Mundane towns imbued with the aesthetics of the Polish People's Republic, fountains, monotonous cube-shaped houses, and motley marketplaces – Robert Czajka recycles this nostalgic imagery into DIY models, inviting audience members to construct their own cityscapes.
Painter, toy designer.
Robert Czajka is a graduate of the Painting Department of the Warsaw's Academy of Fine Arts. His paintings are dominated by large flat planes of colour – the basis of static landscapes. While focusing on representations of banal, everyday situations, such as spending an afternoon in a city garden, he creates quasi-genre scenes whose nearly archetypical character is emphasised by the use of minimalist components: lack of chiaroscuro and shapes reduced to geometric-like solids.
The artist's nostalgic journey to the times of Polish People's Republic resulted in his Paper City (Papierowe miasto) project. It all began with Czajka's fascination with the so-called PPR cube, that is, a cube-shaped house, a perpetual element of Polish towns.
All of a sudden, I found this rough simplicity very interesting […] For a while, I was wondering what could I actually do with it. I find it very pretty […].
– Robert Czajka said during a talk at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw.
His next step was to transform the shape of the cube. Focusing on plain shapes, Czajka further reduced the figures of houses, stripping them down to their most characteristic elements – he uses lines to imply an outline of corrugated metal, and dark patches to imitate the rectangles of windows.
The paper cities each comprise three separate sets. Each includes four sheets of corrugated fiberboard, cut in such a way that enables the user to assemble the pieces without the use of scissors or glue. Czajka is extremely shrewd in picking out the most typical elements of the landscape of the Polish People's Republic, such as murals or patterns painted on buses. In his work, they become refreshed. When combined, the three sets: blue and red, with typical houses, a fountain, and a bus; green and yellow, with a marketplace and a train station; and the most mobile one, in pink and purple, echoing the mood of hotels and petrol stations, form an aesthetically coherent landscape. The project was made entirely out of recycled materials.
Czajka applied a similar idea in his Animals (Zwierzęta) series, whose elements are also made of cardboard – and therefore sturdy and easy to fold. The carefully composed colour palette, based on reds and purples, makes for a friendly, but not naïve, project. The simplified, geometric animal figures somewhat resemble folk toys. Czajka also plays with patterns, thus adding a tinge of surreal humour to his bestiary. A spotted hyaena is accompanied by a mulitcoloured bear and a turtle with a chess board on its back.
Robert Czajka is also a founding member of the magazine for children titled Czarodziejska kura (The Magic Hen), a niche project he co-leads with Łukasz Kaniewski. The latter describes the beginnings of their endeavour:
I wrote a few poems, gave Czajka a call, and he created an incredibly original design for the paper. (znak-zorro-zo.blogspot.com)
Czajka's complete artistic style materializes here: flat colours and simple, geometric shapes. The magazine was awarded the Gwarancja Kultury (Culture Warranty) Award and the European Design Awards silver medal.
polish people's republic
design for children
the magic hen
Culture.pl in Brazil
Author: Agata Morka, March 2015, transl. AM, April 2015