the Lacanian big Other. I draw past the surface of representations to speak about language as well as the signifier, and the actual discourse I conduct appears on the level of marks and gestures.

I am fascinated by psychoanalysis, science and science-fiction, history of art and of course the medium of painting, which allow me to find a way to talk about my everyday observations, questions and concerns. For example, I am trying to locate the mechanism of perception and to distinguish subjectivity from objectivity in a piece of work. The main concept I am working on is heterogeneity, but lots of little thoughts that appear about a TV serial I recently watched, music I am listening to, my latest conversation with a friend or what I had for breakfast one way or another influence my work.

Part of my process is very spontaneous and intuitive and another very rigorous and laborious, and sometimes it’s hard to differentiate them – for example a splash of paint is the result of a broader concept with many trial studies, or can be totally accidental, leading me to a new idea.

Blue Detail2

Blue is The Limit, 2016 (Detail)

In your latest paintings the canvases are cut, stitched and have holes or spaces in them, when were you inspired to start playing with the actual canvas in this way?

About a year ago. I wanted to try a different approach, something that pushes me to think differently to the way I am used to. Scissors in my hand gave me the energy of a rebel cutting painted canvas. The rebel with a strong code of conduct doesn’t aim at destruction, more like finding a way to appreciate the space it is moving around. It also allowed me to expand this space and opened me to think three-dimensionally. I liked hand-dying canvas and stitching it to the painted surfaces, as it reminds me of the Color Field movement and its staining method of applying paint, plus it brings out this crafty side of painting, which I think sometimes is carefully masked by artists.

Kp Stranger Things

Stranger Things, 2016

Tell me a bit more about your piece Arrow Sack, is this the first time you have worked three-dimensionally?

Yes, actually. It occurred naturally and very clearly when I started working with different materials. It is a part of diptych alongside the Loophole painting. I wanted to engage the actual space surrounding this painting to create an impression that it is some sort of a portal.

The Arrow Sack work is built with four papier-mâché objects, one of them has horse-hair at one end, pictured as arrow-paintbrush hybrids, and a sewed canvas bag. These arrow/brush pieces are formed more as 3-D abstract brush marks than actual items.

The narrative of arrows came about when I looked into the historical association of the meaning of the word loophole. It defines narrow windows from which castle defenders launched arrows from a sheltered position, gaining the advantage of being able to fire without easily being fired back upon.

What inspires you to come up with a body of work like Loophole? Do you have an idea of how many works you would like to make? Or do you just keep developing an idea until you are satisfied?

I think working within a body of work serves me whilst it keeps me inspired. I always start with research, which is based on questions I have been asking myself. With this series I have been mesmerised by the idea of a past-present-future timeline.

With the quite obvious assumption that history influences and constructs the future, I started to wonder if it works the opposite way as well. Observing and experiencing that referring to past styles in art and broader culture has become almost immanent and artists today feel very confident reusing, commenting on, sometimes glorifying historical styles, I believe in a way it also changes our perception of the past. It struck me that maybe we feel too self-assured that it’s only a one-way process, and maybe the past is able to strike back and that new works may lose by comparison with their ancestors. It inspired me to treat paintings as ‘loopholes’, paradoxes in a time-line. I perceive artworks from the past, present and the future as in constant dialogue with themselves.

I thought that the historical meaning of ‘loophole’ as little windows in a castle wall where its defenders launch arrows, taking advantage of their privileged, safer position, is a good metaphor for contemporary artists who are deconstructing or expropriating historical pieces or motifs – where paintings stand for loopholes, artists for archers and the past for the opponent.

Moreover, in my works I often refer to modernist pieces, for example to constructivism and I layer the narrative of a wall with windows with a compositional grid, which is associated with modernist artworks. Since Abstraction has become representational, because of its historical reference - it embodies an approach, style or motive from 20th century art - I test the heterogeneity of a painterly gesture. I take abstract gestures out of their contexts as Modernist pieces of work and layer them with more illustrative figures and narrations. I try to create entirely new space for them and to express observations about my surroundings. I am intrigued by the new set of connections and how the painterly gesture is abstract and representational at the same time; it can be a motif, a part of a composition, a stain of paint or a depiction and it very easily transmutes and evolves into something wholly different.

Loophole Edited

Immersion, 2016

Which artists working at the moment do you admire?

There is so many great artists working now. My favourite three off the top of my head are Laura Owens, Katharina Grosse and Allison Katz. I am a big fan of Owens and Grosse, who work completely differently, but are both pushing the boarders of painting in a very intelligent way. I love the causality and precision in Owen’s work and Grosse’s uncompromisingness. I also really admire London-based artist Allison Katz. I agree with her attitude towards painting, which she compares to a conversation. She describes painting as a language and constructs it around quotes.

You are currently living in Bristol, and have studied and exhibited in Warsaw previously, how would you compare the art scene in the two places?

They’re quite different. I find Bristol a great city to live in and there is an amazing community of artists here. There are great and progressive institutions like Spike Island and Arnolfini, but there are not many smaller, contemporary galleries. A good advantage is that it has great connections to London, the major cultural spot, as well as Exeter, Plymouth, Falmouth, Cardiff and its closest neighbour Bath. I also really appreciate the diversity in art practices and opportunities across the whole UK.

Warsaw on the other hand, as a capital, offers a wide range of events and exhibition spaces, from top galleries and institutions like MSN, CSW, Zacheta, Foksal Gallery and Raster, to many smaller galleries and pop-up events. The art scene in Poland is still struggling and shaping. Because of the oppression and closed markets up to 1989 we haven’t built the tradition of implementing contemporary art across the broader society. It has been changing for the better with the adolescent new generation and a non-fixed environment is always good for arts and community.

Grid Edited

Grid in The Jungle, 2016

What have you got coming up?

I am excited about starting a twelve-month Turps Banana correspondence course this October. My plan is to work intensely on my new works and to put together material and find a great location for my solo show next year. There is also a two-person exhibition project to be realised with a Polish artist Agnieszka Rogóz next year, all details to be confirmed.

Published 1 September 2016

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Author: Axisweb

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