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10 Minutes with Pener

We caught up with Pener to chat about his background and his forthcoming solo show 'Vacation From Reality' opening July 15 2022.

Why have you decided to become an artist? Was there a defining moment in your life when you knew you were an artist?
I come from a family where art has always been present. My grandfather, Mirosław Świątecki, had beautiful paintings and sculptures at home. He was a professor of Polish philology and an initiator of various theater and music groups for students. His son, and my uncle, Marek Świątecki, was a famous painter from Olsztyn and an animator of artistic life. As a kid, I visited my uncle's studio, where he painted large, hyper-realistic pictures. I remember that he struck me with his commitment and diligence.

The Secondary School of Arts, and then studying painting at the University, did not come as a big surprise at home.

It seems to me that everything I have comes very naturally. I don't remember the moment- here it is! now!

What jobs have you done other than being an artist?
I think I am a socially engaged person. I have been a member of the „Tratwa” association for over 20 years. I have created or participated in many social projects at the interface between art and culture. Our association's projects often relate to history and culture. They build bridges between generations.

I worked for several years as a graphic designer in a large company. I was building a promotional campaign for a huge project involving local micro- companies.

I have been working as a teacher for 15 years.

I think it all revolves around broadly understood arts and culture.

What are your ideal working conditions?
I don't need much… phone off… good coffee… wide brush… music.

What’s your background? Do you have a formal art education or are you self-taught?
Since 1996, I have been involved in graffiti and then the street art scene in Poland.

In 2006 I graduated with honours from the Nicolaus Copernicus University / Faculty of classical oil painting and classic wall painting.

Since 2008, I've been working as a teacher in an Art High School in Olsztyn - teaching drawing and painting.

How has your work changed over time? Has your skill or ideology changed?
It's hard for me to say this because I have very little distance to my work.

Technically, a lot has probably changed. Looking at my paintings from a few years ago, I can see a huge technological development. On the other hand, I remain faithful to the ideals I set for myself at the very beginning. Be honest with yourself, don't do anything I wouldn't be comfortable with, be happy and bring happiness to others with your work.

Where do you find inspiration?
A very difficult question - it seems to me that everything affects us positively or negatively.

I often have the impression that I act like a filter, that I have some kind of hypersensitivity to stimuli that nobody notices. It's such a very delicate world that I really care about.

Of these obvious ones, it seems to me that music is a very good carrier of inspiration ...I often get carried away and the first sketches for new works are created under the influence of music.

What do you think are your strongest abilities contributing to the success of your work?
From the moment I started working in school, I have become very organized. I work systematically in my painting studio - I rarely leave anything to chance. I try to have everything planned, I always have plan B and plan C.

Sometimes I'm totally tired of it ...but with a full-time job and family, you can't do otherwise.

Do you do a lot of research or dive straight into a new painting?
My paintings don't tell specific stories. The title and interpretation always come rather towards the end. I sketch a lot and think about the whole series of paintings, but while working, I try to get carried away.

I work a lot on colour and gesture. Often the canvas becomes such a logical game - to scatter and arrange everything in a coherent harmony.

What artists do you admire?
My friends with whom I work with have been a huge inspiration for many years: Robert Porch, Daniel Chazme, Krzysztof Syruć, Sainer, Mateusz Bezt, Nawer.

We have been supporting each other and racing at the same time for so many years.

This is such a healthy friendly competition - it is amazing that I can count on them for so many years and be with them. I am very proud of it.

Tell us about an exciting project you have recently completed?
I just picked up my book from the printing house. A lot of stress because I was assembling it myself, I also participated in the entire printing and sewing process.

It closes a certain period of the last 6 years - walls and paintings.

I prepared it especially for the exhibition in NZ.

Tell us a little about your Forthcoming Show - Vacation From Reality.
Vacation From Reality is a key phrase that can be read in various ways. For me, my paintings are an escape from the reality that surrounds me. They are such a dive into emotions, shapes, a different world where you can feel safe, where you can relax.

On the other hand, there is also the context of the times and the world we are in. Two years of covid, a few lock downs, no exhibitions, no trips, a lot of aggression and hatred of the authorities in Poland. Now a huge, unimaginable cruelty in Ukraine.

A trip to NZ can be a Vacation From Reality… my personal journey in search of rest and safety in emotions.

I have prepared 8 works. I had previously shown four works at the exhibition in Paris ... I prepared four new works especially for the exhibition with fiksate.

In my work, I focus heavily on colour and dynamics. I wanted them to be perceived as super positive, giving an injection of good energy.

You first exhibited with us back in 2019 as part of our Urban Abstract group show. How has your work developed since then?
Three years is not that long to change the way of thinking and painting. I think I'm very consistent in the way I paint, and it doesn't change much.

I have the impression that the new works have more depth in colour and are richer in detail.

You have exhibited in galleries throughout Europe and America, what makes you want to exhibit your work in New Zealand?
I am a person who is always looking for new solutions and is not afraid to be thrown into deep water.

I must admit that the exhibition in NZ is for me is an exhibition at the end of the world. The fulfilment of one of my innermost dreams.

Cooperation with Jenna and Nathan - their approach to me as an artist, their professionalism in the preparation of the exhibition is extremely important to me and makes me sure that I am flying 34 hours in the right direction.

Tell us about the process of preparing an exhibition from the other side of the world.
Everything is always based on trust. I know the space of the gallery well, it seems to me that I know what will work well in it and what does not ... we sent dozens of e-mails and photos to each other, talking over every idea and problem.

Without giving away all of your secrets, can you tell us a little about the processes involved in producing one of your works?
My work always has several stages. The first one is very emotional. I build stains with wide brushes, looking for some suspense in the colours. I sketch a lot, but I rather look for the picture intuitively, I let myself be guided. The next step is to put your work aside for some time, so that it would get arranged – in me and in the painting. What comes next is a many-months-long process of searching for a composition, building its depth, all those geometric details. Sometimes, I have an idea from the beginning, and I manage to make it real in almost one hundred per cent. Sometimes, I have a blurry image of what a whole series of paintings will look like. And there are times when everything changes, I don't even know when. I don't have any coherent strategy for it but I'm still working on it.

You will be here in New Zealand for 2 weeks, what else do you have planned while you are here?
It will probably take a long time to prepare the exhibition. I send the paintings in a tube, so we have to stretch them over the frames and secure them. It is always a stressful moment.

I would love to paint one of the walls in the gallery to add lightness to the exhibition and combine the canvases with background.

Maybe we can paint some other wall outside.

I know you have winter in July, but I really hope that I will find time to experience your nature. In Europe I love mountains and trekking with my family… I hope there will be time for that.

How does your studio practice translate to muralism?
Very often, when I design a new wall, I also create it in the context of the painting I am currently working on in the studio. It often works the other way round too: when painting a wall, some interesting ranges of colours or details come out, which I focus on in my studio later.

Of course, it all depends on a project, and a situation, and a million elements that are usually beyond my control.

When painting a picture, I often miss the scale that I can achieve on a wall. And when working on a large format, I often miss the touch-up of the detail that I’m able to achieve in the studio. That is extremely annoying, but the most interesting thing always lies somewhere in the middle.

What’s next on the horizon for you?
Covid changed the routine a bit. I have the impression that everything is getting on track very slowly.

A large exhibition of Polish abstraction at Mirus Gallery in Denver is just underway ...It is an exhibition that Nawer planned for a long time together with Polish artists.

In August and September, I am planning a large wall project in Poland. I'm talking all the time and I'm planning an exhibition in Japan. But this year, due to the restrictions and the whole situation, it will probably not work out.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
It is a huge challenge for me to come to you ... keep your fingers crossed.

Quickfire Questions

Tea / Coffee
Spray can / Paint Brush
Out for dinner / Out for Brunch
A movie at the cinema / A movie on the couch
Night on the town / a BBQ
Fish n chips / pizza
Jeans / Tracksuit
Abstract / realism
Minimalist / maximalist

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