Research Showcase at University Centre South Devon

I was invited, for the third time, to deliver a presentation about my research project. When designing a structure for my talk, I divided the supporting PowerPoint into two distinctive sections. The first part was devoted to my recent achievements, exhibitions and awards. The second, focused on my last pieces. I have decided to cover the most current period of the last 18 months only.

UCSD Research Showcase Pav Szymanski.pptx — Read on

A recording of my presentation is below:

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’!

Symposium – Final Version

Developmental Work

After much consideration, I have refined my 5-minute video. This final version was developed further in response to suggestions, which were discussed during today’s meeting. It covers a holistic appraisal of the meaning and messages, I have attempted to communicate during my research, experimentation and visualisation. The running commentary is purposefully interrupted by the sounds of the cutting of the canvas and the rumbling of the washing machine. My creative intentions are to manufacture a powerful impact on the viewers and make them struggle, while interpreting, understanding and digesting the voice of the automated narrator in the background. The Masquerade clown like character at the end of the video, reports on his observations of this world as an alien and an outsider would, detached and unemotional. Therefore, his commentary seems more poignant and unbiased, drawing attention to our own flaws and weaknesses, when confronted with the unfamiliar. The computer generated voice reinforces the authenticity of the dialogue by removing the human element and dimension.

The paranoia of life continues!

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!)

Symposium – Text Preparation.

As a part of my work on evaluation, I have prepared the following text for my Symposium video piece:

Since making a decision to immerse myself in the master’s degree course, I have found a real depth of interest, a hunger for research and my creative responses.  My whole life has now become engaged in this exciting endeavour and phenomenon.  Helping me view the world from different perspectives and understanding the human condition with a new depth.

I feel that it is essential that I continue to make progress on this journey, while developing responses to people suspended in the vacuum of hypnotic repetition.  Currently, I am just scratching the surface of my investigation and I am fully aware that there is so much more to learn and analyse about the world and its inhabitants.  My work is an authentic connection with real people and tells their own unique story and predicament.  I am going to persevere and continue to unveil stories yet to be told.

The course has given my travels a strong focus.  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 am going to continue to develop my professional career as an artist.  My current research expedition to Myanmar is on hold due to the pandemic.  However, it will be resumed as soon as conditions allow.  Additionally, I have already prepared a 7-week trip to Madagascar to interview and paint a range of local people in the most remote South West region of the island.  The success and progress of my project does not depend solely on my ability to travel.  I have established contact with those people already and gathered information and visual resources.  I am in the process of preparing for a larger gallery exposure to communicate some truths, which are often overlooked and unknown by people in the West.

Having reflected on a number of options, I decided to use a speech recognition software. I wanted for the presentation to be quite mechanical, perhaps robotic and selected a non-accented version of a narrator. My voice is quite deep and croaky. This could result in a less clear declamation.

I have also used my iPhone to recorded the recitation. The plan is to embed this file into my new video piece using Premier.

Online Seminar

In preparation for my presentation, I have created a separate category on my blog titled Seminar. The entry is split into four individual parts as follows:

1. Symposium Part 1 – Contextualisation of Progress.

2. Symposium Part 2 – Isolating the Key Elements of Life.

3. Symposium Part 3 – Repetition and Ritual.

4. Symposium Part 4 – HYPNOTIC REPETITION & My Observations.

The idea was to introduce all participants to a logical journey of though. I started with an outline of the theoretical concept of “anschaulich”. Than, I moved on to contextualising and extending a framework of references. Subsequently, the presentation concluded with a form of an appraisal of several visual pieces, which I have created in consequence to my research observations and findings.

I was under a general impression that my ideas were well received and complemented on. I paced the delivery in order to ensure that there was a suffict time available to discuss all parts of the prepared material with the group.

Rushing through the seminar or missing out on the final section were not an option. Therefore, timing was of primary importance as well as directing the way, in which the debate was progressing.

I found the session very beneficial to refining my thought processes and reflections on how to make meaningful progress. It also confirmed my previous feedback and reinforced the importance of a recording a running narrative explaining the meaning of my work and its context. I am convinced that the use of sound will have a substantial impact on the broader understanding of both my project and my creative intentions.

I have now embraced this advice and taken it fully on board.

Screenshots of key commentary are below:

Symposium Part 4 – HYPNOTIC REPETITION & My Observations.

1. 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.


2. 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.


3. 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.


4. 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.


Symposium Part 3 – Repetition and Ritual.


Life tends to deal with these problems naturally through repetition and obsessive engagement in distractions.

An excellent interpretation of this concept was developed by Zbigniew Rybczynski(1981) and his Oscar winning piece titled ‘Tango’.

and his subsequent 1987 animation called ‘Imagine’

Both are characterised by identical starting points and their destinations.
This would imply that there is no room for progress in hypnotic repetition?
Roman Opalka, seems to be a master of this phenomenon in his ‘Counted Paintings’ series, which consumed his life.

He began painting numbers from one to infinity in 1965, in his studio in Warsaw and continued until his death in 2011.


  • Daily rituals, work and religion.
  • Time, procedures and commuting.
  • Breathing, heartbeat, sustenance and sleep.
  • Everything is done to order.
  • Retirement, loss of purpose and death.

Entrapment in hypnotic repetition.
Suspension in the vacuum of life.
Charlie Chaplin questioning industrial repetition as a lifestyle:

We live in an industrialised society and are compelled to take part in this repetition.

Points for discussion:
• What is your entrapment?
• Do you find it comforting and reassuring that tomorrow is going to be there?

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.


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?

Symposium Part 1 – Contextualisation of Progress.

The Principle of Uncertainty by Heisenberg (1927)
Hilgewood (2016) proposes that Heisenberg devoted most of his professional life to the study of quantum mechanics, especially the Uncertainty Principle. He proved his theory through a long process of mathematical elaboration. When his famous article was first published (Heinsenberg, 1927 in, the title contained a German term: “anschaulich”. The meaning of this word contradicts preciseness and roughly translates as visualisable, intuitive and lucid. The defined and exact language of science has suddenly become very vague and ambiguous.

Points for discussion:
• Can science be imprecise?
• Does everything need to be measurable, therefore certain?