Interview with: Marzena Turek Gas
Marzena Turek, PhD – a Polish artist also known as Marzena Turek Gas
She is an author of many disciplines, from painting, graphics, photography, graphic design, scenography and costumes to installations, performance and spatial forms. She is inspired by the space whom she can give new, original and artistic dimension and sense. She is the first artist worldwide who creates unique, largeformat paintings using roller skates. For this purpose, she constructed a special painting suit equipped with paint dispensers releasing the paint straight from under the wheels of the roller skates on the painted surface. With the energy of her entire body, she enters the giant canvas on her roller skates and starts moving to the rhythm of live music, creating an expressive network of tangled lines, traces and imprints. The whole event is broadcast on a large screen, attracting viewers and taking them to on a journey to her universe. She cares about the expression and freshness of a painting gesture performed on a large scale with such freedom which you can find in small sketches reflecting a strong emotional load. Her creative process and observation of phenomena in nature is an invention that gives her great joy and delight, as if she was looking at the world through the eyes of a child. The motive of a street with arched traces of vehicles on the snow became impetus for creating monumental images. By combining visual arts with music, movement and space, the artist created a completely new language of expression, which became her brand. Pictures painted in this way, apart from the unusual swirls of colours, are distinguished by their large size. The largest canvas in this series, entitled “By Night – Drivin’ Me Jazzy”, measuring 200 m2, was created in Poland at night in the very heart of the c apital, at the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw in 2007, whereas “Red” - at the Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art in Gdansk in 2009. In 2006, along with the creation of the first work using this technique, a French journalist made a reportage about it (Trace TV), which was then broadcast in 90 countries. In 2016, ten years after the creation of the first work, the artist reproduced huge canvases from a bird's-eye view on the grassy field of the National Stadium using a 50-meter boom and a drone. Next, she divided them into smaller parts constituting separate, new works. In 2017, these works could be seen at the Fibak Collection Gallery. She is the author of numerous works related to street art. Since 2006, she has also been working on a multidimensional project entitled Shapes of Colour/All Size, as part of which she created a monumental relief on a building in the urban space of Warsaw. Until today, Marzena Turek's artistic achievements have been presented at over 150 exhibitions in various parts of the world. Her works are present in many private collections and art institutions in Poland and abroad: USA, Japan, Germany, France, Czech Republic, Russia, Sweden, Macedonia, Hungary, Great Britain, Korea, Ukraine and Italy. In December 2020, she received her Doctor of Arts diploma. Her doctoral thesis entitled “The Library of Colours - between nature and the virtual world” was written under the supervision of prof. dr hab. Urszula Ślusarczyk at the Faculty of Art of the Jan Kochanowski University in Kielce, Poland. A holder of a scholarship from the Minister of Culture and National Heritage (2006 and 2020). See more about her: scholarships, distinctions, awards and exhibitions: https://marzenaturek.com/exhibitions/
Welcome Marzena, I would like to start this interview from the beginning, do you remember which artist or which artwork moved something inside you when you were a child?
Let me say a few words before I answer this question. When I was 7, I already knew that I wanted be a painter and designer. Then I started attending after-school art classes in the didactic and technical studio in my hometown of Łomża, Poland, where my first works were created. All of them were sent to national and international competitions, for which I received many awards and distinctions. What is more, I attended music lessons, where I learnt to play the piano. It was all very encouraging for me. Once, as a reward for the work entitled “Frédéric Chopin in the eyes of a child” I got my first oil paints. I felt the smell of mystery, thinking what will emerge on my canvases in the future.
Finally, when I was 10, as a reward for my artistic achievements, I went to the Zwinger Gallery in Dresden, Germany. That was where the collection of paintings and canvases of the Old Masters made a big impression on me. The one which especially attracted my attention was Vermeer’s “The woman reading a letter”. It emanated silence and concentration. “What was the woman reading?” – I pondered. The magnetic painting made me stop in front of it for a while. I thought that as soon as I started painting well, I would try
to feel the world of Vermeer and create the same image. And that’s why I did several years later. Another work of art which was also impressive, probably due to its size and incredible space displayed in it, was “The Sistine Madonna” by Rafale Santi. While looking at it, I noticed two little cherubs resting on the bottom part of the frame, a motive so well-known and so frequently seen on everyday objects, including fashion.
And then? how have your approach and references changed growing up?
Those moments determined my choice of artistic path. I had a desire to develop my artistic skills - I wanted to follow the smell of oil paints, and I was curious about what would emerge from under my brush. At that time, I already started to learn about history of art and I was preparing for entrance exams to an art school. At the age of 14 I left my hometown and moved to Nałęczów, 300 km away, to the renowned Józef Chełmoński State Secondary School of Fine Arts. Many talented people from all over the country wanted to
learn there, so it wasn’t easy to get a place. Fortunately, my dream came true and I passed my exams with flying colours. When I was in my teens, I was already drawing and painting very well on my own, and then I became inspired by the Fauvist art of Matisse. I admired his paintings and cut-outs. I liked postimpressionists and expressionists, Toulouse-Lautrec’s soft line, Gauguin’s hot colours and dense texture, and short strokes of intense colours by Van Gogh’s brush. It was a time of intense research related to colour
and nature. Coming back to Matisse, his colours seem to be singing, and I have been fascinated with their musicality and vividness which are close to my heart even today. I was watching the relationship between colours and light. I also paid a lot of attention to the way in which old masters created painting compositions - e.g. in the previously mentioned works by Vermeer or Caravaggio. I learnt a lot from the Old Masters’. I had an opportunity to take part in numerous plein-airs. One of my first oil paintings was “Self-portrait in a
red hat”, which I painted in 1988 at the age of 16. I thought it was really successful and now it is in a private collection in France. Over time, my paintings were becoming more and more abstract.
How would you describe your practice to someone who doesn't know you? what are the recurring elements, themes,
concepts you refer to?
I guess I’d describe my spectacular works, that is, how they were created and why. I’d say what fascinates and delights me. I’d describe my perception of the world and how this perception influences my activities. I like to take a look at reality from above, get a bird's eye view, because this way of seeing makes it more abstract. I work in a multimedial and multidimensional way. The image of the road with the winding vehicle traces resembles a character from Japanese calligraphy. The wheels of the vehicles are drawing lines similar to those made by a putty knife. They thicken, become blacker and contrast with shiny white snow. I feel power in the fleshiness of paint. I feel painting on a huge scale! This is my painting connected with space. The created image looks like a map of the world. In his painting method, Jackson Pollock created drawings showing threads of paint poured on the surface of canvas. He did that with the help of a stick on which he was pouring the paint. While doing this, he was walking around his work, calling it an all-over method. I, on the other hand, entered the surface of my canvas wearing roller-skates which were specially prepared for
that during JazzDa Malarska 2006. My method was based on sinusoidal movement with paint flowing out of tubes straight under the wheels of the roller-skates creating traces on the canvas. In my most recent works I combine layers of lines and gestural painting with openwork reliefs. I thicken the shapes with which I build a vivid chiaroscuro drawing. I create cycles of works, taking up problems related to the “threedimensionality of painting” Shapes of Colour / All Size 2007-2018 and still ongoing, 3D Colour 2009-2014.
I study colour behavior under the influence of cold and heat in my own experiments by immersing powder pigments in snow, and I create watercolour effects in Ice Painting 2008, 2009. For the purpose of my future work, I freeze colours to defrost them later again. Colour, space, movement, documentation of the creative process, as well as placing the work in the context of the exhibition space are as important to me as creating art. The proportions of empty places are as important for the exhibition as the design of typography in the poster, where every millimetre of light between letters is crucial since the whole composition depends on it.
While creating my works, I analyse my own “universe”. New solutions are constantly appearing, one series produces another. I usually work on several paintings at the same time. Sometimes these cycles are connected with each other, and sometimes due to the technique used, they differ. Nevertheless, they still raise similar problems, e.g. concerning space or motion.
Usually each artist has a different modus operandi, what is yours? how did your projects start and how do they develop?
As I said before, I didn’t become an artist right away. It was a long process which shaped me as a mature creator who could still perceive the world with delight typical of a child. Actually, I have a different approach towards each project, although I prepare for them in a similar way. A given process or operation often requires various skills. Certainly, the first phase of each project is a thought, and idea which I sketch or describe in a few words. I often burn a candle at both ends – I get out of bed several times a night and I take notes. The good thing is that I can always go back to them, even after several years. And that’s what I often do – my thoughts are ahead of time. I create ongoing works. When I don’t have access to my studio, just like now, and when I’m forced to change my location after 15 years, I try to archive my previous works. In this way, I’m busy all the time. The substantive work is quite engaging. What is more, the time when I finally have to turn my creative thought into something physical is a kind of ongoing painting session during which I perform the whole series or just a nucleus, and to which I can go back after several years, examining an artistic issue interesting to me until all options are exhausted. It is a kind of visual philosophising with the visual language. It is an internal dialogue with myself, a desire to seek a continuation. Visions of my projects are very expressive and spatial. Sometimes they involve viewers since they are interactive and analogue at the same time. I record and capture time. While skating on the canvas I leave lines, one on
another, which are the recording of a given time, my presence, life, motions and colours. At the same time, I’m working on the other project connected with the Shapes of Colour where I also refer to nature but in this project my linear painting compositions are finally filled with colour - they become three-dimensional spots, reliefs and sculptures.
What function do you attribute to your works and why?
There are lots of them because I work in a multimedial and multidimensional way. This way of switching from 2D to 3D is very typical for my works. I perceive the world through the prism of painting, sculptures, graphics and design. My works are ambiguous and contain various threads. The first one involves associations, as we usually look for something familiar, even in amorphous shapes. There are references to waves, maps, clouds, even lakes or islands seen from a bird's-eye view. The second is a reference to
decorative forms. My painting associated with spatial forms is decorative, but it is also only one of the layers. The most important one is the fact that they are autonomous forms, an idea, a concept through which I explore the new areas of art. Equally important are artistic means used, the way of creating my compositions and the ideas of combining several disciplines: cut-outs, collages and assemblages, reaching my total “three-dimensional painting” which plays the role of sculpture and functional art. Indeed, when it
comes to viewers, I tend to be selfish because I want to introduce them entirely to my world. I try to correlate the painting means with the means appropriate to sculpture or relief in such a way that they result in a completely new quality and a new aesthetic value. I create small and large-format compositions. My works have the features of painting, sculpture and design, and that is why they bear such a big semantic load. Colour forms created with soft and smooth lines repeat and multiply. They are universal – they
stimulate the imagination and they are intended for people of all ages.
I stick them into a public space. I hang or place them as a threedimensional spot as a bench where one can sit. My painting naturally penetrates the surroundings and applied arts. In 2011, I implemented a largeformat spatial project from the Shapes of Colour /City Tour cycle. It can be seen on one of the buildings in Warsaw, at 12 Targowa street. The project was selected during Art in Public Space competition, announced by the President of the Capital City of Warsaw. I am fond of the large scale that gives air and space to
compositions. At the same time, I also created a series of seating facilities for seven stations of the II line of the Warsaw Metro, to which polish famous artist Wojciech Fangor designed the walls behind the rails.
Apart from that, while being part of the creating process you have to do something with love and feelings because only then the whole thing makes sense. Technical procedures and reasoning are good for nothing if there are no feelings in that action. If I have a vision of my work, finding a way to implement it is a great adventure for me. I simply love activating myself. If I had to describe the way I work using one word, I’d say “feelings”.