My Portfolio

Pav Szymanski

pavszymanski@gmail.com

Biography:

I am a fine art painter with 30 years of experience.  I have spent my life travelling and recording human existence in the most distant and exotic locations in 99 countries.  ​

My project is a metaphorical attempt to formulate a response to my observations of people, who are entrapped in waiting, while being suspended in the vacuum of hypnotic repetition. I have gathered substantial primary sources and evidence from destinations across the globe. Perhaps, the most significant research findings were from Haiti and Myanmar and resulted in the production of the most spectacular paintings.  They have inspired me to develop new and innovative ways of working and experimenting with image making, which are appropriate to the subject.  They combine the best of traditional achievements and the power of contemporary thinking and deep reflection.

I work full time as a programme coordinator for Art & Design at a large institution offering a broad range of FE and HE qualifications.  I am also an external examiner for the UAL and AQA.

Artist Statement:

Through my projects I feel that I discover my inner fears, longings and re-evaluate my uncertainties. My work seems to be an attempt to explore and question by metaphorical presentation my response to the hidden truths of the world. The essence of the value of these works is in their inherent meaning and an atmosphere, which manifests itself in the dusk of the space portrayed, thus the light may appear, where the hue of colour fulfils clarity and sounds with harmonious melody.

https://hypnoticrepetition.com/

https://pavszymanski.myportfolio.com/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOq7lHQlrOnKozGz95Hq2CA?view_as=subscribe

https://www.instagram.com/pavszymanski/?hl=en

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1.    Masquerade

https://youtu.be/4ZeoPuKLE0o

5-minute video

This video pieces covers a summary and visual outcome of my research, practicalexperimentation and analysis, which I have develop in consequence to my investigation into hypnotic repetition over the last few years.

My work is about an attempt to develop a visual response.  In contradiction to logic, opportunities arise in life to break the mundane phenomenon of entrapment and never-changing routine.

Perhaps, with increased sensitivity of observation, we would be able to free ourselves from this ballast and seek other endeavours and experiences to continue to make progress, develop and flourish.

This crazy pirouette continues forever. One broken cycle leads to another entrapment. New becomes old almost instantly. One fulfilment unexpectantly turns into a disaster and we remain unsatisfied, while travelling on a piece of rock through space – paradoxically, entrapped in a hope that the final destination is anything but death!

However, with great and vulgar arrogance, we continue to refuse to accept that nothing lasts forever and everything will turn into dust.

Dust and darkness (sic!)

2.    One-Legged Pool Player

The One-Legged Player is totally on the task. Her appearance looks frivolous and theatrical to distract from her determination and the fact that she cannot afford to miss any shots. Her outwards image portrays glamour and fame, but the reality is diametrically different.
The One-Legged Player is frozen in a stretched position, suspended in the vacuum of repetition. Every shot is executed in an identical posed pose in a hope to attract attention and increase the stakes, hence maximise profits.
I am hesitant to come to conclusions that there is something repulsive about it. The first impressions of wonder and curiosity are replaced with laughter and astonishment.  The performance continues regardless.

Mixed media on canvas

180 X 110

3.    Coach to Myiek

This piece portrays a coach driver. He is preparing to leave Kawthoung for a 20-hour long journey to Myiek. The road is terrible and unpredictable. His old coach must be in a top condition before the passengers are allowed to board.
The driver looks very tired and substantially overweight. He spends his life driving his coach between those two distant cities in Myanmar.  Mixed media on board, A1 size

4.    Burmese Captain

This work portrays a Burmese captain in charge of a long boat. His job is to transport people and cargo from Ranong in Thailand to Kawthoung at the furthest southern point of Myanmar. His main clientele are poor illegal workers from Burma trying to earn a few baht in Thailand.
Following a long conversation with him, I become one of his passengers. To maximise income, he accepts as many people as possible. He even travels on the very front of the boat to save valuable space. This place is very uncomfortable and rocky. He is also fully exposed there to the power of the tropical sun. He tries to get some relief from the burning heat by hiding under a colourful umbrella.
The image is very clashing in colour – very kitsch. This is further enhanced by his crude and cramped body position.  His ankle reveals a massive tumour.
There is a gigantic growth on his leg, perhaps caused by prolonged exposure to the sun and continued contact with polluted water in the port.
My creative intention was to portray him in his usual setting, while crossing the same water many times every day.
The focus is on him. The beautiful surroundings no longer matter. He cannot see the landscape. He is trapped in his daily routine.
The colour of his shirt blends in with the orange stripes of paint on the boat. The umbrella is feminine and looks absolutely ridiculous.

Mixed media on marine matt

A1 size

5.    Three Monks Begging

Mixed media on unprimed canvas.
168 cm x 118 cm

This new piece portrays three Burmese monks taking a break from their money collecting duties, while entertaining themselves with a large group of pigeons.
In the area, there were large numbers of child monks present. Most of their days are spend extorting large amounts of cash from the hard working, fearful and deeply religious market community.
They are immaculately dressed in pink robes and sarongs. Simultaneously, they walk bare foot to project an image of poverty and humbleness.
However, the truth is different. They have got daily targets to fill their metals trays with a mixture of coins and bank notes to satisfy the needs and expectations of their superiors.

mixed media on two joined canvases

Size: (w) 60cm; (h) 85cm

This is a portrait of a young, beautiful and idyllic-looking Haitian girl playing with butterflies. I met her during my travels through Haiti, where most people survive on less than 1$ per day.

She is totally oblivious of her origin.

She does not understand, why she is consistently ostracised and bullied. Her skin is white, and her eyes are baby blue. She definitively stands out!

She has never heard of Poland. Her home is on a little island called Petit Goave.

She is a descendent of Polish legionnaires, who were sent to Haiti by Napoleon to suppress an uprising of slaves. However, having realised the extent of exploration and abuse, the Poles changed sides and fought in support of the oppressed indigenous people. Subsequently, most of them were punished and slaughtered. A few lucky ones managed to disperse to the islands.

mixed media on board

Size: (w) 60cm; (h) 85cm

This is a portrait of a young Haitian girl called Palenque. She is heavily disabled.  Her arms are distorted and twisted. She is in constant pain.

Today, she is celebrating her 16th birthday.  Her eyes are full of joy and spark of life, and she smiles beautifully.

She is totally overwhelmed by an unexpected present from a stranger – a mobile phone.

5. Punhana

mixed media on board

Punhane, in Azeri, means ‘secret’. I have got to know her quite well. She was diligent, perceptive and intuitive. She made a very positive impression on me. Her outgoing personality was enhanced by a very natural look, reserved and introvert personality and beautiful young face with long hair and no makeup. 

Revealing her deepest secret could cost her life.

She is Armenian.  Since the war, both countries are filled with hatred towards each other.

6. Thai Masseur

mixed media on stretched canvas

Size: (w) 116cm; (h) 184cm

This is a portrait of a single mum of three.  She originates from a poor village in the North.  Her new life is in Pattaya.  Before the pandemic, her days were very monotonous and repetitive.  She used to work 17-hour long days as a masseur.  Now, in lockdown, her shop is closed.  She dreams about returning to her previous life and the former status quo.

mixed media on terrycloth, A1

Pearl Twink lives in Lagos, Nigeria.  She is transsexual. She fears for her life and her sexuality is her biggest secret. She is a fashion icon. The piece tries to question the presumption within our prejudice and allows us to understand the contradictory point of view – the opposite perspective.  Therefore, forcing us to confront and reflect on our own behaviour in the context of making judgements without thinking and appropriate analysis. We simply devalue the status of a person from a different culture.  Labelling and categorising removes individuality and creates a climate for a lack of our responsibility towards them.

Dialogue with Pearl Twink (with sound)

41-second video piece

GIFs

YouTube

Ravens and Crows Will Peck Us to Pieces – Painting Progress

I have gone through a long journey Exploration, trial and error with this piece. Initial observational and crude sketches of crows in hard pencil, were gradually transformed into dynamic and terrifying black silhouettes of individual birds in a herd. There is definitely something raw about this piece, which portrays a bizarre world with no source of light nor gravity. The mood is overpowering and depressing, perhaps overwhelmed by dirty browns and broken yellows. My painting echoes achievements of strange yet famous Munich grave painters, who limited their palette to the use of dirty colours and broken chroma. This was the main discovery of and I have decided to refer to their learning on the composition on my experimental composition.

Initially, I collaged a self portrait into the painterly space. I have carefully chosen this photo to make sure that it was personal Ly significant. Subsequently, I immersed myself in the creation of an arrangement, which contained energy and drama. Through scraping, glazing and overlaying, I managed to increase the element of a secret atmosphere, mood and, therefore, forced a reflection on a viewer.

The sipping light through the colour layers will later become subdued. I will use an overall glaze of a mixture of crimson Alizarin and Prussian blue. I will also consider using an oil based coat in order to ensure that there is an appropriate translucency and depth of the overlaying colour.

The final stage will be concerned with scrapping of the glaze and, perhaps, imprinting further textures into the existing layers to reveal a mysterious illusions of secrets underneath.

Ravens and Crows Will Peck Us to Pieces

During my exercise yesterday, I managed to take this disturbing photograph. On the one hand, it reminded me of my primary source for Three Burmese Monks piece. On the other, the black crows drew references to a novel by a Polish writer Stefan Zeromski.

Ravens and Crows Will Peck Us to Pieces – is a relatively short book by a literature Nobel Price winner . It consists of three parts and has references to the atrocities of the partitions of Poland between Germany, Russia and Austria. These birds have also other common connotations. It is usually believed that that the crow is a symbol of bad luck and death. I am not superstitious, but this seen has terrified me.

Subsequently, I have developed an idea of using the crows as an overprinted pattern on my next piece. The idea is to compose a twin image to Three Burmese Monks and use our current pandemic predicament to create a painting about myself, while responding to the broader contexts of the crisis. I am waiting while working in isolation in front of my window.

Optimistically attempting to contradict Zeromski while waiting in a hope that ravens and crows will not peck us to pieces!

Only Waiting, Not Working…

Following a period of stagnation I have moved ahead with full steam. I have developed a new screen. The images comes from a repetitive Royal Thai pattern. It is of cultural significance and has resemblance to the glory of this country. I managed to wash out the light sensitive filler with great precision to reveal all sensitivities of detail.

However, my creative intention was to use the screen in a much more spontaneous way. I overprinted the colourful frame around the masseur. I tried to echo the existing colour scheme in order to achieve a sense of cohesion, unity and flow. To destroy an effect of a decorative motif, I used a wet sponge to work into the prints and make them bleed.

I continued with using rich alizarin crimson based colours and royal blues. Ultimately, the painting reached a very gloomy and dark stage. The central section with masseur begun to shrink and partially disappeared. The peaceful and relaxing interior of the salon was overwhelmed by the aggressive background , which had watery qualities and resembled an angry and powerful waves of an ocean. The collage of spin paintings has been lost under a build up of new layers of colour and strokes of a sponge and imprints of a towel.

I have reached a stage, where I can do nothing more but let the canvas dry.

The only question in my mind is – when will I see my work again. A repeatedly ringing thought, which is brought about by the current predicament.

Time-lapse & Hyper-lapse with Colour Grading Workshop.

This has been a very intensive and exciting day. Matt Edwards, who run this workshop is an expert with a fast knowledge in this area. The purpose was to initiate experimentation with filming and editing footage in an intentional and meaningful way. A strong focus on the overall idea is very important in order to develop a holistic and professional piece.

In order to ensure consistency between individual workshops and experimentation, I have decided to create and record a mini pop-up show of my screen prints.

I used a Nikon D90 camera and a tripod. The idea was to capture a broad view of an art studio. All work in progress provides the frame with detail and sets the seen, while contextualising the video. I practiced with recording myself, while continuously displaying prints on a white wall to form a large rectangular composition. Subsequently, the pieces were removed one by one. White wall as a start and the same white wall as the end. This concept has provided my with the boundaries for my action and narrative.

I have experimented with a range of possibilities and considered a number of unassuming angles for shooting. My creative intention was to ‘go’ beyond a simple use of a documentary or media approach. I wanted to create a short art film.

Simultaneously, this provided me with an excellent opportunity to photograph my prints using a digital SLR.

As soon as all images and video footage are processed, I will include them and other visual material in this post.

Premier Pro is an advanced piece of sophisticated video editing software, which allows for a superb level of control, manipulation and intervention.

To aid my memory, I made a number of notes. I hope to use them as guidance in further experimentation. I am excited about taking my current ideas further and this process will begin shortly.

I feel that I have learned a lot about the impact of colour changes on video and the way in which it is perceived and understood by an audience.

Surprisingly, there is a similarity to how this applies to traditionally developed imagery.

I created a number of clips and sequences and experimented with additional effects including the use of alteration layers.

All in all, the day was very successful and demanding. I have benefitted from being challenged, especially in the context of experimentation and risk-taking leading to the development of new ideas and discussions of alternatives.

I am looking forward to the next stage of refinement of the work, which I have started to produce today.

A screen shot of my notes is below:

Raw Footage for Editing during the workshop

Morning Coffee

I have just completed the last day of a repetitive activity experiment. Every morning, for seven days, I walked exactly the same way to the same coffee bar. I left my hotel at exactly the same time and tried to cover the distance at an identical pace. I ordered the same coffee and a bottle of sparkling water. I was lucky to use the same seat and table. I was welcomed by the same waitress. Finally, I spent exactly the same amount of time there.

All days started to blare and it became quite difficult to distinguish between individual events and moments.

My perception of the entire week was substantially skewed, affected and distorted.

On my return home, this image will inspire my next piece.

Eureka Moment

It has taken me a long time to realise that I am fascinated by erosion and destruction. This is what transforms a surface to make it exciting and more evolved. I am actively engaged in observing and recording this magic and rapid transition. Superficial new becomes old and worn almost instantly, practically overnight.

Memories implanted by transience and the patina of time leave their stunning traces on everything, while staining, crumbling, disintegrating, glazing with dirt and human interventions.

I have spent the whole day exploring some rough parts of Gran Canaria’s rotting buildings and places. I was shocked to learn how mesmerising they all were! I have experimented with these ideas, while searching for effects of destruction in my own project through blasting my paintings with water jets and spinning my work in washing machines. Paradoxically, both art and life are about turning something special, into dust and nothing. New becomes old; young ages and wrinkles, swish and desirable turns into shameful and unwanted rubbish.

Vive la destruction!

Symposium Part 2 – Isolating the Key Elements of Life.

There appears to be a sense of cohesion between life and science.
When one considers my visual responses in my project, it becomes clear that the predicament is universal.

In some small way, we are all trapped in the cycle of work, life, and existence; oscillating between certainty and uncertainty.

This can be, perhaps, best interpreted by Bruce Nauman in his ‘One Hundred Live and Die’, 1984. He boils down the essence of our being to the basic activities of life, without location or possessions.

BRUCE NAUMAN

When analysing my primary sources, I made some exciting observations:

– The less you have got the more certain your life appears.
– Contemporary life in a western society superficially looks certain.
– In reality, it is full of surprises and the most certain things become a nightmare.
– The more you have the more you want, and the less satisfied you are in life.

Points for discussion:
• Can uncertainty become inspirational?
• If the future was predictable would you have less motivation?

Making the Ephemeral Eternal

I have started to work on a new piece. It portrays a mature Thai lady, who is naturally talented at playing the pool. She is rich. Her body is dripping in golden jewellery and adornments. Her supporting team celebrate her successes and support her in every possible way.

When aiming at a ball, her body position is bizarrely stretched, resembling an ancient Mayan warrior – immaculately dressed in white, with a serious facial expression and flowers in her hair. This appears to be contradictory to the time-typical technique and makes it very difficult to calculate precise directions of the shot and predict the associated geometry of angles and forces.

This unusual ritual is repeated every night.. Many people depend on her performance and the related income.

I am working directly on a large scale unprimed canvas. The red colour scheme is gradually evolving to enhance my overall creative intention to portray a theatre and show of mastery of skill and class.

This is the first layer of colour and glaze, and the process of development will continue. I am currently working hard to develop images for a screen to be used for overprinting this under image.

Burmese Captain.

It has taken me a long time to sort out and organise a broad range of images for further development. Despite contracting Chickungunya, my research trip to Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia, has proven to be very successful in terms of both: life-changing experiences and gathering primary sources.

I have started working on a new piece. The work portrays a Burmese captain in charge of a long boat. His job is to transport people and cargo from Ranong in Thailand to Kawthoung at the furthest southern point of Myanmar. His main clientele are poor illegal workers from Burma trying to earn a few baht in Thailand.

Following a long conversation with him, I become one of his passengers. To maximise income, he accepts as many people as possible. He even travels on the very front of the boat to save valuable space. This place is very uncomfortable and rocky. He is also fully exposed there to the power of the tropical sun. He tries to get some relief from the burning heat by hiding under a colourful umbrella.

The image is very clashing in colour – very kitsch. This is further enhanced by his crude and cramped body position.

His ankle reveals a massive tumour.

There is a gigantic growth on his leg, perhaps caused by prolonged exposure to the sun and continued contact with polluted water in the port.

My creative intention was to portray him in his usual setting, while crossing the same water many times every day.

The focus is on him. The beautiful surroundings no longer matter. He cannot see the landscape. He is trapped in his daily routine.

The colour of his shirt blends in with the orange stripes of paint on the boat.

The umbrella is feminine and looks absolutely ridiculous.

Pearl Twink. Waiting For An Uncertain Response.

I am very excited to have started working on an alternative direction of my project. My new piece is a portrait of Pearl Twink, a girl I met in Lekki, Lagos, Nigeria.

The concept for this piece is to instigate a dialogue between my reflections on her definitively uncertain life, and interweave them with her responses to my provocative statements. The plan is to use a range of processes, including painting and screen printing. This will be possibly extended and developed through video and Gifs. The narrative element continues to be very important. It reinforces the ambiguity of the message I am trying to communicate and questions it’s place in the broader contexts.

The previously overused blasting process will be now replaced by a machine intervention. I will experiment with using a variety of washing powders, temperatures and lengths of cycles to remove the under image and the overprinting layers of text.

All my new work will be created on unprimed and unstreatched canvases.  Currently, I am using Calico and synthetics. However, during my forthcoming trip to Burma, I intend to collect a variety of materials and appropriate, locally produced fabrics, to increase the element of authenticity of my project.

I have already started to develop an under image. It is still a recognisable portrait of Pearl Twink.  This part of the process is associated with deep reflections. My thoughts are jotted down all over the piece as rough notes and the most important content is just below the image.

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Subsequently, I have refined this text and its content.  I wanted for my message to be more provocative as well as form a discussion between her ideas and my judgements.

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A copy of the refined text is below. I have also experimented with different ways of making the text less readable and partly invisible.

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Subsequently, I was faced with a dilemma: should I use a handwritten text on top of the under image or develop a typographic silk screen?

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The screen idea has worked very well and the inking process was very fulfilling.   I felt that this process has began to work as I had intended.

Additionally, the overprinting has started to take shape and created fine details and a sense of layering.

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The message containing Pearl Twink’s response is also ready to be transferred onto a silk screen.  As soon as this is done, I will initiate the overprinting process, which will be subsequently washed off by experimenting with machine intervention.

This is intended to reinforce the element of uncertainty and waiting in anticipation; worries and anxieties of what will happen during the ‘washing’ cycle. There is no stopping it whilst the process is started. All I can do is to wait to see the result and assess the accidental value of my risky approach. The potential of loosing it all is real!

As an alternative idea, I am also considering to develop an animation, or perhaps, a video piece, and include the flashing and alternating of individual stages of the overprinting process and the messages.

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I could not resist to record the last attempt of blasting the ink off to reveal the content of the screen and its message.

I feel very nostalgic!