Interview with Aleksandra Waliszewska
Polish graphic artist Aleksandra Waliszewska, 33, is the owner of a genuinely thrilling style.
Her drawings and paintings show us a studious mix of what seems like a visible influence of punk poster art with more highbrow aesthetics (the religious phantasmagoria of Goya comes to mind), plus heaps of beautifully muted colors and folk scare delivered through teens seduced by decidedly evil-eyed animals and men facing brutal ends.
It also belies diverse transitional states of basic emotion that somehow create the illusion of a more complex, multilayered narrative – even though you’re staring at a single panel. Imagine an obscure frame taken from Bosch’s ‘The Garden Of Earthly Delights’ as filtered through Raymond Pettibon’s jittery line and you’ll start to have and idea of what she’s up to.
Waliszewska lives and works in Warsaw, where she spent most of her childhood. With over 20 individual shows in the bag, she seems a little taken aback about telling us where all the abyssal gouache-colored snippets in her work come from, but what’s the point to it, really, if we can look at her drawings and feel a more than honest chill?
The eerie atmospheres you create in your work sometimes verge on the disturbing, especially the ones that depict pubescent characters in some sort of libidinous interaction with what I see as decidedly evil-eyed animals. I wonder if some of this stuff comes from folklore / ancient myths you’re familiar with or is this imagery just something more abstract you happen to be attracted to?
The imagery that you could be referring to is partially connected with depictions of codemned men on medieval paintings. However, my versions lose that directly religious aspect of it.
How would you describe your own work?
I think that putting name, or pigeonholing any art can only be harmful to it, so I refrain from doing so.
While at it, why, in your work, does nature seem as if it’s rebelling against itself?
I didn’t look at this way but this might be a valid observation.
What do you think draws people to your stuff?
I can’t really tell as I have no direct insight into what people could think, but I can only deduce it has something to do with fascination with sex and violence.
What / who would you cite as major influences over your work?
I love pre-modern art. It is an endless source of inspiration for me, a true bottomless well of ideas. Looking at some picture throughout the years, I can continue to find new elements in it, discover new qualities that I didn’t notice before. My real favourites would be Hans Memling, Enguerrand Quarton and Nicolas Poussin. I have definitely less interest for modern art.
As an artist, do you wait till inspiration strikes or is your working method more steady and labor-intensive?
Each day, I work about 5 hours. I don’t wait for an inspiration to strike me, when the ideas are not very precise I tend to paint self-portraits. I can paint up to 2 works a day.
There seems to be a big deal of attention put into the ‘mise en scéne’ aspect of what you do. Do you have any links with theater or acting?
I’m not not very interested in theatre, I mostly went there with some school groups and that was obligatory. As for acting, me and my friend were recently involved in amateur SF movie where I play one of the key roles. I have no idea whether this is going to be ever finished
I see a really strong sense of sublimated storytelling in your work, as if some of your drawings catch a ‘frame’, an insightful glimpse out of a longer, more complex narrative. Is that the case? Do you too see it as a bit of larger picture? Are you familiar with the work of Raymond Pettibon at all?
I’m more interested in depicting states of emotion. Narratives tend to arise by themselves, they kind of evolve by their own will. I know several works by Raymond Pettibon. When I was a teenager I made a hand-done copy of his Sonic Youth cover on a friend’s t-shirt.
Could you tell us a little about “Nagana”?
“Nagana” is a part of the series called “Brownocalypse”. This actually originated after I accidentally stepped into a container with rouge anglois paint. I had large amounts of this paint and I really wanted to use it as fast possible. “Nagana” is in a way, an unsuccessful work as I wanted to paint a girl stricken with a fist on her face. It turned out more as she’s being grabbed by her nose. Nevertheless, I like it.
How important a role (if at all) does music play in your work? What music do you listen to or are into at the moment?
As a teenager I was more interested in music than I am now. It is mostly audio books, radio broadcasts and interviews that I’m listening to at the moment. My boyfriend is a musician, so he takes care of the music aspect in our home. Still, I like to play Big Black at full volume every now and then. My boyfriend jokes that I’m undergoing my “rebellion period”.
Diego Gerlach is a Brazilian writer, visual artist and comic creator. Under the moniker Máfia Líquida, he creates (in collaboration with Brazilian designer Felipe Oliveira) the ongoing sci-fi comic series GAHAFAW and some wicked poster art, described simultaneously as ‘Graphic answers to unasked questions’ or ‘Cyanide treacle for the brain’. And all you cats can dig it at: http://flickr.com/diegogerlach