Bezt Etam Talks About “Beautiful Mistakes”

A certain unease follows Street Artist Bezt in his creative practice.

“I get bored very fast so I try not to repeat myself.” Not an Achilles heel exactly, this need to experiment and learn, as many artists who are stylistically or thematically in a rut could benefit from that affliction.

In New York recently for a brief show entitled “Beautiful Mistakes” at Spoke Art in cooperation with Thinkspace in Manhattan’s Lower East Side , the Polish neo-realist appears to thrive on trying new things – including this solo career he’s embarked on after seven or so years painting in tandem with Sainer as one half of the very popular Etam Cru.

Bezt Etam. “Beautiful Mistakes”. The artist is pictured here looking at his self portrait. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“Our styles were really separate but when we started we began to blend in – it was kind of natural. We didn’t talk about it,” he says of the friend he met when they were both art students at University of Łódź.

“There was a point with Sainer when we met we kind of knew – like best friends who kind of understand each other on some level. And the goal was always to do a good piece. It is never about me or about him. It was always to do the best thing on the wall,” he says as he describes a collaborative style that was born out of both artists desire to find a common style and to learn from each other.

Bezt Etam. “Beautiful Mistakes”. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“To do that we had to kind of resign from our own kind of “super styles” and mix them together, if that makes sense. It was a slow process but we got to the point where everyone thought that only one person was painting. But still after so many years we can both see the differences.”

His new canvasses stand still, portraits primarily, with often singular figures caught in a moment contemplating in an eerie series of twilights and meditations. A master of light, he talks about his ongoing challenge to understand it and to reveal structure with it.

Bezt Etam. “Beautiful Mistakes”. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“You use the lights of the first figure as a shadow,” he says of a woman who faces you against a backdrop of ornate patterning, evocative of wall paper from a large old house. “I like to feel the structure of the face and so I like to see the shadow and the lighting on the face, how the face is built.”

He points to a darker figure in front of a brightly heraldic architectural background. “The colors on his shirt and his jacket are the shadows from the background. It’s kind of a trick that I like to do with the painting because the person pops out and blends in at the same time. It’s hard to explain and it is easier to show when I am in the process.

Bezt Etam. “Beautiful Mistakes”. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Bezt explains that really he just wanted to paint the background but realizes that many of his fans will also appreciate a figure – which he gets bored with.

Sometimes a portrait is actually the means to an end, rather than the focal point, just so he has the opportunity to paint something new. “For example the painting with the woman and the daughter piece, that one with the house. I wanted to paint the trees! I had a night photo of the trees and I said ‘Okay, I need an idea so I can paint the trees.’

Bezt Etam. “Beautiful Mistakes”. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“I did another piece for a big show in Germany that has a big fallen tree. Basically I saw the tree when we were driving and I was with Natalia, my girlfriend, and we just jumped out and I took the photos. And again, I needed to find a concept for a painting where I could include that image of the tree. Sometimes you just want to learn something – to try something new.”

Bezt Etam. “Beautiful Mistakes”. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

He pauses for a moment in front of a painting and you realize that the shape of his head is mirrored in it, and actually the painting is a self portrait. And then you see the small white rat –a moniker that has been occurring in Etam Cru and Bezt pieces over this last half-decade or so.

“It’s like a spirit animal. I don’t like to paint rats. I think that I can’t really paint a good mouse and I’m always trying to do my best. It’s never perfect. There is always something wrong with it. But I add it as a sort of friend or a spirit animal. If the person is alone he always has some company.”

“Years ago when I was painting girls I was always adding a bird, so like the rat is a boy thing. But I have started to mix things and I add the rat to wherever the character is. It’s an animal that is quite small so it doesn’t take much space to add to the piece and it kind of adds some warmth.”

Bezt Etam. “Beautiful Mistakes”. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)