Bartek Materka, That’s What It Looks Like
In 2010 I did some paintings based on random photographs of crowds. Back then they seemed to me sufficient, complete. But year after year the idea kept coming back to me to continue and develop the subject, and finally last spring I made up my mind to do it.
My decision coincided with the current events: the intensifying social protests alongside the spreading epidemic, the isolation and being locked down at home.
I took the position of an observer and though I couldn’t see much from my window, I am, like most of us, a bit of an Internet lurker. I collect pictures from reports on successive riots, women fighting for their rights and Black Lives Matter, but also from the coverage of concerts, sports tournaments and many other gatherings possible before the pandemic, which often got no coverage.
A sense of detachment from those events and refraining from comment gave me a new vantage point for looking at the world.
As I was initially working on small-scale canvases, the fact that I paint people became less significant. I was now able to feel like a naturalist: sometimes like an entomologist in front of a formicarium or an ornithologist studying starling migration through a telescope and at other times like a microbiologist poring over microscopic sections. That is why I used circular canvases: all the associations are linked by some imagined optical instrument – from the human eye to an astronomer’s telescope.
In fact, I could have swapped these views round to combine something very distant with something very near. Although the paintings spring from reality, in the end they turn out to be abstract, and open up the way for further exploration in this direction.
What I also find important are films that revolve around the camera and the act of watching or peeping – like the documentary Voyeur, in which observation leads to unusual or dark discoveries, both by and inside the voyeur himself. It takes me to images and specific landscapes, which I want to paint as best I can. I hope that the viewers will find their own secret passages whose existence I am unaware of.
The title is not accidental. I stole it from a child’s drawing that shows a girl and her brother kidnapped by a cat from an unquiet home. Children, I believe, have the keenest instruments for observation, better even than the finest electron microscope.
Bartek Materka Bartek Materka (b. 1973) pursues painting, photography and graphic arts. In 2004 he graduated from the Faculty of Painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. His works are in the collections of the MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow, the Bunkier Sztuki Gallery, as well as in numerous private collections.