Alexander McQueen once said, “There’s blood beneath every layer of skin.” The corporal imagery of the human body is morbid, yet the body’s biological processes mirror our mental state. In the artwork of Jarek Kubicki, the human body is surgically disfigured and marred through digital manipulations, but not to showcase the flesh in a macabre exhibition, but rather to blend the ethereal psychological self with the physical form.
Another quote comes to mind as I look at Kubicki’s work. The painter Michelangelo once said, “I saw an angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” In many of his works Kubicki seems to approach the human body as if it were a block of marble to which he proceeds to dismember its parts, distort its form, and leave only the spirit in a frozen state of transmutation. In works such as his painting 60566, Kubicki does not “chisel” away the forms but melts their figures as if they were wax. His work however is not purely deconstructive for the sake of destruction. He paints flushes of colors like ecstatic auras, or liberates the would-be monster by highlighting the distraught form with beams of light that illuminate the imprisoning negative space. Kubicki also incorporates the use of veils over many of the female subjects as if to emphasize the idea of mystery beyond the physical realm. We are given the silhouette of the figure, but we are not given definitions. Kubicki veers from absolutions both in concept and in expression. He is clearly a fine artist but his work is intentionally masked by dripping paint, hysterical brush strokes, and most strikingly, it’s not always what he adds to his realist depictions, but what he leaves out.
Jarek Kubicki is an award winning multimedia artist, painter, website designer, photographer, and art director, having been published in numerous magazines and having installed several gallery exhibitions. He was born in Gdańsk, Poland and now currently lives in Warsaw as a creative director for an advertising agency. He’s worked on numerous corporate ad campaigns, created over a dozen CD covers and book covers, runs his own design studio, Insania Evidens, and is currently running an Indiegogo campaign for the release of his upcoming book, Kubicki: The Art of Numbers, which is a hardbound compilation of photographs, drawings, collages, and paintings. The 120 pages and 180+ illustrations include works from the series, Numbers, Speedpainting, Textile, Rumours About Angels, and Ghost. Though I’m sure Kubicki didn’t imagine publishing a book when he first graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk in 2001, this book celebrates 10 years of prolific work. It is noteworthy to mention that one of the potential perks to contributing to this campaign is a copy of the Rumours About Angels music album, which includes a 16 page booklet.
The Rumours About Angels project was a collaboration between Jarek Kubicki and musician Bartosz Hervy. The multimedia project employs sound vibration and visual stimuli. Kubicki of course covers the visualization and Hervy produces the music. This experimental art project depicts the birth of an angel. Birth is a simultaneously painful and beautiful occasion. When objectively viewed it is quite grotesque and involves blood and suffering. Yet it is the culmination of a process of creation. Pregnancy is nine months of discomfort that reaches its peak of physical pain to give birth to a moment of emotional ecstasy. This “divine” experience is reflected in RAA’s depiction of the birth of an angel. Divinity is both heaven and hell. Pleasure and pain, light and dark—it is this theme of contrast that is explored in the imagery and sounds of the project, which was performed at St. John’s Church Gdańsk in 2005. For those of us less fortunate for having missed this performance, not only can we purchase the 2 disc album, but we can also visit the RAA website.
The Numbers series is one of Kubicki’s more extensive collections of work, in which all of the paintings are titled by a number. This goes back to the earlier point about Kubicki not dealing in absolution. He does not title the paintings with words that can define or influence your interpretation. The Numbers is a mix of photography, photo manipulation, digital drawing, acrylic painting, and pencil drawing. In this series there seems to be an influence from Polish painter Zdzisław Beksiński—the way shadows hide in light and the way a monstrous figure can be the subject of vulnerability. And no matter how tight the frame is there seems to be an endless atmosphere that reaches beyond one’s imagination. The paintings are cold, in the sense that they cause contraction of energy rather than expansion.
In Speedpainting the images are often blurred, like seeing someone through rain coursing over a glass window. The figures, mainly just their heads, are close to us in the painting yet the hazy discoloration is like a cataract in our vision that puts distance between us and the figure. Kubicki also applies subtle horizontal line work blended into many of the paintings that direct the eye downward when viewing the work. And as the cold texture and colors of The Numbers series causes one’s energy to contract, the line work in Speedpainting brings the energy down. It is invocation, in that it calls down that which is above, creating a deep sense of melancholy. Energy is either directed outward or directed inward. Invocation is a ritual of absorbing energy inwardly from the outside. Interestingly, there are a few paintings in this series that deal with the sky—angelic beings, ghostly creatures, and objects coming down from above, such as an airplane or what appears to be an airborne machine finding a place in the ground below like a Tetris block.
Jarek Kubicki’s paintings are dark, beautiful, soft, hard, cold, colorful, melancholic, and abstract. They demand focus but do not force interpretation. Considering the greater picture, this is just the beginning of Kubicki’s career. And since he’s technologically progressive, his art will continue adapting through the evolution of technology. We have much to look forward to.