Artist of the Week: Andrzej Zielinski

Andrzej Zielinski was born in Kansas City, Missouri. His work is in the collections of the Portland Art Museum, The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Canberra Museum and Art Gallery, and the National Gallery of Australia. His work has been shown in New York City, Los Angeles, Berlin, Tokyo, and Sydney. He lives and works in Berlin, Germany.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. My name is Andrzej Zielinkski. I was born in Kansas City, Missouri and grew up there as well as Lawrence, Kansas. I grew up hunting and fishing like most kids from that area of the country. I liked anything that had to do with the outdoors and I grew up wanting to be a park ranger.

I liked art as a child, however it was only something I did in ‘art class,’ not something I did on a regular basis. At my elementary school a woman would come every month from the local library with bad laminated reproductions placemat size of Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night, 1889, Seurat’s La Grande Jaunt, 1886, Georgia O’Keefe’s, Sky Above Clouds, 1965 and Salvador Dali’s, The Persistence of Memory, 1931. All the artists were deceased except Georgia O’Keeffe. I didn’t know ‘til much later that living artists were still creating art. It wasn’t until I was in my early 20’s that I found a passion for art history and then art making while attending Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas and then continuing on to the University of Kansas. From there I transferred into The School of Art Institute of Chicago where I received my BFA in 2002. I then received an MFA from Yale University 2004.

I spend my time painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpting, reading and studying a few languages. I have been a visiting artist at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia for the past 3 years. I have taught painting and drawing classes there. When I wasn’t in Australia teaching I was either in Berlin, where I have a small apartment I rent, New York City or Kansas City.

I spent most of 2006 in Rome, Italy. I went to see the great works in Italy, but I became enthralled with bas-relief carving, ultimately influencing me to add three-dimensional aspects to my canvases, and then actually making sculptures.

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What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? I follow space exploration, technology advancement, nature discoveries and environmental problems. I don’t have a recipe for how these interests filter into my work, but I feel it’s an osmosis that takes place over time. Things over time become clear, that aren’t clear in the present. In other words, I figure it out later. I just work and then assessment comes later.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I’m currently working on an exhibition that will be held at Mottahedan Projects, Dubai, UAE it will include both sculptures and paintings.

Starting September I’ll also be working on a couple of lithographs at Lawrence Lithography in Kansas City with master lithographer Mike Sims.

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What artists are you interested in right now?  I’m interested in artists that have a fiercely personal cosmology. For me that means the work of Florine Stettheimer’s ‘Cathedral series’ where the idea of impasto is formed into ‘structural’ elements in the composition similar to bas-relief. I am glad that she was garish with her use of colour. Her work feels keenly contemporary and I feel they are some of the best history paintings of the 20th century.

Wols paintings and incredible etchings have presence and vivaciousness to them. This ‘witch doctor’ had an uncanny control over the mediums he used. His work feels alive and twitches.

Alfred Jensen has somehow portrayed humanities systems and algorithms paradoxically in an ordered and chaotic way. Even though Jensen’s work portrays human thinking, they look alien.

Carroll Dunham continues to follow his images demands without censoring himself.

Lee Bontecou who was also influenced by a prolonged visits to Rome and bas sculptural reliefs. Her work oscillates uncannily between the mechanical and the organic.

The artist I’m contemplating with great enthusiasm at the moment is Ralph Humphrey. Humphrey’s fiercely idiosyncratic palette and the physicality of his paint surface resonate with me.

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Tell us about your work process and how it develops? I sometimes sketch/doodle and write down things that interest me on impulse, but more often than not, I initiate a piece by picking a machine and then go through a series of formal decisions that are hard, if impossible, to rationalize through speech. Nonetheless the decisions seem to me to make sense at the time.  It always begins with drawing with graphite directly onto the painting support. I have to enclose some space and build on that network. I intentionally push relationships in a formal sense to find new ground and also I ‘play’ with different possibilities of textures and colours to see what comes of it. I know a work of mine is finished if it ‘twitches,” or in other words, breaks the mold and becomes a personality and has a presence. Some work takes years to resolve and I often rework old work a la Matisse. I work on multiple works at once.

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How long have you lived in Kansas City and what brought you there? I currently keep a studio in Kansas City area but work wherever I need to and can.

I also spend a fair amount of time in New York City. I’ve found it too difficult to make sculptures there due to very strict restrictions on noise and fire codes. So making the work in Kansas City is a good option. I don’t think they can hear me grinding metal or sculpting stones in New York from there. I’ve also worked in Berlin on and off for the last 3 years. I plan on moving to LA beginning of 2014.

What do you want a viewer to walk away with after seeing your work? A sense of frustration that borders on humor and ends up being a  ‘Wow.’

Then, when the viewer later interfaces with real ATMs, mobile phones, or paper shredders they think about my work, and therefore see the machines around them more clearly and perhaps that draws some thoughts into their heads that otherwise wouldn’t have come to them. For example, “Is the rationality of the digital age and hyper-connectivity that rational?”

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What are you reading right now? Books by Kobe Abe in English. Game of Thrones (in German) and some short stories in Italian.

Describe your current studio or workspace. My studio is very clean and orderly. I thrive on organization, which enables me not to get bogged down in trivial things like: Where the heck is that brush? Or where is that colour? Things get messy in the process of working, but then there needs to be an assessment, and for me that means giving the piece I’m working on center stage.

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Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of your work? Best reactions from adults have been ‘WOW,’ then speechlessness, that is in turn followed by several minutes of hand gesticulating, some stumbling words, and then finally to some sentences. Then to hear months or years later they ‘initially’ wanted to hate my work, but that over time and after several viewings they found it extremely compelling. The children that have seen my work have struck poses in front some of the paintings.