Slide 1: “Overdrive” (2018) Found objects construction, ergonomic keyboard. headphones, handles, inkjet printer parts, beads. aircraft parts, acrylic staining, airbrush and enamel. Slide 2: “The Dream Eater” / Slide 3: “Inshaa, the Reclaimer” / Slide 4: Krzysztof in the studio, Warwick, Rhode Island. Slide 5: “Harbinger” Images granted by permission of the artist.
The year took a favorable turn as this writer travelled to Rhode Island and caught up with longtime friend and confidant, the engaging and ever fascinating artist Krzysztof Mathews. An instructor at the University of Rhode Island, Krzysztof teaches Two Dimensional Design to undergraduates. In his spare time, he keeps his instincts sharp by practicing the discipline of archery. We listen in on a recent interview:
Q & A
Q: In addition to your role as instructor and archer, you define yourself as a sculptor. Please explain:
A: “I will always have the sculpture as my foundation…because everything for me, begins with the tactile…I think it’s crucial…it’s important to have a background in physical material. I don’t know that I’ve met anyone, who is purely a digital artist; everyone I have met, from my generation, who came up with traditional media – drawing, painting, sculpture…found technology as a way to expand their practice.
Q: You touch on the pull of technology versus the use of traditional materials. Can you expound on that?:
A: “From the very beginning, you’re dealing with very inherited limitations, in terms of material…of how the developers have made certain assumptions about what the person is going to want to do with these tools. For instance, you open a blank file in Photoshop – well that’s a white page – why is the page white? Why is it square? Why does it have no texture? Why is it a certain default size? Once you get experienced, you develop your practice to overcome a lot of those functions, you start to customize your tools, but it doesn’t change the fact, that from the beginning, there’s a particular way of working in every application that’s very specific to that. It [will] lead you to certain conclusions, unless you have enough self-knowledge to say “I want to look beyond the initial offerings that this [tool] has…If I’ll be working in this media, and say I don’t want to be working with default brushes, default colors, default surfaces…”
Q: What are some of the drawbacks of technology versus traditional materials?
A: “Technology doesn’t give you the true eccentricity of three-dimensional work that you get with the actual physical touch. I have seen very beautiful three-dimensional sculpts in the computer, but they are always…very polished. ..That’s fine – that’s not a criticism, but compared to a [sculpture] done by Ellen, my friend in Warren, who sculpts in clay – she will sculpt a rabbit – [you will find] a certain character that will come out in the building process. If she were to build three rabbits, each one would have a certain character, personality…”
Q: Your masks are fascinating. Where do you derive the names from? How do you see them?:
Q: I see you’ve been working on a new model. Tell me about this?
Q: How do your pins and magnets tie in with the greater body of work?
A: “The pins and magnets have something of the feeling of a more playful take on my large masks. I make them in groups of twelve or so, and unlike my figures or large sculptures, I place more of an emphasis on a dozen of them “graduating” to completion at a time, so this keeps me from becoming overly meticulous with any single one. Often, they provide a nice respite from a larger project where I am at a major decision point and need to get my bearings. In a way, one could say that they are more like small drawings than like a large painting.”
Assorted pins and magnets, found material construction, Providence, Rhode Island
Q: Your illustrations “Not Gonna Take It“ and “Finally Found It“ are quirky. Where do they come from?
A: “The Illustrations are based on my original figures. I model them in Rhino 3D, and then set them up and pose them as virtual “actors” to render and then re-draw as vector graphics in Adobe Illustrator. They are then re-printed commercially on a large format printer.”
Above left: “Finally Found It” and corresponding model / Below right: “Not Gonna Take It” and corresponding model / http://www.firstgearterritories.com/
Q: I see your pins and magnets sell for $25 apiece. And what about your prints?
A: “Because I am not printing them in house, but outsourcing and scaling to chosen proportions, they don’t have specific prices. As vector graphics, they can actually scale to any size! I can give prices for those two pieces that I have had printed and framed, though.”
Q: What advice would you give to a young sculptor or artist starting out?