“I treat used furniture as a human’s soul negative. That’s what I want to pull out of them – the world under the surface as a pulsating, wriggling part of reality, sphere of repressed feelings, hidden emotions, undercover intentions”
AT: Where are you from and how/why did you start engaging with art?
CP: I work and live in Warsaw but I come from a lakeside region in northern Poland. When living in a small city I used to draw from culture as a whole. Art was also a part of my concerns.
AT: When did it become serious?
CP: At certain point during my graphic design/ printmaking studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw I realised I needed more conceptual activities because I felt I was missing something. This brought me to painting and after a while to other media.
AT: Are there any person who has been significant in your breakthrough as an artist?
CP: It was more a case of exact time and eye-opening experiences than a specific person. In 2010 I’ve moved from Warsaw to Berlin for some time and I consider this as a turning point.
AT: What is your first approach to the work? How would you describe your practice?
CP: The works are made of various objects, parts of furniture, sound devices, tools, utensils. I don’t necessarily deprive them of their initial functions. I rather try to deepen or enrich the associations that they bring to mind. My artistic practice started from painting but I soon realized how much I missed the physical touch of a hammer, a saw or a staple gun. I treat used furniture as a human’s soul negative. That’s what I want to pull out of them – the world under the surface as a pulsating, wriggling part of reality, sphere of repressed feelings, hidden emotions, undercover intentions. My noir reliefs become examples of romantic craft and gloomy fetishistic design, a bit naive, a bit botched. And sometimes they look as pagan-like artifacts of indefinite rituals and celebrations.
Installation view from a solo show “Hearth”, Jan Kaps, Cologne
AT: What do you aim to reach with your work?
CP: I think it is not a matter of reaching something. It is more about living on your own conditions.
AT: What are your favourite tools and materials for working?
CP: It changes but now upholstery tools and materials are the ones that are close to me – upholstery foam and glue, pleather, wood, staples, parts of furniture. I consciously don’t focus on standard upholstery craft. I use the materials in a bit cheeky or contradictory way.
AT: What do you feel while you work? Do you usually think about the final outcome beforehand?
CP: It is a moment of high concentration. I always think about the final outcome and I’m usually somehow satisfied when the work looks much different and leads to something new.
AT: How do you understand that a work is finished?
CP: Let’s say that usually a work is finished when you realize that with every other step you will begin to annihilate it.
Untitled, 2020, plywood, pleather, staples, ventilation elements, anti-noise earmuffs, binoculars, headphones, acrylic resin items, 125x102x31 cm / View from a solo show “Hearth”, Jan Kaps, Cologne.
Burrow, 2020, 126x104x29 cm, pleather, upholstery foam, staples, twigs, blockboard, wood / View from “Welcome to Itchy Truths”, Stereo, Warsaw
AT: Where does the inspiration for the work come from?
CP: There is an expression that came to my mind, the inspiration comes from “scratching the world”.
AT: Are there any artists who influenced your works? Why?
CP: There are many of them. I’m very impressed by Lee Bontecou practice lately, her carefully composed asymmetrical geometric massive structures. The oppressiveness and tension of her relief works is a sphere I admire. I feel affinity for the light and shade game, and many other dichotomies that appear in her works. Indefinite works of Tishan Hsu also stay in my mind last weeks. And the way he deals with anxieties rooted in human existence and technology.
AT: How important is the role of social media for you?
CP: It is as important as watching, reading, meeting people and discovering things is important – activities that I use social media for. And now, it is usually the only way to stay connected with the world and keep the mind and soul in good condition.
At the studio/ Untitled, 2021, plywood, pleather, staples, upholstery foam, wood, medicine balls, anti-noise earmuffs, 132x110x28 cm
At the studio/ No Face Land, 2021, plywood, pleather, staples, upholstery foam, wood, medicine balls, anti-noise earmuffs, 76x54x22 cm
AT: As an artist, what is your point of view about the contemporary art system?
CP: I’m aware that some things in this system could work better for all parties and for art itself. I’m working my heart off and this is what counts.
AT: What do you find to be the most challenging or daunting thing about pursuing art? What is the most rewarding part of working as an artist?
CP: It is tricky because challenging and daunting things often switch places. Evolution, growth and possibility to function as an artist is a very rewarding part of this type of work. Receiving new opinions and reaching new attention is satisfying too.
AT: What do you do besides art?
CP: I really enjoy going places what nowadays is not easy and much more needed. Reading and movies help.
AT: What are your goals and expectations for the future?
CP: I think less possibilities of presenting my work last year and exhibitions being postponed was painful and disheartening. I hope for having a wider range of opportunities and interactions this year.
Calm, installation view from a group show “Waiting for Another Coming”, Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw
Cezary Poniatowski (b. 1987) is a Polish visual artist currently living and working in Warsaw, Poland. In 2012 Poniatowski graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw where he received his MFA. His recent solo shows include: Hearth, Jan Kaps, Cologne (2020); Hereafter (with Sami Schlichting), Mélange, Cologne (2019); Sick-box, Stereo, Warsaw (2018); Guard, JIL, Warsaw (2018); The Whole Picture, BWA Zielona Góra, Zielona Góra (2018). His recent group shows include: The Spirit of Nature and Other Fairy Tales. 20 years of The ING Polish Art Foundation, Silesian Museum, Katowice (2019); Nosztrómo, Ashes/Ashes, New York (2019); Waiting for Another Coming, Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw (2018); Doors of Paradise, Union Pacific, London (2018); Friend of a Friend in Berlin, ChertLüdde, Berlin (2018).