Rafał Sobiczewski: “Unphysical”


Rafał Sobiczewski: “Unphysical”

13.01 19.02.2017

opening: 13.01 (Friday), 6 P.M. / admission free


In his recent paintings, Rafał Sobiczewski combines two opposite ways of perceiving reality, namely, he emphasizes the aspects of humanism, which, however, he opposes with a media image. The dominant element in the artist’s work is the presence of the human figure and highlighting its physicality. The artist juxtaposes this image with horizontal stripes, which are associated with a distorted electronic image. In this way, we will find in Sobiczewski’s painting a “portrait” of man living in the media and information technology society dominated by technology.

In his depictions of man, Sobiczewski focuses on man’s physicality. The fragmentation of figures, focusing more on some forms, makes these images become a study of awareness of the human body with its frailty, instability, susceptibility to disease and time leaving on it its distinct mark. In this way, Sobiczewski touches universal issues, thereby rejecting the metaphysical connotations and social utopias which often appear in figurative painting. Thanks to this, his paintings, despite being based on his own experiences, gain universal character. The artist reserved the expression of his views on social, political or philosophical issues to smaller formats, with a more intimate nature. 

Although in “monitor paintings” an important element is to direct the attention of the audience to the presence of the screen in our daily lives and its impact on the shape of our consciousness, the artist uses the potential of painting. He emphasizes the material nature of his paintings, manifested in the visible traces of the brush, recognizable gestures, and meaty texture. Never, however, does he allow the form to dominate his compositions. The aspect of the message carried by the form is always superior to him. Perhaps the fact that the artist expresses himself in painting also decides that in his work the aspects related to humanism are easier to read and have a stronger expression than those associated with technology.

Man in Sobiczewski’s work is deformed. He is often bent or lying. In some works, his face is twisted in a grimace of pain, while in others resignation appears. The bodies in the artist’s paintings are far from ideal human figures known from the work of ancient Greeks, although examples of works of art from classical antiquity are usually incomplete. In Sobiczewski’s painting, the audience cannot reconstruct a perfect body in their minds, as in the case of classical works, since the human figure is depicted in a synthetic way, and details are kept to a minimum. This is not about the search for perfect proportions, but about the perception of man as an organic whole, which stops working when any of its parts is damaged.  

The artist presents an image of man in the era of new technologies. This is evidenced by both the horizontal stripes repeated in most of his work, as well as by the fragmentation of the body, referring directly to the way of working in some graphic programs. “Technological” aspects introduced to the images on the one hand interfere with the view of figures, while on the other hand they seem to build them. If we could separate these two layers, the one associated with humanism would be more spatial. In Sobiczewski’s paintings both areas of his interest, i.e. the human and the mechanical, interpenetrate and, thus, become inseparable. The artist, however, shows that they function in a different way, and errors appearing in the realm of physicality can be of irreversible and definitive nature.

In Sobiczewski’s work we can sense a kind of ambivalence involving the fascination with technological media on the one hand, and the opposition to the place occupied by them on the other. The occurrence of such trends nowadays was noted by Wolfgang Welsh[1] by linking them with modern pluralism. It also seems that a strong turn towards physicality may be perceived as a defensive reaction against the dominance of media image, the presence of technology in our daily lives, and the opportunities it provides in creating reality. In this realm of images filled with the lack of a sense of stability, our unique bodies and individual perception of the world are an element that gives confidence and strength, one that orders, holds together, is unique, but is also controlled by us. Sobiczewski deprives us of that faith by showing bodies over which we lose control, ones that fail us, and disintegrate. Thus, he tells us to face all the fears associated with the fragility and transitory nature of life of a unique individual who, in the media coverage, is one of the millions, and who, for some of us, could be the whole life.

(Karolina Jabłońska)


[1] cf. W. Welsh, Aesthetics beyond Aesthetics. A new form of aesthetics, translated by K. Guczalska, Universitas, Kraków 2005, pp. 128-129.