Christschurch in New Zealand has seen a boom in street art for the last decade, which many say was sparked by the devastating earthquake that killed nearly 200 people in 2011. Rising like a creative phoenix on painted walls, street artists’ created an organic artful response – healing hearts and summoning community pride in the beauty here in Ōtautahi, the name given to this city first by the Māori.
A boom in the gallery scene quickly followed, and Jenna and Nathan Ingram opened Fiksate in 2015. The white box gallery is known primarily as a respected hub for the street art/urban contemporary art genres. They have a steadily growing roster of local and international artists, some of whom you may recognize.
Currently, they are hosting a show by the Polish artist Pener, whose saturated abstractions have evolved from his deconstructing of graffiti letterforms and his fascination with the mechanized world. Today he confesses that his forms are softening somewhat due to his maturing process and gentle way of looking at life. Part of a growing school of Polish artists creating abstract works, Pener (Bartek Swiqtecki) has become quite passionate about this non-figurative form that allows for individual interpretation.
He arrived in NZ after a 30-hour trip from Poland and worked quickly for a week to mount the exhibition “Vacation From Reality.” The show features eight large original canvasses, three limited-edition prints, and some abstractly grey shadowed walls on which to hang them.
Pener spoke of his process and headspace with local street art expert Reuben Woods, an art historian, writer, and curator. He writes a column for the website “Watch This Space” about the lively street art scene.
From the interview, we share with you just one Q&A from their discussion that marks this exhibition to provide BSA readers with greater context and insight.
Reuben Woods: As an abstract artist, you have stated you start with an emotion and the process, and when I look at your work, I can’t help but feel it captures the anxiety and emotional fracture of contemporary society. Is that intentional or a result of our ability to read abstraction as we need to?
Pener: I often get the impression that the paintings are a bit like mirrors in which we can look at our emotions. My paintings calm me down and give me peace. Often, in the process of painting, I freeze in front of a painting. I look at it for so long that I stop thinking. It’s the same feeling as if you swim for a long time in the swimming pool or climb in the mountains and stop thinking about everyday problems. It takes you somewhere inside or outside.
Probably everyone has a slightly different interpretation of works of art – which is very interesting. Some people see specific shapes in them, others only feel emotions. I am very happy when someone interprets my paintings in a way that I did not know and did not notice.