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Maciej Sieńczyk

Maciej Sieńczyk, "Self-Portrait", drawing courtesy of the artist
Maciej Sieńczyk, Self-Portrait, drawing courtesy of the artist

Author of comic books, draughtsman, illustrator. Born in 1972. Lives and works in Warsaw.

He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. His illustrations may be found in such magazines as Newsweek, Przekrój, Wysokie Obcasy and lately also in the online Dwutygodnik.

Since the beginning of his career Sieńczyk has been affiliated with two friendly organizations: Lampa i Iskra Boża, a publishing house ran by Paweł Dunin-Wąsowicz, and Raster, a gallery ran by Michał Kaczyński and Łukasz Gorczyca, who used to publish periodical under the same name.

Sieńczyk illustrated Dorota Masłowska’s books (White and Red, Queen's Spew, A Couple of Poor, Polish-Speaking Romanians)  for Wąsowicz, and in the literary monthly Lampa he also published his comic strips  consistently on the first few pages. The artist’s “somewhat troublesome objects” (a lock of hair and a ball) and his original comic book boards were sold by Raster at the Cheap Art Fair, which the gallery organized.

As of now Lampa i Iskra Boża has published three comic book albums by Sieńczyk: Hydriola in 2005, Wrzątkun (Boiling Boy) in 2009 and Przygody na bezludnej wyspie (Adventures on a Desert Island) in 2012. These publications are chiefly collections of comic strips that had appeared in Lampa.

In his drawings and comic strips Sieńczyk created a characteristic, distinct style. He uses patches, thick lines, a limited colour scheme and simple, clear-cut letters. At the same time he doesn’t care too much about the anatomical credibility of the drawn figures. When the volume Hydriola was published, Konrad Grzegorzewicz wrote that:

The figures consist of anatomically correct elements that are drawn very well, however the heads are out of proportion compared to the torsos and limbs, a hand likes to sometimes grow from back to front (not to mention that the palms and feet don’t seem to mind if they disappear completely from time to time). The same goes to the plots, which have formulas that offend traditional recipes for interesting stories.

Sieńczyk creates specific plots, he merges standard literary elements with things that are typical of comic books. As an author of dialogues, which tend to be humorous, he frequently uses word-formation. He often employs stylizations and he creates surreal and absurd worlds that are based on his dreams. When he happens to draw from reality, he creates grotesque portrayals. In Hydriola he included amongst others his childhood memories. In an interview for Wysokie Obcasy he said:

There is for instance the tale of the boy, who during a walk with his mother sees a man attached to the ceiling of a basement. The man is sticking his butt out through a window. The mother can’t see anything because the pervert is on the level of the child’s eyes. There is also a kindergarten story. About a boy, who has a penis and a sausage. The boys from the elder group took us to the bathroom, one of them took out his penis, removed the foreskin and produced a sausage, which he later put back where he took it from.

Sieńczyk usually draws inspiration from his dreams. In an interview he once said:

I have a piece of paper next to my bed, on which I write down sentences or whole stories, after I dream of something horrible. These dreams always occur at 5 am. I write them down and I fall asleep. In the morning I make drawings of them, which I quickly send to Lampa.

Dreams inspired most of the 31 fantastic stories included in the album Wrzątkun. The publication contains somewhat disturbing tales, that tell for instance about: a man that has legs made of light, the crash of the Eugeniusz Romer plane, a girl that wasn’t interested in anything because she had a piece of glass in her heel. On the other hand the title Wrzątkun is a boy, who may only live in a suit filled with boiling water. In the album one may find many a weird behaviour, superstition or human weakness. Dorota Jarecka wrote about Wrzątkun what follows:

These stories don’t have a great deal of anecdotic sense, there is no point in summarizing them, they are the opposite of what people wish you for your birthday, which is actually what those people wish for themselves, that being happiness, good health and prosperity. Mishaps, mistakes, disgust, revulsion, stupidity and shame are what the characters encounter. I don’t have any texts by Žižek or Lacan beside me, but if I remember right, the latter wrote that the sense of language is hidden in what it cannot convey, in the part where it is mistaken. (…) What occurs here, occurs indeed between the image and the text and leads us toward a certain kind of fissure.

In 2011 Sieńczyk’s exhibition Polisario was hosted by the Poznań gallery ON. The exposition’s title was taken from one of the stories included in Wrzątkun. The artist showed his drawings, sketches, paintings, illustrations, comic strips, but also an unusual collection of articles from his own private collection. After all, Sieńczyk is not only an artist, he is also a collector of unusual objects. The exhibition featured amongst others: socialist prints, strange textbooks (Fighting the Crawling Rails from the series The Library of the Railway Master), boards used for the teaching of the school subject of defensive preparation (Rules for Shooting at Airborne Targets), plastic toys, a children’s stethoscope or a can of “drinking water.” Early on Sieńczyk was known to be a collector of artificial human legs. When he was asked about the strangest thing he ever bought, he described a German atlas of forensic medicine:

I use this book as an anatomical atlas. The dead are often stretched out in armchairs in picturesque interiors. These are perfect models for my comic books. It would be hard to find bodies positioned in such ways anywhere else.

At the exhibition in Poznań, the objects, which were basically ready-mades abstracted from their initial context, showed the tangible sources of Sieńczyk’s surreal, oneiric stories.

In Dwutygodnik, Kinga Dunin wrote the following about Sieńczyk’s newest tome Przygody na bezludnej wyspie:

There is nothing that brings to mind Crusoue here, there is no adventurous, exploratory journey into the unknown, despite the signalized genre traits, such as the author’s claim that he has merely found somebody else’s text. The character that narrates Przygody… finds a notebook placed by someone in front of a door, which contains the story. (…) When one analyzes the language used by Sieńczyk the distinction between unusual and ordinary, exceptional and trivial is useless. The points of the subsequent stories are surprising because they are completely unsurprising. The girl that was supposed to move a plane by the use of her mysterious powers, is unable to move anything and departs with her parents. The sick child that is amused by its parents calms down.

Maciej Sieńczyk also illustrated such publications as the collection Filtry (Filters) by Adam Wiedemann (published by Staromiejski Dom Kultury, Warsaw 2008) or the reissue of Michał Witkowski’s Lubiewo (published by Korporacja Ha!art, 6th edition, Kraków 2009).

Author: Karol Sienkiewicz, January 2012; updated: June 2012.

Edited by PK, translation by Marek Kępa's picture
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Maciej Sieńczyk


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