Andrzej Zielinski, 1!, 2005, oil on panel, 20″ x 20″
Andrzej Zielinski is a young painter who splits his time between Brooklyn and Kansas City. He has recently had solo exhibits at the Dolphin Gallery in Kansas City and DCKT Gallery in New York. Zielinski was kind enough to answer some questions for us about his work.
Please tell our readers a little bit about your background.
I was born in Kansas City and raised there. I enjoyed art when I was young but never thought of being an artist. After high school I moved to Lawrence, KS and worked manual labor (trimming trees, Coca Cola merchandiser, house painter, etc) . It wasn’t until I was 21 that I made a conscious choice to give up music (I was a six string electric bass player) and go to Johnson County Community College [in Overland Park, KS, home of the Nerman Museum] to take studio art and art history. My first complete painting was done there. I was extremely dedicated to making it happen because I was an older student paying his own way. I won a scholarship to the Art Institute of Chicago, where I copied a Mondrian lozenge painting. This had a lasting effect on me, as it allowed me to see the problems he faced and his solution. From Chicago, I went to Yale where I worked with some notable artists. After grad school I chose to move to Rome because I didn’t feel like going to NYC like the rest of the herd. I needed a whole new environment and Rome offered me that. It played a crucial role in developing my bas-relief on and in my paintings.
I live most of the time now in Staten Island, NY, but keep studios in North Kansas City and Brooklyn.
Satellite Deployed, 2009, mixed media on panel, 120″ x 105″
I wonder if you could discuss how the idea of scale factors in to the paintings?
Scale is something I think about a lot. The way I initiate the size of a painting is determined by the actual objects themselves as they are in the real world. So it’s more or less one-to-one. For example, my laptop paintings are twenty inches square and only three-fourths of an inch deep, thereby a representation of the actual physical structure of the painting offers a counter weight to the distorted machine that is painted upon it. When I wanted to paint larger I didn’t paint a five by five foot laptop but chose to paint a larger device: an ATM. That simple logic appeals to me and allows me to keep expanding my work without it feeling forced. Of course, machines like paper shredders can be the size of trucks. I am currently working on industrial paper shredders, which are six feet square. The satellites offer a whole new can of worms because satellites can be very small or large but no one actually touches them – they are only touched by other machines. What’s challenging is this: how to do you frame infinity? My solution is that the solar panels frame it while simultaneously playing with scale. In the drawings I recently thought that the oval format could be read as both a telescope’s eye (which might observe a satellite in space) and also as a reference to mandorla in Christian iconography (but on its side). What’s that all mean? I don’t know.
Within the paintings I use scale in what I feel are non-traditional ways. I often use a large brush that operates as a kind of short hand for dealing with large amounts of pictorial space. This short hand in my mind has a parallel with the casing of plastic machines. I find the casings engaging because they are often made from plastic mold injectors as one continual piece with no change in color as it bends or curves. My father worked with plastic heaters and I think on some level that has influenced me. I don’t see the large marks as gestures in a Modernist or ironic Postmodernist way. Although unfortunately those marks can easily play into the hands of those who want to think that.
Describe the way that you use light.
Anything goes for me here, which is fun. The objects themselves generate light, convert light into power, or conversely run off of the sun by means of stored energy (coal). I use synthetic polymers which appeal to me because they update paintings tools and also make sense when painting plastic machines. These polymers, such as gels, matte paints and interference colors, all make for some interesting ways to conceive of light inside the pictorial space and the light on the painting.
Interpreted widely, to include both traditional painting forms as well as contemporary commercial photography like the images we see in Sunday newspaper inserts, how invested are you in still life as a genre?
I don’t locate my work specifically in the still life genre. I think it teeters between still life, portrait, and icon genres without sitting squarely in one. I am not interested in taking authority over the viewer. I let that go in grad school because it seems to be didactic and hopelessly academic. I find trying to second guess a social response very destructive. I don’t look at an actual object in the studio, I don’t even own a laptop. My experience with ATMs, cellphones, laptops, etc are through actual interfacing with the objects and remembering them in some fuzzy way when I am making a painting of them. It’s more akin to a sort of touch-to-visualization osmosis. I don’t see nostalgia in my work and I am not interested in it. I think my work has a bit of an ahistorical tinge to it. I sometimes think that the paintings will look more interesting as real world laptops and ATMs slowly dither away from the everyday landscape. Perhaps then the nomenclature of titles will perpetuate a myth of these machines, which is something I would be very pleased with. In terms of paper shredders, Ouroboros comes to mind.
Sunday paper ads and magazines aspire to create a desire in someone (the consumer) where none naturally exists. There’s a whole production to ads and I don’t feel my work relates in any way to that. I am one artist with my own views that people can choose or not choose to look at and talk about.
Orange ATM Opened, 2008, oil on linen, 69″ x 60″
You’re mostly defining your ideas and your work here in the negative—it’s not traditional, it’s not within any one genre, it’s not related to other common contemporary images of similar objects, the marks are not related to ‘gestures’ in a Modernist or Post-modernist sense, etc. There are hints about what’s going on in the work, with references to autobiography, to allegorical imagery,etc. but I’m still unclear as to much of what engages you as a painter. You state, “I am one artist with my own views that people can choose or not choose to look at and talk about.” So, my question is, what are those views and how are they manifested in the paintings and drawings?
I don’t consider my work being hard to locate a negative. I think having the parameters of traditional notions works against me. I let the work tell me how to proceed through these traditional parameters intuitively. My work is an interpretation of certain machines and how I come to terms with that in a visualization process (painting) that doesn’t lend itself so easily to language in an explicit manner. Perhaps I am trying to personalize machines that by their very nature can’t be personalized. I paint and find the answers much later. I feel I am successful when you [the viewer] have that strange feeling of “where is the on/off switch or power button” frustration that one has on an unfamiliar device and the machine becomes something “other.” My work is about “becoming.”
All right. Thanks, Andrzej. See more work by Andrzej Zielinski at his website.