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How They See - Issue #5: Bartek Kiełbowicz about artist residency, using different mediums and the most important advice he got on the first year of his studies

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Bartek Kiełbowicz is an artist based in Warsaw, Poland. I have learned about his art during my art wo
 

How They See

August 1 · Issue #5 · View online
How They See newsletter features interviews with artists about their creative work. It shares insights and advice helpful for every beginning artist, art enthusiasts or anyone working in the creative industry. Published weekly on Saturday.

Bartek Kiełbowicz is an artist based in Warsaw, Poland. I have learned about his art during my art workshops in the Atelier Foundation. I have found his works very interesting and I was impressed by the versatility of mediums he is using: paintings, drawings, murals or recent work in stone. He is also speaking out loud what is on top of his mind in a way that is subtle and bold at the same time. I am very honoured by having the chance to speak with him.
You can find Bartek Kiełbowicz on Instagram or on his website.

A lot of Warsaw artists whom I have a chance to meet and people who want to develop in art begin their formal education from the house at Foksal 11 and the Atelier Foundation. Do you have any experience with this address?
No, I started with preparation courses organized by the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. I attended the course there for 3 years, it was a solid base.
At what age have you started creating and when art has engaged you for good?
My adventure with art has begun with photography. My father is a photographer and he lives in Canada, we had no contact for many years and the only thing I he had left was the camera. I carried it everywhere with me like a talisman. In high school, I made a darkroom in the bathroom and wanted to be a photojournalist. I was a good writer and I liked travelling. I was also thinking about directing. Through photography, I was looking for contact with my father. When I was 17 I took a painting course at the Academy of Fine Arts and showed my photos and paintings there. Professor Paweł Bołtryk told me then that I can be a good photographer like many or an outstanding painter. The choice was simple.
Let’s move on to other topics. How does it feel to be able to work during artist residency? I read that you had the opportunity to spend such time in Belgium.
It was a specific residency. I was sitting for a month in a strange abandoned house with a huge garden together with my friend Tomek Partyka. The mansion was arranged like from an aged countess’s nightmare, full of old mannequins, costumes from the 1920s and various peculiarities. There were paintings with malicious dwarfs on the walls, we slept on beds suspended in the air. On the one hand, it was a fascinating adventure, on the other, monstrous solitude and isolation.
Bartek Kiełbowicz, ​"Study of a belgian landscape", oil on canvas
Bartek Kiełbowicz, ​"Study of a belgian landscape", oil on canvas
How can you be invited to an artist residency?
We were invited by the owner of a Belgian gallery with which we were working back then.
Your stay in Belgium was a while ago, in 2015. Do you remember what was the biggest challenge for you back then?
To endure the whole month to the end. After 2 weeks Tomek left and I stayed alone in this strange place. It was a warm summer, my friends were sending photos from their holidays and I was sitting like a monk in Belgium where it rained every day.
Your works include paintings, but also drawings and illustrations of press articles. Do you prefer to paint or to draw?
I believe that each medium is used to express a different topic. Recently, I have started doing stonework as well. It is important to match the medium and the scale of the work to the thoughts you want to convey.
What are the contents of the folder: “Drawings of the Countess”?
It is a series of drawings that were created during a Belgian residence. I drew items belonging to the countess, for example, candles found in a drawer after a birthday party that took place 30 years ago, and a lot of hedges that surrounded the mansion. Based on these drawings, two series of paintings were later created. They were showed at the exhibition “Borderline” at the Contemporary Museum in Wrocław in 2019.
Where does your interest in washing machines and other household appliances come from?
Right after graduation, I was fascinated by stands with outdated newspapers at the Śródmieście station in Warsaw. I bought various strange titles like the world of fireplaces or a golf magazine, which had a horoscope for players: in August, play close distances with a medium stick, avoid tall grass and long holes. I also bought household appliances. I was fascinated by objects and catalogues, especially washing machines as cosmic contraptions that rotate mirrors. I had a washing machine in the kitchen and for breakfast, I had watched a program of spinning coloured shirts, it was better than the TV.
Bartek Kiełbowicz, "Out of the blue", oil on canvas.
Bartek Kiełbowicz, "Out of the blue", oil on canvas.
Ever since I saw your painting: “my mother’s room”, I still have it before my eyes. This is probably one of those works that are not able to forget. What’s his story?
I thought about my mother’s psychology office, about all the people who were there and their emotions hidden somewhere in the walls. It’s a very personal painting.
If you had to choose one painting that stuck with you permanently, what would it be?
When I was a child, I saw “The Scream” by Edvard Munch. It is the first painting I remember, many years later I was very touched by the Agnes Martin exhibition at Tate: beautiful delicate paintings. I remember walking out afterwards feeling happy, convinced that the world is a warm place full of light.
What was the most important thing that education in the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw has given to you?
For sure, education has given me a base and a craftsmanship. It was a great carefree time in my life. I met a lot of cool people. I could experiment a lot, I worked a lot, but I also had a lot of fun and training. I had the pleasure to meet Prof. Paweł Bołtryk and Jarosław Modzelewski. They are important people and wonderful teachers.
What are your responsibilities at Studio 55?
Studio 55 is an alternative drawing studio of Prof. Paweł Bołtryk at Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, where I am an assistant. Work mainly involves talking to students. We are trying to develop their artistic awareness in the socio-political context. We require them to be involved. Times have changed and now hardly anyone draws traditionally. Students come with photos, videos, and conceptual projects on their phones. We teach them to look and together we are trying to find solutions to express what they think and feel.
You have a very large artistic output, you have taken part in many exhibitions. During this entire period, is there anything you regret or would do differently?
Some time ago, I met Ai Wai Wei on a street in London. We were standing next to each other at the pedestrian crossing. At the time, he was working on an exhibition for the Royal Academy. To this day, I regret that I didn’t talk to him back then. He’s a great artist and I appreciate his work.
Can you tell a bit about what you are currently working on?
I am working on an individual exhibition at the Biała Gallery in Lublin. Together with my girlfriend Liwia Bargieł, who is a dancer and choreographer, we are making a “pandemobook” movie about our experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. Also, I am starting to work on a collective exhibition about hell organized by Stach Szabłowski in Bielsko. There is also a political exhibition in with the “Collective” cooperative this Autumn at the Propaganda Gallery in Warsaw.
Can you give some advice to any self-taught artist out there?
I was given this advice by the late prof. Żołnierkiewicz, during the plein-air in the first year of my studies. The professor got up early and wrote advice and thoughts on long blue pieces of cardboard. He changed them and crossed them over and over, he was looking for the perfect form. On one of the cardboards, it was written “believe in yourself” crossed out to “believe in yourself infinitely”. I still have it today.
What is your favourite colour?
Light Blue Green - the colour of my girlfriend’s eyes

If you have enjoyed reading my interview with Bartek Kiełbowicz, I would like to kindly ask you to share it or leave a thumb up at the bottom of this page. In case you have any feedback, questions or you are an artist willing to show up in How They See, you can connect with me on Instagram or just hit a reply back button in case you are a subscriber reading this text as an e-mail.
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