Interview: Antoni Kowalski
Luca Curci talks with Antoni Kowalski during CONTEMPORARY VENICE 2019 at Palazzo Ca’ Zanardi.
Antoni Kowalski was born on July 10, 1957. He studied at the Department of Graphic Art in Katowice of the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow, Poland. In 1982 he graduated summa cum laude in painting under prof. Jerzy Duda-Gracz and in design under prof. Tomasz Jura. In 1994-2000 he has been a lecturer at the European Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Since 2009 he is full Professor of Fine Arts in Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice. He is Member of Manhattan Graphics Center NY, USA. He did numerous artistic journeys through Europe, USA and China. Nowadays he resides in Katowice, Poland.
Luca Curci – What is art for you?
Antoni Kowalski – Art is my destiny and there is no exaggeration. Since childhood, art has been my nicest fun and for the rest of my life it is passion combined with my profession. Since I decided to educate in this direction, Art has become my profession, and now profession and passion are my everyday life. Art is something as extraordinary as every day life is when a man does not stop at what is external.
LC – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
AK – The origin of my work is unknown, as well as the reasons why I became an artist, having no family traditions, set off on this unknown adventure of life without knowing where I was going. Now I know where I am and despite many sad statements I see this world as a phenomenon of life and beauty, although I cannot hide my regret that it is not a paradise that I miss. I’ve always been inspired by life, nature, a world with a huge number of events and my person as an integral part of everything that surrounds me and influences me. Events important to me have the greatest impact on the form of my paintings, describing the state of the mind rather than the reality.
LC – Which art themes do you pursue? What is your preferred subject, if there is any?
AK – My work is closely connected with my life. Between the material and spiritual world I am looking for a way of expression to express joys, anxieties, reflections on faith, my own dramas and world affairs. From the beginning of my adult creativity, my activities have focused on cycles as leading idea, and so it is today. The cycles of “Shrouds”, “Moments”, “Prayers”, “Meditations”, “Amen”, “Tree of Life” and “Eden” were created. In each of them I was looking for meaning and common elements between the visible and the invisible, soul and body. It is in this space that life reveals its secrets to us, and for me what is hidden is the truth of our existence. I am looking for meaning between the objective and subjective world, and that is the reason why my works are on the border of both worlds. However, above all I focus on the artistic form and through it I would like to show the richness of the world and its complexity in ugliness and beauty. I am looking for a universal language and I raise universal problems even when I talk about close matters.
LC – What is your creative process?
AK – The idea is the beginning and the spirit for the emerging form, the mystery of art is difficult to translate. My image begins with an idea and slowly takes on forms, successive layers create matter, which is developed until it gains its own energy and it expresses something: this is aesthetically interesting. A composition is a collection of elements, like everything in the world, and searching for the right proportions, color, contrast and light decides whether we are approaching the mystery of existence or if we are moving away from it. My world is about the sense of existence and all aspects of life, both spiritually and materially. I try to never speak directly, but I am looking for a universal language in the ambiguity and complexity of the world.
LC – What is the most challenging part of creating your artwork?
AK – The most difficult part is the last phase of painting. This is the moment when many weeks of efforts are subject to changes, when there are corrections in various layers of the image structure. Often these are just details but they decide about the final result. Then the only lead is imagination and intuition.
LC – Where do you find your inspiration?
AK – Life gives me topics. Each day brings many sensations, desires and reflections that the artist must convey. Someone who deals with art professionally does it naturally and systematically. My problem is to look for the right form because the topics give life every day. Many times, unimportant situations gave rise to serious reflections on universal topics. Art has the power to immerse in the essence of things and it can touch the heart with the right form. The language of art gives such possibilities. I am looking for a language and a form to express something between the visible and the invisible, because this is the essence of the mystery of life and the meaning for many people that are seeking the Truth.
LC – What is the message related to the work you showed at this exhibition?
AK – I devoted a lot of time to make my work universal, to use the language of beauty, harmony and color that bring universal content from this visible world, fragments of nature, quotes, details, but existing in contexts and spaces of abstraction, or with special features that we will not find around us because they exist in ourselves, perhaps in our spiritual space. The image of “Eden-spring” presented at the Contemporary Venice exhibition has the features of such a universal story composed of elements of hope, a wealth of nature in terms of ambiguous but universal content. There is not one picture, there are always many, and each of us reacts differently to the same phenomenon. The proper context is created by the recipient, not by the artist. Many times the place and its history, its tradition and its culture influenced the interpretation of the work.
LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think about the theme of the festival?
AK – I was invited to participate in Contemporary Venice and I gladly took part. Venice is a special place and my image, through the form and title “Eden-Spring”, indirectly touches many aspects of this city, which has many faces and is ubiquitous in the media in the minds of people living in different parts of the world.
LC – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform?
AK – I have a little experience and knowledge about ITSLIQUID activities to assess it accurately. The platform has a wide range of interests and it is very professionally, a thing that inspires confidence in the quality and scale of its offer.