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The first exhibition in a UK public gallery of Marcin Maciejowski (born Babice, Poland in 1974). Experiencing a wealth of new influences that followed the demise of Communism in Poland, Maciejowski turned to painting to make sense of his country’s new political and cultural landscape. After studying at the Krakow University of Technology and the Academy of Fine Arts, he came to prominence initially as a member of the Grupa Ladnie alongside Rafal Bujnowski and Wilhelm Sasnal.
The exhibition at BALTIC includes twenty five paintings from 2003-12. Keenly aware of art history, Maciejowski turns instead to images in popular circulation as his starting points - newspaper photographs, TV and movie stills, posters, and advertisements. Sifting, collecting and categorising, he singles out photographs to transfer into paintings that employ a distinctive loose and realist style to re-present everyday images of our time.
His paintings are of scenes that range from the seductive to the mundane. Anonymous party-goers, military and religious figures, Hollywood heroes and film noir femmes’ fatales are his cast, bringing with them the social and political implications inherent to their original photographs, but significantly enhanced through their change in medium.
The faces that appear in Maciejowski’s paintings are often devoid of features, as in Don’t Ask Me About My Business (Godfather I) 2005 and VIP I to XII 2008, both included in the exhibition. The viewer is given enough information to guess the significance and function of the original scene, but must then contemplate why it was deemed worthy of painting.
Unlike the revolutionary approach of some of his more recent predecessors, Maciejowski accepts the realities of the modern world and the images it produces as worthy of study. In works such as Overwhelmed by the great tradition of the city 2008 and Girl drinking beer Pijaca piwo 2009, also included, his relaxed approach to figures and personalities, along with his use of colour, reveals a desire to capture moods and narratives rather than force his subjects into a more rigorous painterly tradition.
Maciejowski manipulates the hierarchical distinctions between painting, photography and film and high and low culture, to question the legitimacy of his chosen medium. He is also highly aware of the implications of his scenes being presented within the context of an art gallery and, indeed, that of the art world. He continually provokes, remaining serious in his consideration of the renewed relevancy of painting as a tool to record and reflect the experiences of contemporary life.
Image © Marcin Gulis
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