Malaika Mzuri

Malaika is a young, tall, slim and beautiful woman. A unique composition of Ethiopian, Masai and Tanzanianian genes has made her body perfect and her face original, exotic looking and absolutely stunning.

She is a single mother of two and has no permanent residence. One daughter has a disability. She has no contact with the other child. Due to her turbulent upbringing, she received no education and is now struggling with basic reading and writing skills. She has no realistic chances of getting any meaningful employment. To survive, she has few options: the most lucrative is to marry a rich foreigner, the other other choices are less appealing.

Her life has been filled with pain, abuse and hardship. A long chain of continuous disasters and predicaments has started to affect the “perfect” look. At 33, her outstanding natural beauty is vanishing rapidly while making her future more and more uncertain.

A1, mixed media on aged board

Symposium – Reflections

Jonathan presented my 5 minute video to the group yesterday. I received a broad range of opinions, questions and suggestions. I was inspired by a constructive dialogue and several intriguing interpretations of my work. I would like to respond to the main comments as follows:

Matt – is the Venetian mask making its way into paintings too or are the sequences of you wearing the mask in this video taken from a piece in itself – where did it come from? I’m curious.

Yes, it will be a part of a future painting. My intention was to create a sensation of an outsider, alien like character, who observes and comments on the nature of the human condition from ‘out there’.

Alexis – you have mentioned that the voice in the narration is as though an alien, it is another and not you. What do you see is the relationship between the voice of the narrator, the text and yourself?

The alien like voice creates a clash between my observations and those of an outsider, who is trying to formulate an objective and detached analysis of the situation and predicaments.

Danielle – I’m interested to know whether/how hypnotic repetition is embedded into your painting process?

Using a washing machine as a creative tool is repetitive in its own right. Watching the spinning of the drum has hypnotic qualities. The slow and very precise process of portrait painting is also monotonous and mind-numbing. It is passive and based on observing the process of destruction without any possibilities for intervention and influence.

Aristotle – Do you see your artistic identity as an alter-ego?

Not at alter ego. The intention is to initiate a dialogue by introducing another perspective, an angle, which is unbiased.

Matt – This is something, which I remain interested in – I asked similar questions during our group tutorial at low residency in terms of the point at which a painting becomes fixed, concluded, or left, and the cycle is broken – is this point at which it becomes a story?

My work is based on an evolving and sequential dialogue, a commentary on the human condition in the context of predicaments of daily survival and turbulence of existence. It is not an object of craft, which forces a question about the work being completed. It is not a piece of embroidery – you do it and than, it is done.

Kelda – is (your project) about discovery? With the travels. With your artwork? You have been experimenting with process like using the washing of your artwork…

My research is focused on an attempt to develop a deeper understanding in order to establish and analyse the discrepancy between what is on the surface and what is really going on underneath the facade. The process is metaphorically important. The underpinning thinking is of primary significance, as always.

Alexis – The washing of the canvases is clearly an important element in your process, how does it function in the concept of hypnotic repetition and does it have a personal significance?

The spinning motion of a drum of a washing machine has hypnotic qualities. Its metaphorical function is to confirm and reinforce my observations about the repetitive nature of peoples’ lives and the entire structure of their existence. There is no escape from this entrapment. The destination of every attempt to break free from this cycle is failure. It becomes consumed by it and integral to the entire existence.

Danielle – (hypnotic repetition is embedded into life in its entirety) through habits?

I am not talking about rituals and acquired habits. My project explores the essence of being and its overwhelming impact on the most basic form of existence – dealing with life without thinking about it – getting on with perseverance.

Ben – I find it interesting that the washing, really does not wash away anything. Merely smears and alters the original image into something new.

It is very much a part of an uncontrollable, uncertain and unpredictable creative process.

Jonathan – the washing process is obviously connected to washing and cleansing but in this case it is also very destructive, as it removes large amounts of the painted surface, how much of this is about your giving up control or giving over control to the washing machine in this case, is it in any way an empathetic action with the stories of come of those you have met?

Yes, it is in a way, because there is a bizarre similarity, a parallel between the nature of my process and the lives of the people I paint.

Kelda – It is also retelling the story (of the painting, or the people whose stories you are seeking out), the ‘truth’ is distorted with every telling.

Absolutely, it is twisted and distorted, just like their lives and existence – nothing is certain.

Leah – Regarding “new normality”. I have a question about this. What is the difference between the new normality and the old normality? What on earth can completely change our inherent state? If it is only changes slowly over time. So can it be said that “change” is what we call “normality”?

The key point is that everyone has a different normality and a unique perspective on life and existence. My work reinforces this concept and celebrates this thinking.

Matt – There is a great richness and depth to your storytelling in conversation. Pav – maybe the layers of paint form a mask that invites inspection without the spoken word?

Yes, possibly, but the narrative is very important and forms another layer to the understanding of my perspective and research findings.

AxAsh – just sharing my personal opinion,I feel there might be some violence element in your work Pav. I meant,did you attempt to make it or it is just a random result?An interesting saying is that art making is another form of crime. Some film directors have the same explanation. This can be a way to heal their trauma?How do you think?

The character is not violent, may appear to be sinister. This is, however, a part of a bias and interpretation from the observer and depends on his own insecurities. It is designed to draw attention to the situation.

Friederike – [It is also retelling the story (of the painting, or the people whose stories you are seeking out), the ‘truth’ is distorted with every telling]
Yes, exactly and therefore is very well in tune with concept of the mask, which can hide identity but also retells a story like in theatre.

Repetition stops you from thinking and analysing your own life, ambitions, dreams and aspirations. You hypnotically and simple ‘get on with it’!

Altiba9 International Exhibition.

I have submitted my work to the prestigious Altiba9 international exhibition. I have also composed a new portfolio saved as a PDF file, especially for this purpose.

I have attached a screenshot of the email below:

Portfolio on Behance and Further Thoughts on Final Exhibition

I have started to work on a new presentation portfolio on Behance.

My work in progress can be viewed by clicking on the following link:

https://pavszymanski.myportfolio.com/

I will continue to update this collection of work as some key pieces are still missing.

This has also given me ideas of how I would like to present my work during the final show. I have exchanged correspondence with Aristotle and uploaded work files into my space on the shared google drive.

I am really looking forward to seeing the work being presented in this simple yet clear and aesthetic format.

All images are of identical height. They are equally spaced, probably further apart than on my rough design. The 7 central pieces are videos (the above design displays only 5) and my paintings on both sides. The order of my work may be adjusted.

The work on the left represents some initial research and experimentation. The pieces on the right are the most recent. Therefore, there is a sense of chronological progression throughout. The idea is to echo my journey, experiences and findings.
Ideally, it would be great to be able to click on each piece to enlarge it.

I am also planning to support each piece with an explanation using either a sound recording or text.

The sequence of my work files is: 7 paintings – 7 videos – 5 paintings.

Symposium – Development of Presentation.

Presentation in Progress:

Refined proposal:

Image remains:

This is a holistic and conclusive summary and visual outcome of my research, practical experimentation and analysis, which I have develop in consequence to my investigation into hypnotic repetition over the last few years.

I have attempted to portray my research findings as unreal. In the context of the current crisis, my ability to travel appears to be nothing, but a distant memory. The seriousness of the situation is reflected in a ‘torture like’ visual metaphor, which is intentionally ambiguous. The title implies a false show or pretence. The opulence of the Venetian mask has an important function here. It depersonalises the character. We are all entrapped in the vacuum of hypnotic repetition, regardless of status, age and location. The yellow and gold tonation imply a form of celebration, perhaps a masked ball, which allows all participants to misbehave without any possibilities of being recognised and punished. It creates a feeling of safety and removes all unnecessary barriers and limitations.

The process of washing is also of significance here. Its aim is to cleanse, purify and remove a burden of recollections and reminders of the past. It is a perfect time to move on and embrace the new normality in the brave and contemporary post pandemic world.

The narrative has a purposefully confused and partially non-sequential timeline. The underpinning idea is to disorientate potential viewers and make them question the purpose of the existence through an interpretation of the meaning of my video.

The spinning cycle of the machine has hypnotic properties and enhances the overall feeling of absurd, repetition and induces a fatamorgana of safety and cosiness.

In contradiction to logic, opportunities arise in life in order 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.

The masquerade of ‘head-spinning’ continues, while we are all waiting for something to change and happen.

This crazy pirouette continues forever. One broken cycle leads to another entrapment. New becomes old almost instantly. One fulfilment expectantly 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!)

Ravens & Crows Will Peck Us to Pieces – Glazed.

The painting has been continuously glazed and cleaned. It has gone through a number of stages and altered by, contradictory in temperature, transparent layers of olive oil and alkyd paints.

I have gone through a long process of consideration and reflection on my current painting. I was questioning how to make a radical progress with my current painting? On the one hand, the composition is intentionally balanced and scattered, on the other, the image lacks the desired level of depth and mood. My intention was to make it more dynamic and dramatic.

Currently, the skeletal silhouettes are quite rough and crude in execution. The idea is to echo the reality of my primary source – crows and ravens feasting on rotting seaweed, which is tumbled and mixed with rubbish, decomposing plastic and other organic matter, and surrounded by the most repelling possible stench. This analysis of my research findings describes and outlines both the source and the concept, while setting my work in a horrid, dark and depressing context.

Somewhere, in the centre of the compositional entrance, there is a portrait of myself. It is covered with an embedded text in Spanish. The fonts are almost impossible to decipher. My intention was to draw analogies to the final end and death of the most amazing and pure experiences in life. I wanted to question the purpose, sense, direction and destination, while embracing the most powerful existential thoughts and feelings.

Subsequently, I started to experiment with a range of glazes using alkyd paints. I wanted to drift away from the time typically used media in my studio: oil and encaustic media. Alkyd paints are thicker and stronger.  They consist of thermoplastic polyester resins made by heating polyhydric alcohols with polybasic acids or their anhydrides. Their main function is to create protective coatings, which are resistant to ageing and general wear. This physical property of this toxic medium creates a significant clash with my need to protect the significance of the past. To experiment with the viscosity and luminosity of the glazes, I have diluted them with the best quality of extra virgin olive oil. The use of a top-of-the-range product, here again, is intentional and carefully thought out. The idea was to depart from commercial qualities of cheap and raw linseed oil. I wanted to replace them with a natural and silky translucency of an opulent food ingredient. It is like feeding the birds and, simultaneously, covering the essence of the subject matter of the under image with a preserving layer of indulgence, luxury and melancholia. The additional purpose of this is try to safe myself from the attack of the cruel and metaphorically important ravens and crows.

I have included below, two documentary photographs of the glaze alteration process. They illustrate a long cycle of the building of the layers. It consists of warming up and cooling down the compositional colour scheme. Ultimately, the developed image will be ‘touched up’ with oil bars in order to continue to increase the vibrancy of the tint and add another element to the piece – texture.

Looking back at the painting process, my inspiration came from both, observation of a primary source and digestion of a piece by Greta Alfaro. I saw her work on display at the Saatchi Gallery. Her 2009 piece called In Ictu Oculi, Single channel video (HDV, 16:9, colour, sound, duration: 10:37) The Latin title in translation means ‘in the brink of an eye’.

She uses birds in a Hitchcock-like, metaphorical way. However, the meaning of her piece is different. It focuses on questioning human desires and has a very dark side to it. I thought that quoting her video and learning from her use of analogies and suggestions was very relevant to my painterly explorations.

In Ictu Oculi
https://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/greta_alfaro_in_ictu_oculi.htm

Reflections on the Final Show

I have researched and tested a great number of possible platforms for the final show. Unfortunately, I have found them quite disappointing. The most common concept is to based on echoing a feeling of a physical gallery. Frequently, the software is very slow and clumsy in operation. Additionally, the overall effect is more focused on the look of the space rather than the work itself. Art becomes somehow secondary to the meaningless decorations and textures of walls, ceiling and the lighting.

The most popular online gallery is artsteps.com and https://www.furioos.com/ is best for streaming 3D work.

Other options, which are worth investigating are:

https://www.capterra.com/art-gallery-software/

https://www.3dvas.com/

http://omeka.org/

http://openexhibits.org/

http://collectiveaccess.org/

http://pachyderm.nmc.org

Alternatively, I have considered using a website, which is similar in design to behance.net.

I really like the simplicity, effectiveness and freshness of the front page. There is a grid of large block images, which is inviting and very clear. This website is able to accommodate a broad range of artefacts, including gifs files and video work. Photography on display is relatively high resolution and organised with order and structure.

Our group meets in Zoom on a regular bases to discuss possibilities for arranging the exhibition. All students are very proud and would like to present their research projects to the best of the abilities. Likely, Aristotle, who is one of our students, has offered to help everyone and donated both, his time and the use of his original software.

In preparation for my exhibition, I have carefully considered a range of ideas. My main intention is to make sure that the way, in which my work is displays reinforces its meaning. I would like to avoid using any unnecessary gimmicks and distractions.

In these unprecedented times, it is quite strange for a painter to accept that the final exhibition will not have a physical dimension. Frankly, I am saddened and overwhelmed by a lack of reality it terms of the experience of true colour, texture and painterly mastery of strokes. However, an artist and creative individual needs to seek opportunities in overcoming obstacles. Therefore, my intention is to excel myself and make the online exhibition even better, more refined and sophisticated. I would like for this to be a new learning curve full of controlled happy accidents, experimentation and deep reflection of what is appropriate in term of visual communication – my chosen language of expression.

The digital approach creates a new chance to experiment with a ‘space’, which supports and reinforces my messages in cohesion to deliver a holistic poetry about my painterly and video work.

Currently, I am planing for a long wall with three parallel and simultaneous video projections. This number can be possibly extended to four. I am in the process of working on a painting titled ‘Ravens and Crows Will Peck Us to Pieces’. It is quite likely that I will make sufficient progress to video another washing cycle. This image is different to portraiture. Therefore, I was relatively hesitant to include this image. However, on reflection, it summarises my overall responses to my research findings in a time of lockdown and social isolation. We are all subjected to mortality, vulnerable and fragile. The end of our journey is the only certainty in our lives. Death is the culmination of our waiting, while being suspended in the vacuum of hypnotic repetition.

The side walls of the gallery will be dedicated to the display of the actual paintings. I should be able to exhibit between 8 and 10 canvasses.

It is all very exciting!

Dubai Ideathon- Day 2

Inspirational experience in a difficult time!

Day 2 was also extended to most of day 3. My team – 11B got very passionate about crating a holistic and xcohesive platform. Our concept was to bring people together in a time of crisis, social distancing and isolation.

We produced a very comprehernsive proposal for a range of ideas and supporting online platforms. I was selected by the team to present our proposal to the forum of 174 observes via Zoom videoconference. Our proposal was very well received and the team and I are awaiting further news on a range of possible developments.

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 – Video Progress

As a part of the process of development of my painting, I have decided to sidetrack it and experiment with digital possibilities and ideas. Yesterday, I devoted my time to drawing crows from observation using a pencil and paper. Subsequently, I moved on and transferred my source sketches onto the canvas using rough black marker pens. The next step was to consider a balanced and rhythmic composition. My creative intention was to achieve a sense of being overwhelmed and taken over by a herd of terrifying black birds. I started to increase the density of drawings, initially with small repetitive silhouettes and gradually increasing their sizes and numbers. My animation begins with a scan of a photograph of me. I have chosen this image carefully. It represents a personally significant moment of my life. In steps, it is replaced by some of my sketches, and than, moderately transforms itself into a black screen. This has some resemblance to the current crisis. It all started with just one mutation, which in turn has expanded enormously to create a global pandemic.

Crows and the use of black are of a metaphorical importance here. They symbolise emptiness, vacuum and nothing, but destruction and death.

I purposefully repeated this sequence and reversed its speed and direction. It grows and withers, reducing itself to a dead screen. This process is looped in order to create a feeling of entrapment and bizarre predictability. We all know, what is going to happen . The cycle has now been thoroughly researched and explored. The meaning of the world is created by a clash of the opposites and juxtaposition of contradictions. Life cannot be just one-sided. Life and death, growth and decline, light and darkness.

At this stage, the overall tonation of my painting is kept in ochre and dirty yellowish greens. In consequence to my digital experimentation, I plan to increase the amount of bright yellowish stains and bleeding patches, in order to over-glaze the entire surface with a deep wash of Alizarin and Prussian Blue. The aim is to enrich the depth of colour to enhance its impact on a viewer. Perhaps, removing parts of the over-layer will allow me to reveal some key elements of the space underneath.

Feedback from Leo and Fleur

I have asked two of my Foundation students to provide me with further feedback. Their key comments are summarised below.

  • There is an interesting dynamic of placing myself as a lens of a camera inside of a machine, which represents cycle
  • Focus on a relationship between ‘me’ and the nature of my work – interaction with references to monotony
  • It is very relevant to the key events of the Corona virus crisis – combination and juxtaposition of chaos and moments of stillness
  • It is necessary to keep the entire cycle in the video to express my creative intention of waiting
  • Consider using a real washing machine as a working object and experimenting with different cycles and programmes.
  • There is a good level of demanding the patience and feeling of entrapment.
  • Leo really enjoyed watching the entire experience, from start to finish, despite understanding how a washing machine works.
  • It is not just about painting – the focus is on the whole experience.
  • Watching the machine work from the inside has shifted the perspective totally and created the division between the inside and the outside.
  • There is a great relevance on the context of the pandemic through the purpose on the metaphorical meaning of cleaning.
  • It is about putting your own meaningful artwork through this process and getting it transformed into something new without having any control over how it will develop.
  • Both, the video and the audio provide appropriate contextualisation.

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!