Maciej Andrzejczak & Dawid Marszewski: “Half Measures”
Maciej Andrzejczak & Dawid Marszewski: „Half Measures”
curated by: Marta Smolińska
exhibition opening: 01.03.2019 (Friday), 6 PM / admission free
exhibition open till 28.04.2019
Sometimes, exhibition titles are born in the course of casual conversations of artists in their studios. This was the case here: I visited Maciej Andrzejczak and Dawid Marszewski in Piekariat (Piekary Street in Poznań), which they share with Anna Róża Kołacka and Kinga Popiela. As an art curator and a historian, I like visiting studios, watching work in progress and discussing it in outside the academia while getting stained with fresh paint.
In the lower room of the Wozownia Art Gallery in Toruń, I imagined the dialogue of the paintings by Andrzejczak and Marszewski, as happening outside the atmosphere and space of Piekariat. Hence, I invited the two young painters to enter in such a dialogue. And a dialogue and a joint exhibition need to be justified with a common artistic theme. We debated, we searched. We wanted something non-obvious, for the fact that the two polemize with the condition of painting in the postmedial era seemed too obvious and too worn out. The atmosphere of Piekariat, where our discussions were joined by Ania Kołacka and Kinga Popiela, was relaxing, and the far-distant deadline made our minds go lazy. And then, all of a sudden, someone used the expression “half measures”. It caught my attention, so I asked the question: What can “half measures” be in art? What can they be in painting?
For Maciej Andrzejczak and Dawid Marszewski are artists who are intensely focused on painting. Inside and outside Piekariat, their work revolves around the postmedial, postconceptual, and postinternet era in the aura of new materialism. When the term appeared in our conversation and we picked it up enthusiastically, agreeing on it as the title for the exhibition in Wozownia, there was no turning back. With time, we had to explain it, which proved not at all easy. Each of the artists went on de facto doing their thing, and the term “half measures” remained vague and ambiguous with respect to the particular pieces painted exclusively for the exhibition in Toruń. In the meantime, I researched theoretical and methodological references, looking for something that would help us, but I found nothing inspiring. Well, perhaps, with the exception of one quote. In one of her interviews from 2014, Maria Peszek stressed, “Half measures are not interesting to me. I am an expressive person, and I use expressive means.” Although I adore Peszek, this time I did not believe her. Half measures can be expressive, too – even if they can hardly be defined with respect to painting.
For the world of art is perverse. Paradoxically, it sometimes turns out that not measures, but half measures, lead to the more inspiring solutions. Making only half a step, sticking to a preliminary model, trusting a template, taking inspiration from virtual images of low resolution, or using an already made (or half-made) product – these are just a few of the strategies of implementing half measures used by Andrzejczak and Marszewski. Something which is temporary, incomplete, provisional, half-made… can in this very sense be complete.
In a stencil-based series, using expressions common in contemporary Polish language, Marszewski draws from half measures in a twofold way. First, his strategy is schematic – in both literal and metaphorical sense – as he does not aim at original, individualistic expression. Second, he uses ready-made phrases, linguistic templates, which made their mark on the everyday reality and which are repeated like mantras. He plays with half measures, creating a narrative which is expressive in terms of both its formal-visual layer and its content.
What is more, he takes inspiration from virtual images of poor resolution, which require much waiting as web pages slowly load on. In Piekariat, the Internet connection is not fast: it sometimes takes longer to get an image on your screen than to produce a new painting. Marszewski contemplates these imperfections, these slow-paced visual messages to use these specific half measures and transport them onto canvas. Just as in the stencil series, in Loading too, he tells a lot of stories, he narrates the reality by ordering it around terms that he had typed into his search engine. Slowly, bit by bit, the images of the war in Syria, the Utoya massacre, all kinds of disasters, attacks, and present political iconosphere are loading. Marszewski does not imagine these events, but rather observes the ready virtual images that reluctantly appear on the laptop screen, introducing the atmosphere of externality into the Piekariat enclave. They are, perhaps, a sort of half measures both in the context of painting and of perceiving the world that reaches the public as filtered through search engines, search decisions, or the slow pace of a poor Internet connection. The blurry images are accompanied by words – very often fragmented, not fully legible, as if suspended in the middle of the meaning-making process.
For Andrzejczak too, half measures in the creative process include virtual, mechanically made images – in this case, generated on-screen with a colour scale. The additive colour model, based on RGB, that is values of red, green, and blue, generates white – hence, The White Screen. Other canvases referring to this colour trinity feature white appearing from behind black or cobalt, which are painted with bold strokes. Andrzejczak, as a postmedial and postinternet painter, does not strain to search for new painting means; rather, he freely uses those that – like half measures – float around in the air of contemporary times and in the rich reservoir of artistic tradition. He does, however, merge them with the materiality of paintings that rest on thickened, crate-like stretchers, casting a stark shadow on the wall. He is interested in the screen aspect of easel painting as well as the echo of it as an object, which comes so clear in the process of creating shadows. The artist also juxtaposes the illusion with the ostensible strokes or the theme of dripping paint. What is more, he plays with the means of the bookbinding craft, creating the illusion of materiality of his works not only on the basis of their striking three-dimensionality but also in dialogue with book and documents covers meticulously covered with canvas. With this, he confronts the virtual with the craft-like, the Internet with the tactile, not allowing any of these oppositions to dominate as means of expression in itself, but, rather, arranging tensions between these carefully selected and balanced half measures.
In turn, Andrzejczak and Marszewski’s film recorded in Piekariat, Half Measures, makes us come back to the question about the meaning of the eponymous metaphor. Shortly before finalizing the exhibition, the two artists peek at each other in the common space of their studio, and they are still not sure how to understand the confusing metaphor. They search, they comment, they joke, and they are ironic. Their answer is a half measure, too: it comes in the form of slightly indolent discussions or casual conversations entered into during their preparations for a dialogue in Wozownia. As the audience, we are there with them. For example, we peek at the process of priming canvas – is priming a half measure? We watch the atmosphere of the studio and listen to the friendly, free relation of the two artists. This film is a half measure for showing what it means to be and create together in Piekariat.
Is my interpretation of Andrzejczak’s and Marszewski’s painting perhaps only a strenuous attempt to justify the title that the three of us have selected and to capture the metaphor in relation to concrete works exhibited in Wozownia? Perhaps words are only theoretical half measures that the paintings constantly escape, manifesting their visuality that goes beyond any net of concepts? Is this text a heals measure itself…? As I am writing it, I do use half measure – I search for quotes. And – alongside the one by Peszek – I would like to include another one. This one comes from Haruki Murakami’s novel After Dark: “So don’t settle for anything else. In this world, there are things you can only do alone, and things you can only do with somebody else. It’s important to combine the two in just right amount.” Perhaps there is no better punchline for this exhibition that Andrzejczak and Marszewski could prepare only together? Or perhaps this aphorism by columnist Andrzej Niewinny Dobrowolski is even more appropriate: “Lack of ends justifies the half means”?