Przemysław Matecki is a painter, born in 1976 in Żagań.
Between 1997 and 2002, he studied art education at the Art Department of the University of Zielona Góra, where he defended his diploma at Ryszard Woźniak's painting workshop. He has been a member of the music project Płetwonurki Szczurki since 1994. He is the originator and founder of Pracownia Tfurczości Dojrzałej (2002) and is associated with the Raster Gallery in Warsaw and Carlier Gebauer in Berlin. Matecki lives and works in Warsaw.
Przemysław Matecki's oeuvre is usually described in relation to the history of painting, both recent and old. Some say that he builds upon the tradition of the Ładnie Group, while others identify neo-expressionist inspirations, as well as punk zine aesthetics in his work. Jakub Banasiak (Krytykant.pl), on the other hand, qualifies Matecki as a neo-surrealist “tired of reality.” This multiplicity of opinions one hand testifies to the eclectic nature of Matecki's painting, and on the other – to his outside the box style. Having abandoned the safe (and, to artists, limiting) sphere of painting traditions, Matecki's work ought to be examined in the context of the broader notion of images – a function that painting has come to share with other genres, especially the omnipresent photography. It is no coincidence that photography, especially its most common form, found in newspapers and cut out of colour magazines, is a significant feature of his painting. Some of his works function as collages with elements of painting. In this regard, Matecki's practice is akin to John Heartfield's or Hannah Höch's Dadaist strategies.
Matecki's paintings often bring to mind filth, dirt, or even the abject. Joanna Zielińska wrote about them:
An urban graveyard: a graveyard of unwanted things, chaos, filth, waste. A greasy and sticky reality – le visqueux (slime), which Jean-Paul Sartre despised so much. A sticky substance which yokes the body, inspires horror and repulsion… becomes the sphere of artist's inspirations and explorations. For Matecki, this stinking urban disorder is a field of fascinating recycling.
Jakub Banasiak had similar associations:
These canvases could be associated with junk, garbage, or waste, which would make for completely understandable leads. Matecki used to mount all sorts of scraps onto his works, and even whole objects, or the other way round – he painted on found objects.
The artist sometimes left his interventions at dumps (Daty/Dates, 2006), or painted figurines found in garbage (Zając/Hare, Leśny lud/Forest Man, and Robot, all 2006). For Matecki, a similar landfill – a reservoir of motifs – is also epitomised by contemporary visual culture, whose essence is expressed in photographs from colour magazines. This is visible for the first time in Matecki's Szkice/Sketches (2007), in which the artist paints directly on the pages of women's magazines – occasionally, fragments of idealised faces of women are visible from behind abstract, geometric patterns, while in some of the others, Matecki intervenes in the photographs by adding minor elements that highlight individual face parts (such as mouth or hair) or by putting semi transparent paint coats. Oil paint leaves greasy stains, thus emphasizing the material nature of the works.
Matecki's earlier canvases used to incorporate text, which had the potential to radically transform the meaning of the visual layer. The text sometimes expressed a naïve rebellion (Mniejszy a droższy/Smaller Yet Pricier, 2005; W willi mieszkają bogaci/The Rich Live in the Villa, 2005), while other times it functioned as the voice of the presented protagonists, introduced in the form of comic speech bubbles. He created surprising “family trees” of the Pope (Struktury/Structures, 2006) or copied the weather report (Pory roku/Seasons).
Persons cut out from newspapers that appear in Matecki's paintings are often well known and recognizable in real life. After all, contemporary visual culture is dominated by pop culture. Hence, it is no coincidence that his paintings feature singers (Św. Madonna/St. Madonna, 2000), actors (Cichopek, 2006), film characters (I co tam? Jak tam? Jak leci?/So How Are Things? How Are You? How Is It Going?, 2001) or political figures (Condoleezza Rice, 2005/2006; Hugo Chavez, 2007). These figures, having been multiplied or turned into a kind of pictogram, lose their human character. The moment of abstraction, removal of the photographs' original context – of the colour magazine or whatever was represented in the image, but was covered or cut out by the artist – is foregrounded here. This is especially the case with the haircut-themed paintings, where even the faces are erased. The elements used by Matecki are sometimes the core of his works, like in the case of his site specific piece Matrix, exhibited at Raster Gallery in Warsaw in 2007. The tiled motif from an upside-down poster with the film protagonists extended onto the floor, which was covered with tape with the name of the gallery printed on it. This could be treated as an ironic gesture, referring to the art system and the matrix of the artist's commercial standing.
Charles Esche wrote that he is drawn to painting because of its deceptiveness, which always makes things look different to what they really are. Matecki relies on this deceptiveness, incorporating fragments of photographs into his paintings, most of all painting reproductions, photographic landscapes or images of architecture. The blue sky in a picture of a mountain landscape can transform into blue paint. A palace with a spectacular façade becomes a two dimensional, geometric shape. Matecki also juxtaposes reproductions of painted landscapes with his own interpretation of the subject (Pejzaż/Landscape, 2007).
In many of his paintings, the recognisable photographic motifs give place to a painting game, which camouflages them (e.g. Sowa/Owl, 2005; Żaby/Frogs, 2006) or become a counterpoint for the painting compositions (Kometa/Comet, 2007). These paintings constitute a borderline, which, once crossed, reveals Matecki's canvases as examples of matter art. This does not mean that it is limited to the so-called purely painterly issues. A painting gesture becomes a camouflage, a sensualisation of reality, but also an act of negation. His paintings which were diplayed in 2008, show many superimposed layers. As the artist said:
These days, I am interested in the situation of negation, which is manifested in multiple coating of a canvas. It is as if you were walking, but didn't want to get anywhere.
Selected solo exhibitions:
- Painting - BWA, Zielona Góra, Poland
- Sasidis Motecki – Pies Gallery, Poznań (with Paweł Susid )
- Raster Gallery, Warsaw, Poland (with Paweł Susid)
- Hollybush Gardens, London
- Carlier Gebauer, Berlin
Selected group exhibitions:
- Gentelmen's Story Club – Zamek Culural Centre, Poznań
- New Trends in Polish Painting, BWA Municipal Gallery, Bydgoszcz, Poland
- Raster Haircut - Rental Gallery, New York
- 1, 2, 3 Überraschung! - Museum Junge Kunst, Frankfurt (Oder), Germany
- A Place to Live, a Place to Love… - BWA Zielona Góra; Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Słupsk, Poland (2008); Municipal Gallery, Wrocław, Poland (2008)
- Past Forward - Projectspace 176, London
- Red Eye Effect. Polish Photography of the 21st Century – Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw
- Marian Szpakowski - Continuation – Lublin Region Museum, Zielona Góra
- Polish Venus A.D. 2008 – Kraków Photomonth
- 5th Young Triennial – Polish Sculpture Centre, Orońsko
- Positionen der Polnischen Gegenwartskunst - Museum Junge Kunst, Frankfurt (Oder), Germany
- Prague Biennial 4 - Prague, Czech Republic
Author: Karol Sienkiewicz, July 2009, transl. Ania Micińska, August 2015