Luca Curci talks with Jacek Sztuka during FRAGMENTED IDENTITIES, second appointment of BORDERS ART FAIR 2021, at Palazzo Albrizzi Capello
Jacek Sztuka studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracovv (1996-2001) in the Department of Painting, in the studio of Professor Jacek Waltoś and in the drawing studio of Professor Teresa Kotkowska-Rzepecka. In 1999-2000 he obtained a scholarship at Akademie der Bildende Künste in Nuremberg in the painting studio of Professor Johannes Grützke and in 2001 he obtainend a Diploma cum laude in the studio of Professor Stanisław Rodziński. In 2012 he became associate professor in the Department of Management of Częstochowa University of Technology with a Doctorate at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow in 2006 and Postdoctoral degree in 2012. Since 2019 he has been teaching visual communication in the field of Design and Project Management at the Faculty of Management of the Czestochowa University of Technology. He is also a member of the Association of Polish Artists and Designers, BVBK, IAA. The artist took part in 120 collective exhibitions and organized 23 individual exhibitions world wide. His works can be found in Polish museums and private art collections both in Poland and abroad.
Luca Curci – What is art for you?
Jacek Sztuka – It is believed that art is sometimes a “catalyst for social change” or rather a mirror in which human history is viewed. Since an objective definition of art is no longer possible today, one can only speak in one’s own subjective name. If art can be a kind of mission, I will answer how I see my mission in my painting: the justification for the existence of his being as such. After all, someone may ask – why paint realistically today, if photography shows reality much more precisely? Here my mission is to testify that nothing can replace the experience of an artist (I will call here an artist a painter “experiencing his paintings”). That is why I see the value in an image as something unique, an individual gesture of his hand, a trace of human existence. Art has already been assigned many roles – from creating a new matrix of life in the Bauhaus school to the desire to completely destroy the ethos of art in Dadaism – see Marcel Duchamp. In addition to art, there is also applied art. This is close to my heart because I run classes with Design students at the Faculty of Management of the Częstochowa University of Technology.
LC – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
JS – I believe that my painting and printmaking is on the one hand rooted in tradition and on the other hand it relates to the present day. You can find here references to the aesthetics of the baroque period, realism and surrealism. At the center of my interests is the condition of a modern man struggling with his own spiritual desires, passions and transience. So I also specialize in portraiture. The face is the theme I am fascinated with – face as an expression of a unique Person. My favorite French philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas, used to say that the Face says: “you are responsible for me.”
LC – Where do you find your inspiration?
JS – I love old paintings. My favorite 16th century Italian painter is Venetian Jacopo Tintoretto. I admire the painting skill of this painter and the warm colors of his canvases. My favorite places in Venice is the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. As an academic, among the Italian painters I am particularly close to Guercino. The amazing thing is that these figurative painters were essentially thinking abstractly! These Italian painters prove that abstract and figurative painting is ruled by similar laws.
LC – How is being an artist nowadays?
JS – Today, anyone can be an artist, because, as Morris Weitz stated a long time ago, “the definition of art is impossible” and therefore the role of the artist cannot be defined either. The question of the role of art and the artist today is therefore very difficult. The current situation is unfortunately quite chaotic, but it is the reality.
LC – Did your style change over the years? In which way?
JS – As I mentioned, I am rooted in tradition and modern at the same time. It is impossible not to be a contemporary painter while living in the present day. But I am fascinated by the old masters – “Vieux maîtres” by Eugen Fromentine is my favorite book, describing painters of the Baroque period. However, my fascinations are also earlier. I love the late Titian who applied paint with his fingers. So another of my favorite places in Venice is the Gallerie dell’Accademia. So, in general, I would describe my style as “gestural realism”.
LC – What do you think about the concept of this festival? How did it inspire you?
JS – I was intrigued by the name of the Borders Art Fair Venice 2021. Especially this “borderness”-crossing of borders is fascinating. The topic of Fragmented Identities “hits” my long-time interests. I have also dealt with this issue in my work with students. It is especially relevant nowadays when we guard our physical borders so much for pandemic reasons.
LC – In which way the artwork presented in our exhibition is connected with the festival’s theme?
JS – In the “Hydra” assignment implemented in my class, the idea was for Design and Project Management students working individually to model a humanoid head in a 3D design program. The individual pieces were to be combined into a single organism of a multi-headed creature. The work on the hydra coincided with the outbreak of the global pandemic COVID-19. The branches of the hydra were transformed into the branches of a moving tree, which may become here a universal metaphor for endangered life. A film featuring the resulting “hydra-tree” is also being produced. The work entitled “Tumors”, which is present at the exhibition, is a frame from this film. This work is the result of a beautiful situation when a student starts to inspire the teacher. One of the 3D heads was designed by my student Pawel Paruzel. When I saw this humanoid head on the computer screen I was so inspired by it that I gave it the texture of dry snake skin and decided to animate it. For this menacing head I created a female partner, so that together they could face the deadly virus. The tree-hydra creature is a metaphor for fragmented identity. It is a being suspended between being humanoid – almost human, animal or even plant.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
JS – If painting (or any other kind of art) is to be honest and heartfelt, there is a conflict here: How to share your intimate outings publicly with others. It looks like “exhibitionism”. This “exhibitionism”, however, is also caused by the desire to confront, meet with others, which is, unfortunately, so much more difficult nowadays. However, ITSLIQUID GROUP provides an excellent opportunity for such a confrontation.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
JS – Our communication with each other was seamless. I’m pleased that you appreciated the value of our work. I am glad that I could show at your exhibition not only my works but also those of my students, e.g. Nina Nowak. I think that your exhibition in Venice is for them a very positive confirmation of their creative abilities and talent.
LC – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform?
JS – I think your platform looks attractive. Perhaps you could add video materials from the exhibition in horizontal format in a higher resolution, so that they fill the whole screen. This would be beneficial for those who only have the opportunity to visit the exhibitions on line. I wish you to be able to disseminate the effects of your activities as widely as possible.