SATIRE & SURREALISM GALLERY 'On the Staircase’ Recommends an Interview
With Mariusz Stawarski – Painter
Conducted by: Agnieszka Albrecht
Mariusz Stawarski is a graduate of the State Higher School of Fine Arts in Gdańsk. He studied from 1983 to 1988 in the Department of Architecture and Industrial Design. After his studies, he became associated with the Castle Museum in Malbork, where he arranged exhibitions and took care of the graphic design of castle publications for thirty years.
Simultaneously with his work at the museum, he also engaged in other projects. He participated in international cartoon competitions in Poland, Belgium, and Turkey. He garnered distinctions and awards, the most significant being the Grand Prix of Satyrykon’98, the Silver Medal in 2014, and the Second Prize at Aydin Dogan Vakfi in Turkey in 2005. From 1996 to 1999, he collaborated with the Wprost weekly magazine as an illustrator. He is a co-author of the book „Dreams for Adults and Children,” for which he received the award from the Polish section of IBBY in 1999. From 1999 to 2013, he exhibited his works at the Zapiecek Gallery in Warsaw. He collaborated with advertising agencies such as Studio P and Kreacja-pro Andrzeja Pągowskiego, Filmar Studio, and Yapan. With the latter, he participated in a nationwide advertising campaign project for PZU and PZU Życie from 2003 to 2004. In November 2006, he signed a contract with the New York-based illustrators’ agency Lindgren&Smith. His clients included United Airlines, Heifer, Eating Well Magazine, and Pray!Magazine. In March 2009, a children’s book titled „Sky Magic” with his 18 illustrations was published in the USA. Currently, he is dedicated to painting. Since 2019, his artworks can be purchased at the Personalart Gallery:
Between lyricism and grotesque…
Conversation with artist and painter Mariusz Stawarski
Conducted by Agnieszka Albrecht
We’ve agreed that during our conversation, we’ll focus on a few of your paintings. I believe they will reveal more about you than the details repeated from your biography. I’ve chosen works from the last two years. The first of these is „Goodnight, See You Tomorrow.” It depicts a scene of farewell between two lovers. In the background, a tram is approaching. The entire scene unfolds in the setting of an evening city. This prompts me to ask, were you paying homage to Janusz Morgenstern’s brilliant 1960 film, „Goodbye, See You Tomorrow,” with this painting?
Of course! It’s easy to guess. I’m heavily reliant on good cinema. And that film is filled with brilliant images that linger in the memory, etching themselves into the subconscious.
I have the impression that your recent works are like individual film frames. Each of them could have a continuation added or a backstory told about what happened earlier.
My intention is to create scenes that the viewer could interpret in their own way. The more interpretations, the better. I strive to embed a puzzle, some mystery, and occasionally an eccentricity within them.
„Goodnight, See You Tomorrow,” in addition to its literary and cinematic references, also captivates me with its palette of colours.
Although it’s nighttime, the painting is luminous. I used soft blues, a touch of yellow, and hints of purple. I wanted the prevailing architecture here not to be overwhelming.
Are we dealing with an actual location here, a cityscape?
All the places and landscapes in my paintings are fictional. I invent them. I build them like a child with building blocks, adding some trees later, crafted as if from paper mâché or plasticine.
The same applies in another of your works, titled „Ariadne’s Thread,” where you practically fill the entire canvas with structures.
I wanted to evoke a sense of tightness, akin to the narrow streets of Southern European towns. The reference to the mythical labyrinth is rather loose here, much like the interpretation of the myth. I wink at the viewer, jesting as I present a different story. I hope my audience has as much fun as I do.
And we have protagonists here? Lovers, perhaps?
Indeed. In a moment, a thread will unite them, and the caption will appear: „Happy end.”
Isn’t the story too simple?
As you rightly pointed out, it’s about what happened before or will happen later. This is just a frame from a film, and the viewer will complete the rest. Additionally, I’d like to draw your attention to another aspect of my painting. Form is as important to me as the plot. This painting has a different tonality than the previous one. It’s golden, with touches of red. The canvas surface is intersected by diagonals softened by horizontal, warm patches of light. Composition matters; it must be visually appealing. The arrangement of colours and shapes can compensate for any potential narrative gaps.
There’s another significant aspect of your artistry – humour. I find two of your subsequent works quite amusing. These are „Dolce Vita” and „Dolce Vita II.” The „pekaes” bus and the girls spilling out of it, beauty pageant contestants, truly entertain me.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but the buses have signs that say „Dolce Vita.” They indicate some tour with that name. „Dolce,” meaning „sweet,” applies to both the ladies and the places they visit, whether it’s a quasi-Renaissance town square or a seaside resort. Speaking of sweetness, take note of how I’ve treated the architecture. The townhouses appear to be carved out of sugar.
The hues in this diptych are gentle, with subtle olives, blues, and ochres. It’s an entirely different story in the painting „Aurora.” It appears to be quite vibrant, yet paradoxically, it is filled with delicate shades of grey.
Grey serves as the backdrop for strong focal points here. Aurora’s hair is auburn, almost red. Even the grass appears vivid. The moon glistens gold, and a salmon-hued aurora hovers above the horizon.
What is this painting about?
About tenderness! The mythical goddess of dawn, who is depicted here as a lighthouse, cares for the delicate, paper boats. She aids them in their journey, much like a duck helps her ducklings.
Are you sentimental?!
I am from time to time.
You also become sentimental when you paint places you often pilgrimage to. „Dreamy Spa” resembles Sopot. You wouldn’t deny it, would you? I know this place is special to you; you have many memories tied to Sopot.
Indeed! Sopot, Gdańsk, and Gdynia are my cities. I know every nook and cranny there.
„Dreamy Spa” is the Sopot of dreams, slightly altered, as it happens in dreams – hushed, with a group of strolling individuals. There’s a lady with an umbrella, a retired captain, and a young couple. In the background, a moored ship, ready for a voyage.
If I could have it on the wall, I would hang the painting „Mermaids” next to it. Is this a continuation of your Sopot story?
Yes, „Mermaids” were created just before „Dreamy Spa”. The tonality of colors, architecture, and tranquility are parallel in both paintings. I suppose at that time I was in a „resort-like” mood. I wanted to relax from the noisy and intense surroundings.
A substantial portion of your creative output comprises oceans, seas, rivers, and lakes, as well as fountains and pools. You have a fondness for water. As seen in the image above, the swimming pool takes on a central role. Are you of the Aquarius sign?
Actually not. I am born under the sign of Aries. My affinity for water is rooted in my childhood. I grew up by the seaside. There were also many lakes nearby. The vistas from my youth have left a deep impression on my subconscious, which I transfer onto canvas. I don’t know why, but I also remember a lot of sunshine and warm summers from my childhood.
The protagonists of your recent canvases largely consist of women. These are figures that are beautiful yet „virtuous.” You tend not to paint nudes. However, there is one exception. I’m thinking of the piece titled „Desiree.” That painting exudes sensuality!
Sex in art, and particularly with a capital „S,” bores me. However, sometimes I do deviate from this principle. When seeking inspiration, I toss around certain themes in my mind or sift through my memories. It’s as if I’ve opened an encyclopaedia to a random page. I read. And there, for instance, the entry „A Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams appears. A light bulb goes off, and an idea pops into my head. In „Desiree,” eroticism was inevitable. Yet even here, a beautiful woman resembles a marble statue. Her nudity is refined, symbolic.
At the end of our conversation, I’ve saved one of your most recent works, „Kalliope.” This small painting is likely the first in the series of the „Muses,” I presume?
Such is my idea! But will I endure? I do not know that. Ahead of me lie nine more paintings. Nine, because I cannot forget about the tenth muse, the muse of cinematic art.
Thank you very much for the conversation, and may your wellspring of inspiration remain ceaseless!