The first meeting with Maess
Hot August afternoon in Ochota, Warsaw. Together with Hela, we came here to get to know Maess. The beautiful surroundings made us forget about those annoying droplets of sweat and a dry throat. We rang the intercom to the apartment located in a town house at the exact address, the gate swung open and we went to the top floor. It is something beautiful about town houses. The unique smell, the old building style and the high ceilings. Wonderful thing! At the door, Maess welcomed us, she offered a glass of cold water a moment later… we started a conversation and a photoshoot. Along with every sentence I was confirmed that she’s really an extraordinary artist. She sees more, feels more and she’s talking images to people. The most intriguing thing was that from tumor, she did something that you can look at with delight. Maess will show large drawings raising the subject of body fighting with cancer. For two years, she’s becoming acquainted with medical records and uses this knowledge in the creative process: using images, databases, programs to create 3D models, watercolor paints and markers. The effects can be seen on her individual exhibition at Polish Institute in Budapest, which will take place on September 16; we are showing the preparations here, on BLAGcanvas. Earlier, we can see her works at the group exhibition “The Drawers” in Kasia Michalski Gallery in Warsaw on September 3.
You are always raising some subjects along with the cycles of your work. What did you do now and why?
I choose topics that resonate in me, move a string. Just as a writer writing a book, collecting stories, materials, accumulate his own thoughts. The latest cycle “There was life,” which consists of two parts “Abnormal Results” and “Neoplastic disease”, presents a fight of organism affected by cancer. Siddhartha Mukherjee in his excellent book “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer” describes how cancer is permanently builded-in in our genome and explains why today’s treatments are incomplete. The unpredictability of the future state of knowledge about cancer and incidentality of one’s own fate is very puzzling. I’m fascinated by how intertwined are the body processes of normal and pathological growth. Beauty, fragility and decay in the context of our biological existence.
Where have your works been exhibited before?
The first exhibition in the gallery I had shortly after leaving to study in Portugal, in Plumba Contemporary Art in Porto. Later I showed my works, for example, in – Residencia Corazón La Plata in Argentina, Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Museo di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Museum of Contemporary Art in Wroclaw, City Gallery Arsenal, BWA Sokół, Starak Foundation in Warsaw, Oslo Prosjektrom in Norway and Drawing Center in New York.
Where did you get artistic education and experience?
Adventure with art began from music. I finished primary and secondary music school where I was playing the violin, piano and I was also learing composition and theory of music. At about the age of 12 I became interested in visual arts and for several years I continued both paths. I graduated from Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw at the Faculty of Design, in the meantime I studied graphic design at ESAD in Porto. I also attended lectures on anthropology of visual culture at the Institute of Polish Culture, contemporary philosophy at the University of Warsaw and anatomy classes at the Medical University. Academic knowledge is not enough, I wanted to get to know different places and different ways of thinking. Then I set off on a trip in the type of Grand Tour for the poor. I lived for some time in Portugal, Argentina, I visited a few places very spontaneously. At that time, the vision of what I want to do in life has crystallized.
What inspires you?
Witnessing the times in which we live.
What tools do you use for work?
Production, about which we are talking about, is a complex process. It all begins with the search of interesting medical images, reading various publications and creating databases. With selected parameters I generate solids in the 3d program – at this stage, I choose the appropriate perspective, composition and so is the initial rendering created. I care about the imperfections and organicity of human hand, so the generated images are not only printouts. Advanced computer programs are just means to an end. The final drawing is created in a rather old-fashioned way – using ink, markers and watercolor crayons.
And how do you like to work? Under what conditions?
Honoré de Balzac believed that coffee is a human’s driving wheel. The appropriate amount of this drink is a basic condition for me to work. The second condition is the relative peace and quiet. The best conditions so far I had while I was in Leipzig, where he had a huge (approx 80m) studio. Daily, just a few meters of floor and access to the wall is enough, and as for small sizes, I can draw anywhere. When it comes to music, apart from hackneyed piece which is John Cage’s 4 ’33’ ‘, I like Chopin (played by Rafał Blechacz or Mihaela Ursuleasy) and Bach (performed by Glenn Gould, or, more perversely, Marcin Masecki). I often listen to the Second Program of Polish Radio, especially Ewa Szczecińska’s broadcast “Bita godzina” on contemporary music.
What exhibitions will you have in the near future?
September 3. I invite you to to the group exhibition “The Drawers” in Kasia Michalski Gallery in Warsaw. Apart from my dwawings, there will also be such artists like: Rafal Dominik, Ewa Doroszenko, Michał Gayer, Ewa Iwaniuk, Maria Jeglińska, Piotr Krzymowski, Magdalena Estera Łapińska and Szymon Szewczyk. Contrary, September 16 I will be opening a solo exhibition “Abnormal results” at the Polish Institute in Budapest. I will be showing my works from the past two years, mainly large-format. The exhibition is curated by Tomasz Piars.
Hanging and “hiding” the exhibition
The second time we met with the artist was while we was preparing the exhibition, where we had the pleasure of meeting the owner of Kasia Michalski Gallery. The gallery is located at ul. Poznańska 16 in a building that is currently under the renovation. Entering through the gate, you feel newness, and when you get to the gallery itself, this feeling still remains, because it is decorated in innovative and minimalistic way. The name of the exhibition is “THE DRAWERS” and refers to both graphic artists and drawers. This time, to see the artists works (there will be nine of them), we would have to put on white gloves and slide out the drawers filled with their drawings. The idea appealed to me right away and I can’t wait for the opening ceremony, which will take place on 3 September. The exhibition lasts until September 17. I’m very curious how people will percieve art in this different, unusual form. See Maess preparation for the exhibition on photos from Hela, and don’t forget about the interview with the artist!
How does the artist’s collaboration with gallery owner looks while you hang the exhibition?
We put the exhibition together and collectively decided on the sequence and form of presentation.
Here, however, is less of “hanging” and more of “inserting”, because your works will be found in one of the shelves of extendable drawer. Does the work on this form of exposure is more difficult?
No, quite the contrary. The drawer contains only the work of one artist. It is more difficult, but also more interesting to match all the works on the walls. Especially since not all objects could be seen live. One work should bring out values of the other and vice versa. Fortunately, working in a group, we were able to get along, and I hope that every artist is pleased.
How would you encourage someone to come to the exhibition “THE DRAWERS” in Kasia Michalski Gallery?
Previous exhibitions in Kasia Michalski Gallery were a social event, so this time it’s going to be an interesting evening. It will be inaugurated by a concert of electronic music of Jacek Doroszenko. This exhibition is a real treat for collectors: they can choose the works from nine different artistic personalities, each name with a good resume, works are on paper in a handy format, all at reasonable prices.
How are the preparations for the exhibition at the Polish Institute in Budapest?
I just finished 150×200 cm drawing, which was made especially for the exhibition. There will be transportation in two days and I will go to Budapest to hang the works next week. I’ve never been to Hungary and I’m very curious of this country.
Which part of preparing the exhibition is the most exciting to you?
The beginning – when I become invited to the exhibition. The middle – where the works take on a specific shape. Vernissage – the reception of the exhibition and contact with the audience.
One vernissage is chasing another vernissage…
Music, beer, bathtub, crowds of people, drawers and art – you can briefly describe the opening of the exhibition “THE DRAWERS” like that. Many people interested in seeing the works of all nine artists showed up. Just outside the gallery, on the patio, they placed a bathtub filled with beer and water, and guests were also pleased by the concert of Jacek Doroszenko. When everyone began to lay empty bottles around the tub, we had the impression that this suddenly turned into a completely separate installation. The main attraction, of course, remained the exhibition itself. There was a lot of people In Kasia Michalski Gallery, and everyone wanted to see one thing – shelves with drawers. I managed to get to it, and even stand next to Klara Czerniewska, who efficiently and interestingly presented the works of each artist, sliding out the drawers one after the other. The exhibition lasts until September 17, and therefore you still have a few days to go there. Maess already went to Budapest for her exhibition at the Polish Institute, which begins on September 16 and will last until October 15. For us, it means the end of “tracking” Maess on BLAGcanvas, and I invite you to read the last part of the interview.
How would you rate the opening in Kasia Michalski Gallery?
Very good. Crowds of people came to the vernissage, guests from very different backgrounds arrived. Unquestionable success is the fact that we managed to reach a really wide range of audiences.
And how do you find yourself in a group of nine artists?
By inviting artists to work together, Kasia Michalski, together with Klara Czerniewska wanted to show how different works on paper can be. Among the participants are designers, illustrators and visual artists. The assumption of the exhibition is also a kind of interactivity. You can touch the works (with gloves), get them out of the drawers and mix and match according to your own key. It is very interesting to participate in such a diverse juxtaposition.
How did people react on the shelf with drawers?
There was a huge crowd by the drawers and you have to wait in line for quite a long time. Fortunately, there were no incidents. [laugh]
Did you heard from somebody, something that surprised you?
The dominant theme of the discussion about the show were the questions on what the design and art is and whether and how they should be displayed together. This is an important issue, especially as the Kasia Michalski is a new gallery, in the process of building its own program.
In Budapest, the exhibition will be devoted only to your works, contrary to “THE DRAWERS”. Therefore, you will be in the center of attention. Do you have jitters?
Unlike a musician, visual artist has already done the most important part of their work. At the opening of the exhibition, it doesn’t really matter whether I’m nervous or not.
You will come back and what’s next?
I have just started working on a large project concerning the legacy of a Polish artist living in the twentieth century. There are some interesting journeys, watching collections in museums, interviews with curators and art historians, collaboration with institutions and hours spent in archives ahead of me.
Text: Anna Nieszczerzewicz [Anka]
Phot. Justyna Helena Majewska [Helka]
Film: Oskar Jan Jarzyna [Oskar i Kasia – Blik & Relfexion]
translation: Agnieszka Wawiórko