Visual artist, painter, creator of installations and art objects. Born on 24th December, 1981, in Świętochłowice.
Visual artist, painter, creator of installations and art objects.
Szymon Kobylarz studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice, from which he graduated in 2007. He is a lecturer at his alma mater. The artist lives and works in Katowice. While at university, Kobylarz, as befitted a student of painting, subjected this art medium to an in-depth and critical analysis, exploring its possibilities to create a realistic illusion, sometimes to the point of perfection, and sometimes to the boundaries of absurdity. He openly mocked painting, though he never abandoned it. The artist presented an installation entitled The Allegory of Painting – Painter in His Studio at the exhibition of Lesław Tetli’s drawing studio at the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice. Kobylarz recreated the typical setting of a painting protected by barriers in a museum. It turned out, however, that the small picture presenting the interior of a painter’s studio was not flat, but a three-dimensional model recessed into the wall, where a miniature figure (the artist) was sleeping at his desk. Next to it there was a chair for a supervisor (also typical of museums) with a screen, which showed a film that seemed to come from inside the model, as if the miniature figure was subject to observation.
Kobylarz has always liked to trick the viewer’s eye, like when he created Invisible Drawings on the walls of his academy: the blotches in the corners of the room in fact proved to be illusory drawings, as if inspired by the story of Zeuxis and Parrhasius, who competed with each other to see who could produce the most realistic illusion. As the story goes, Zeuxis created a picture of grapes, which were so true to nature, that birds wanted to eat them, but he lost the competition to Apelles, after he fell into his trap – wanting to reveal his painting, he realised that the curtain was painted. Kobylarz played a similar game, but he also entered into a dialogue with the history of painting, for example with Art Informel, in which spots and blotches become a means of artistic expression.
As a student, Kobylarz readily switched from painting to three-dimensional art, often combining them together and playing, for example, with the three-dimensionality of frames and their similarity to other flat objects. This did not prevent him from creating traditional paintings, though they were also meant to mystify, such as the visions of contemporary architecture turned into ruins. Commenting on his work, the artist explains:
The buildings I draft on the picture plane were erected no more than ten years ago, and I take away what time could deprive them of, were they left to themselves for decades. (...) The buildings I paint exist in reality; they often create the modern image of the city, to an extent that we sometimes cannot imagine the city without them. I subject them to gentle ageing ‘facelift’, removing windows, revealing the hidden concrete and iron structure.
One of the buildings that Kobylarz made look old was the Złote Tarasy shopping centre in Warsaw. He presented similar catastrophic visions through three-dimensional models of buildings, and even through short films, resembling fire. He created a model of Superjednostka, a huge block of flats in Katowice destroyed by an explosion (2007). As Anna Cymer wrote, Kobylarz’s burned models ‘show the ‘bad’ face of modernism, or rather what modernism has given birth to over the years.
In recent years, the artist has become increasingly interested in issues on the border of science, technology, military studies and conspiracy theory of history – where science meets madness.
His graduation project was a model of a euthanasia clinic, built on a scale only slightly smaller than the actual (Model of an Institution on a scale of 1:1.5, 2007). Before that he presented smaller models on a scale of 1:10 at a solo exhibition in the Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw. This is how he described the project for the clinic:
The first room is a combination of a hotel reception and a doctor’s waiting room. The colour scheme refers to the yellows and the browns as colours of omnipotence, but also as colours of the earth, and to the black colour as something noble (e.g. the shiny surface of a black piano), but also as a colour of mourning. The brightness of the room is meant to highlight its polished elements. This is a warm interior, with the most intense colour combination. The last room is in turn something between a bedroom and a hospital isolation ward. The first model has the coolest colours, while the other one presents a more detailed interior.
In a similar project entitled Mr Jan Kolano’s Cell (2008), Kobylarz recreated the cell where Jan Kolano, a murderer, but also an amateur scientist, spent 20 years of his life. The reconstruction was based on a wide range of source materials. While in prison, Kolano made numerous discoveries, which were later confirmed by academic science. In turn, the installation Ionocraft. Fake version (2008), ‘told’ the story of the designer who invented the device that flies thanks to the phenomenon of ion wind. Kobylarz presented his own vision of this amateur-inventor’s cluttered studio.
The artist recreated his own studio at the exhibition Conspiracy of Art in 2008. During the opening he slept in the model after taking sleeping pills. The event, however, was more complicated and referred to the so-called diss. Imitating the hip-hop freestyle battles based on copying the style of the opponent or the transformation of fragments of his work, two of Kobylarz’s students from the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice buried his model Superjednostka in the academy’s basement in retaliation for painting their pictures in black and adding them to the installation in the Sektor Gallery.
The artist’s solo exhibition Echelon 70 in the Kordegarda Gallery in Warsaw (2009) made reference to the powerful electronic data system, but it also explored the broader problem of control over the life of the individual in the modern world in the form of, for example, monitoring:
On the one hand, we want to feel safer in the scary modern world, and, on the other, we begin to lose control over our own lives – wrote the curator of the exhibition.
Kobylarz put white balls in the gallery space; some of them became carriers of meaning.
The enigmatic domes of Bad Albing in Bavaria (one of the overground headquarters of Echelon) – wrote Krzysztof Gutfrański – are turned into a spare head or a modernist sculpture, evoking unexpected associations, which constantly revolve around the very relevant problem of the crisis of history.
In turn, the artist’s individual exhibition in the Żak-Branicka Gallery in Berlin in late 2009 and early 2010 referred to the defence training course, which he remembered from school, and whose aim was to prepare students in the case of a disaster or a war. They were taught how to give first aid, how to behave in the event of a catastrophe, and even how to use weapons. Kobylarz turned the defence lessons into a war game for boys. Inspired by the knowledge he acquired at school, he designed emergency equipment and primitive weapons in his home, using only household items and widely available materials. He created a gas mask from a Coca-Cola bottle, a periscope from a carton of milk, a smoke grenade from a ping-pong ball, and a bomb from noodles. All the items were presented in glass cases. The exhibition thus became a caricature of Communist safety instructions.
In his exhibition – says the curatorial text – Kobylarz raises questions about science and its unpredictable consequences. Would science make compromises and would it sacrifice its principles?
The exhibition also presented an installation, which the artist created at the Survival Festival in Wrocław in 2010 – it was an improvised shelter built from thousands of books.
Author: Karol Sienkiewicz, December 2010, transl. Bozhana Nikolova, March 2015