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graphics & painting
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Between Graphic Arts and Painting

One often hears opinions that artists possess a certain existential ease as an extra bonus from nature. They leave to posterity values enclosed in small fragments of matter. However, it takes time to determine what and how much of those fragments will survive and what will become of the torn off pieces of reality which each successive generation tends to interpret differently.
Is a desperate question about the meaning of one’s own actions really necessary? Wouldn’t it only be fair to surrender to the river’s flow and seek sense in every single day instead of trying to find it in continuity of years? One cannot deserve a talent. It unexpectedly falls upon some of us while others beg for it in vain. If, however, we are granted such talent (smaller or greater), is it not an insult to Providence to clamber up the pedestal with so much persistence?


So many things draw my attention that every single day poses a challenge to my greedy senses. I rejoice and fear, perhaps overreacting to the surrounding world. With years, I have learnt to be more humble in the way I react to reality; it is easier for me to verify opinions, admit ignorance. In my art, I try not to be judgmental. Most importantly, I try to be compassionate for other human beings, understand their motives, no matter how extremely repulsive and atrocious. At that point, all available senses are vital and sometimes the synergy of impulses is so powerful that I feel the fragrance and taste of colors. I feel like I can touch the temperature of sounds. Finally, they all morph in the realm of visual perception, coming both through my eyes and from a whirl of my imagination.
Vastness and infinity of nature shock me and leave me humble. They are the main impulses that set me off to travel. Also, I attempt to travel in time. One has to capture a piece of passing time in order to understand the history. What is distant suddenly becomes touchable if you realise that a human being experiences joy, love, fear, humiliation and hatred in the same way as years or centuries ago.
We have learnt to rely on civilization, indispensability of its products. Frequently, behind it, there is a hidden mechanism to arouse new needs and sell quickly, imposing a new kind of consumption. I avoid values and needs imposed by others and sometimes out of pure spite, the harder I am persuaded, the harder I resist.


What is most important begins at the moment of crossing a barrier of intentional actions, pre-planned schemes. There is some kind of Taoist consent to submit to the power of intuition, to follow one’s artistic instinct.
During the process of creation, there comes a moment when the creation takes over the creator and allows him or her to fill the void in its own compatible system. It is so hard to explain what a revelation is when the problem with infinite number of solutions appears as univocal, pellucid and cohesive.
A struggle with one’s own weakness - with phases of creation, the emptiness of a white sheet of paper, the feeling of being useless and unoriginal. In Islam, the term dżahilijja- meaning darkness and ignorance that need to be conquered is the essence of such condition. If I ignore it, I produce art works that are unwanted, strange, that are looking at me with disapproval from the very beginning. After all, I myself put on these porter’s straps, hoping that the load will become the source of joy. However, there comes a moment when the work begins to dominate; it drags me in, leads my hand. It is not starting over but entering the world in a parallel reality.
Planning is a part of pleasure as is later remembering the exquisite moments. Creating a painting also has its phases; firstly, something hatches; a shapeless idea made up of transitory emotions, weathered retrospections, dreams, fears and even monotony of idleness, coiled around consecutive layers of consciousness and covered by the subsequent ones. Sometimes conceiving new ideas seems like dreaming about flying. One may think that it is just a matter of properly trained arm muscles to flip fast enough and rise in the air. However, once one ascends clumsily above the clouds and submits to the upward and downward currents, everything becomes fluent, harmonious – it’s a bird’s intuition of understanding of the space. The joy of flying is awoken, incomparable to any other experience.
If we take it for granted that humankind undergoes a continuous development and achievements of individuals disappear along with their departure, the question arises: what is it that carries information about qualitative changes to next generations? In other words, to what extent are we as the human race are able to inherit instantly from generation to generation? I am deeply convinced that it is not only possible but that it constitutes the main source of our conscious and subconscious actions. Archetypal thinking appeared in work of Karl Gustav Jung. I have been intrigued by the minimal required number of generations indispensable to initiate such mechanisms. Jung talks about somewhat imprecise, though immensely long time interval, something that happened in the past and was imprinted on human sensitiveness forever.


I have met with graphic artists in various parts of the world, and naturally, our conversation centred around graphic techniques and skills, means of expression and so on. It is always amazing how few words are necessary to understand one another to present our knowledge, determine differences, and share secrets of one another’s craft - the essence of creation.
I am not able to overcome prejudices towards trends rejecting or ignoring craft. It seems that the balance between creative thinking and craft is essential. Creating imagined structures, not related, however, to any material things is liable to plenty of traps, not verifiable, transitory and mono-sensory. Living in a reality impoverished of certain senses or intensity of stimuli, especially visual, becomes an intermediary, a substitute.


Prof. Lechosław Lameński


            Between The Worlds. A Few Words On Artur Popek’s Paintings

Undoubtedly, the 30th anniversary of anyone’s creative work puts one in a reflective mood; itmakes one think of who the artist is and what he has achieved both in the field of graphic arts, which have been so close to his heart over the decades, and easel painting, which increasing has become a fascination of his.The latter, however, is a specific kind of easel painting.In a short period of time, it has undergone a transformation from legible inspirations in miniature drawings which magnified and enriched with colour, graduallyno longer modified copies of their black-and-white prototypes,though described by the same, very literary titles, to compositions more and more spatial, consequently drifting towards the autonomy of the third dimension, depth. In fact, with time, they started losing their graphic look and linearity to become more painting-like on a two-dimensional canvas or painted in a certain order on aboard.

Artur Popek, as it is him that I am referring to, is an exceptionallyinteresting artist. With the passage of time, he has beenmore and more versatile andinterdisciplinary in his approach to art making.By many, he is mostly identified with poetic, sophisticated graphic arts interwoven with literary plots (especially in the extended contents), and clear, surrealistic background in the way he uses formal and compositional elements. However, he is also the author of fairytale book covers, posters and graphic design works..As an artist,on the one hand, hemoves suprisingly closer and closer to traditional easel painting, and on the other, to spatial forms.The latter, a recent fascination of his, may be an announcement ofsoon to come transition into more typical sculptural compositions.

Moreover, Artur Popek is a keen collector of artefacts. Fascinated with aboundant history and culture of other nations, he is a humanist in every sense of the word and a man of vast interests, profound knowledge, and exceptional sensitivity. Yet, he is also a loving husband and father, an animal lover (cats and dachshunds being closest to his heart),an enthusiast of the unspoilt nature of his childhood and of the one that’slush and exotic but fragile and endangered by the progress of our civilization.During his numerous trips around the world,exploration of nature has become unfailing source of inspiration for his stricto artistic activities that he indulges in everyday.

However, the protogonist of this essey is also a master of a written word, a fact known to a few only. It’s a vital and formally unseen aspect of his strictly visual creations. I am not aware whether the artist writes a lot and whether his textswere meant to be published, probably not. Nevertheless, I do know that an essey of his, written sometime before 2001 and entitled MyCredo. How to hide well and what you can see from there deserves our special attention. It is a very personal work, bluntly and without insincere modesty describing in an exceptionally poetic way his happy childhood and the years spent in the countryside;it’s about being close to nature, fresh and wonderfully unspoilt.That aloneinfluenced his character and art to a large extent. His writing is characterised bya vast vocabulary, wide range of associations and literary references to naturesurrounding Artur Popek,first, as a child and then as a student and adult. His flowless narration,draws the readers in, winning their attention and stimulating curiosity.

Later onin the essey, Artur Popek writes about himself as a graphic artist only;about how he prepares to workon a surface of a lithographic stone or, the dearest to him,metal matrixes (the effect of his enchantment with intaglio printing techniques, etching and aquatint, and to a lesser extent with dry needle or mezzotint). In his writing, we also witness his necessity to unwind, isolate from everyday hustle and bustle that we all find at home, a bus,a factory,an office or at auniversity.

There is still one more unpublished text of Artur Popek.This time entirely devoted to his art, entitled On my artistic creation. Between graphic artsand painting. Written in 2009 as an introduction to the artistic documentation prepared in connection with his application for the nomination to the rank of FullProfessor. This time almost a 10page text includes penetrating, though synthetic, remarks on the character of his inspirations, theprocess of creation, technique andskill, alongside fundamental questions concerning the significance and purpose of any artistic creation. He shares with the reader observations on the character of his art and how its percieved by the public in exhibition halls. Additionally, he writes about his teaching as a university professor, which is such an important part of his professional life.

The time between these two texts, probably about 10 years,confirms unique qualities of his writing, his undeniable knowledge, maturity, and the ease with which he expresses opinions and views. And it is not only“art for art’s sake” as the author’s literary  predispositions are clearly transformed into artistic denotations present both in his drawings and paintings. From the latter text we learn about the changes in his artistic creation over the first decade of the 21stcentury. The major one being the appearance of much larger painting compositions in his studio (until now dominated by the magic world of miniature graphics), and the urge to comment on certain topics through more open series of art works, of which the most essential, so far, are:Shields, Beastiarium and Peregrinations.

Looking upon over a thirty-year period of his artistic activity (Artur Popek got involved in the artistic life of his region in 1982, which laterexpandedinto the artistic scene of the country, all while he was still a student),  I realize that he was born to be a graphic artist. After several years of intensive work, as a fully independent artist, splendidly creating the atmospherefor many of his miniature drawings and telling us with passion neverending stories from the fringes of the real world and that of his imagination, he realized a necessity to enrich  traditional graphic arts with colour.

“Constructing a bridge between graphic arts and painting was inevitable”he wrote in 2009 in the above mentioned essey to add later on that“Creation is a constant overcoming of dichotomy, reconciling opposites, extreme aspirations, mutually overpowering forces. In my doings, graphic arts have always been a sanctuary of self-discipline, consequence; planning while painting represented spontaneity, vagueness, and instant effects. Since I started experimenting with textural primers, these two extreme approaches began to complement each other allowing both spontaneity, and pre-planned, precise activities.”

Nevertheless, colour was initially only an addition, a meaningless supplement to earlier, carefully composed graphic designs as the artist was faithfully copying elements from the drawings which grew out of miniatures into works much bigger in size (typically squares of 1x1m). Now they could be seen and analyzed from a distance and not from a short range only. He created paintingsin which vast empty backgrounds came into view. They were previously unnoticed because of the size of the original graphics that were only a few tens of a square centimeter in size ( most often squares of only 10x10cm).
The artist, initially remained under the pressure of small figurative forms (organic, zoomorphic or even industrial) depicted on a white sheet of paper in a definitely graphic way and with the use of open-work texture and fragility, combined with baroque ornamentation, treated with colour as an auxiliary element used to cover evenly the whole parts of his compositions. Consequently, one and with time two or three colourswere added somewhat unexpected, though quite desirable, expanding on illustrative aspectsof the graphic paintings.

The more willingly Artur Popek grabs a brush (instead of a graver or etching-needle), the more often the colour becomes an integral element of his succesive, more and more colourful paintings. A line, fidgety and lively, which played a decisive role in the character of his previous compositions, a line with which the artist created whole, refined shapes, became a mere outline, dividing particular forms moulded almost entirely by a more autonomous, full of  subtle shades, colourful patches.

Consequently, the first decade of the 21st century resulted in paintings that included graphic elements complementing more and more differentiated and colourful patches. Both,the continuation and expansion of the phenomenawas firstly registered on miniature drawings from the 80s and 90s. These paintings constitute a series Mechanomachia,the oldest, exceptionally recognizable, and typical of the works of our Lublin artist.

However, the years 2001-2010 are also marked with formal search; the time whentwo of his mostabstract, very complex and as always poetic and full of implied meaning graphics appeared under the titles:The Battle of Hahamonga Tribe against Spaniards in Arovo Seco nearby Pasadena on May 26, 1760 and The Ranch El Rincon de San Pascual, presented in 1826 by the Mission San Gabriel to Donna Eulalia Perez de Guillen.Both works are 50x 100cm in size and were made withintaglio technique in 2008. They are definitely monochromaticwith the dominance of soft greys on which delicate lines and small geometric figures whirl, scattered chaotically all over the surface. They seem to be a specific tribute of the artist,paid after years,to the enormous paintings of Jackson Pollock who started a trend called action painting recognized as a breakthrough in the history of a modern art.

Finally, the early years of the 21stcentury bring about furtherdevelopments in artist’spaintingseries (apart from Mechanomachia), which after Artur Popek’s momentary infatuation with purely technical possibilities, especially in the way of putting paint on a surface of a canvas or board, began to drift towards transforming a flat, two-dimentional easel painting into spatial,sculptural forms.

Possibly, the most numerous series, so far, is ‘Shields’,where fantasy and illusion mingle with an attempt to create an iconic symbol out of one simple element resembling a shield. A symbol which may represent broader and more important matters, a symbol of a particular African, Near-Eastern or Asia Minor’s ancient civilizations, disappearing  inevitably in non-existance for various reasons. These are civilisations encountered by the artist while travelling around the world to places not necesserily recommended by the authors of most popular travel guidebooks. Every time one looks at ‘Shields’, one experiences the sense of depth and spacecreated by the variety and saturation of colours, and the way they are put on canvas - from thin and smooth to prominent and cloddish.The audience is not sure if it is a traditional collage (popular in painting since, at least, the second decade of the 20th century),  what the painting represents, and what materials have been glued ontothe canvas. The illusion is deeply convincing, the sense of corporeality and spatiality so tangible that individual Shields seem to be living their own, independent lives, nonetheless, dominated by geometric order and harmony of the simplest forms. Such effects result from Artur Popek’s attitude,which I would call almost investigative, close to the method applied by ethnographers, ethnologists, and culture experts.

The successiveseries,Beastiarium,presents yet another attitude of the artist. This time, animals are the protogonists of particular paintings; most often exotic(elephants and rhinoceroses), but also animals which combine encyclopedic features of the species with the artist’s fantasy(expanded variations on a wild boar, its colouring and diabolic snout ended with tusks). Consequently, on a square surface of a painting, there appearsa whole animal or its most characteristic parts. The thing which determines the value of the series is a noble, pictorial layer of individual compositions. Artur Popek behaves like a genuine colourist, consciously contrasting ‘three-dimentional’ parts of the deformed body contained with such difficulty on the square space of a painting, with small, smooth and dark fragments of a hardly visible background in the corners. Maybe it is the first time when the artist is not afraid to leave a clear mark of the brush on the canvas or board - a thick layer of paint with the  addition of sand or fragments of jute string acquires refinement and depth alreadyon the palette while mixing the components.

And finally, the third series, Peregrinations,refers to the artist’s travels around the country and the world. It’s a very personal one, because it’s a diary of Artur Popek’s most intimate experiences and emotional states accompanying him during his journeys. The artist records with his sensitive eyes the configuration and arrangement of an area and shows its most inportant and interesting natural features from various perspectives. From a quiet, en face view of the front elevation of a humble city palace( Diocletian’s Palace) or his favouritewide, panoramic, bird’s eye view allowing him to capture a substantial part of the reality(A Mysterious Street Circle, A  Landscape with the Omaha Beach)to compositions combining various locations into a fairytale one (Here in Mikulov, We are Going to  Start a New Life!), his paintings spin out a tale about the world that’s close by but usually unseen.

Artur Popekrecords chosen details and fragments of objects and architecture with great precision, though they are usually exceptionally common, inconspicuous, seemingly unnecessary features. But surprisingly, in this irrational, partly fairytale reality there is no place for a human being.  As if sunbathing on the beach, strolling along winding streets of medieval towns, sightseeing historic palaces, churches, and magnificent squares or looking at the snowcovered mountainside with flags arranged for a skislalom, he was absolutely alone with everyday fears and emotions. Anyway, this is a characteristic mark of all his hitherto creations and especially of his painting series: Shields, Beastiaruim, Peregrinations and so farhis latest, Asia.

Yet, despite all appearances, human beings are present in Artur Popek’s works but the themehasbeen reserved for himself and his closests at the very beginning of his artistic career. The artist, contrary to his symbolic and to a large degree surrealistic fantasies so keenly exhibited and sold, records autoportraits and portraits(meant for his private use only) with precision and cold objectivity of a camera, these include: the shape of his daughter’s chin,  rays of the sun stroking gently the cheeks if his wife, the curves of his son’s straight nose, slightly rounded at the tip, and most of all their eyes wide open. The eyes lost in thought, languorous, sometimes full of sorrow or curiosity; eyes shining with tears or sparks of joy so explicitly describing a model. Artur Popekin his effort to truly depict the physical and psychological resemblance of his models, avoids excessive, unnecessary details, concentrating on what he feels is essential in their faces.

  The ability to grasp the most characteristic and interesting features of the surrounding reality is much fully developed in Artur Popek’s paintings. Although the artist has been creating them for several years now and has a well-defined, and recognizable artistic personality, he is still a “searching” creator. Exhibited paintings, which constitute such entirety of different series, prove that being true to oneself is definitely worthy, no matter what the dominant trends and fashions are. A piece of art, including an easel painting, will never cease to arouse extreme emotions in the audience, critics, art dealers, and collectors alike, if the artist remains true to himself and the objects of his artistic explorations. Undoubtedly, Artur Popek is that kind of artist.