A new book here features six years of selected works from a Polish graffiti writer, muralist, and professor of art and painting at a secondary school in his hometown of Olsztyn, Poland. He reckons that his life is one of ‘Planned Freestyle,’ meaning that having structure imposed upon him is very helpful in focusing his creative mind. You may quickly appreciate this characterization if you know any artists.
The collection of selected works here by Bartek Swiatecki is as luminous and optically rewarding to the viewer as they are opaque to the mind and stirring to the heart. With prolific and gently evolving abstractions in movement, you can see an artist at work, at play, and at his personal best – topping his previous work. The grandson of another painter and professor (of philology), Miroslaw Swiatecki, and the nephew of a famous painter and animator, Marek Swiatecki, perhaps it was only a matter of time before this 90s graffiti writer moved into more formal practices on canvas and walls.
In an in-depth interview, Pener reveals his sometimes complex feelings about the label of street artist, almost as if it diminishes his abilities and craft.
“Almost all of my friends I paint with are graduates of art faculties at universities or academies; most of them are architects or graphic designers,” he says. “Each of us works hard, so I get angry sometimes when we are labeled street artists because it is a huge simplification.”
The sentiment rings true, although we have never had anything but respect for street artists, regardless of their formal training. We witness a struggle for definitions at nearly every juncture along this graffiti/street art/fine art/mural art/contemporary art continuum.
In the end, the work speaks for itself, as this book can attest.
This fresh new survey of Polish artists primarily born in the 1980s is called RETRANSMISSION__ . It has as much to do with the influence of digital arts as it does with the plastic arts and art in the street.
This group collection at the Denver location of Mirus Gallery may possibly represent a physical lynchpin to the coming metaverse, minus the Oculus headset. A professionalized crew of artists formally trained in studies like architecture and urbanism, illustration, graphic design, painting, typography, and sculpture; These are not the kids on the street who popularized first and second-wave graffiti of the West, but rather the students of the scene infused by lore and not necessarily beholden to it.
“This collective of artists have lived and worked amongst each other,” says the gallery press release, “individually and sometimes through collaboration for many years, establishing a contemporary style unique to Poland.”
To mention that a certain number of these artists have a past in graffiti/street art culture sets the context of the artist’s common background, but those influences appear through mirrors, or software filters, if at all. You may look for deconstructed letter forms or raw off-kilter placements of elements, but this is such a self-aware, contemporary tableau, one may need x-ray vision to see the street from here.
Spray tags, skateboard graphics, street interventions, and covert acts of illegal artmaking may be influences in this corner of the street scene – one that has matured in the last decade and a half to embrace geometry and sophisticated illustration. It’s maturity now and development of a visual language that brings one to RETRANSMISSION__ where we are currently meditating on form, texture, refracted light, and balanced composition.
Featured Artists: Bartłomiej Chwilczyński, Bartosz Janczak, Chazme, Lukasz Berger Cekas, Lukasz Habiera Nawer, Oskar Podolski, Pawel Ryzko, Bartek Świątecki (Pener), Robert Proch, Sainer, Seikon
RETRANSMISSION_ At Mirus Gallery in Denver, Colorado is currently on view to the general public until July 8th. Click HERE for more details and schedules.
The genesis of Pener’s new wall in Olsztyn, Poland goes back a year ago. He and Krzysztof Dąbkowski, who is the director of the Municipal Public Library of Olsztyn, agreed on the idea that the project should reflect the literary tradition of Warmia and Mazury, the Polish region in which Olsztyn is located.
Says Pener, “Specifically intertwined with the notion of “Atlantis of the North”, the author of which is the poet and writer Kazimierz Brakoniecki. I am very open to this type of synergistic projects that can significantly encourage reflection on our identity. As a creator and artist, I wanted to create something more than just an illustration for a literary text”.
The artist was inspired not just by the text of “Atlantis of the North” but also by the shape of the building, its location and the spatial context.
25 years in the game, Pener routinely lets his mind travel to encompass possibilities, then channels them abstractly through a series of echoing geometric forms with aerosol and brush. Here in his hometown of Olsztyn, Poland, he says he imagined the possibilities that young minds inside an elementary school could contemplate.
While painting this new “Mirror Land,” he was in a land of mirrors psychologically. He says he prefers to explore the “possible tension between our subconscious and conscious abilities that oscillate between reality and illusion.”
That’s a lot for kids to vocalize, granted, but he says he still engaged them when they watched and asked questions.
“Those were wonderful moments to hear them trying to solve what the wall depicts and hides,” he says.