Maurizio Cattelan interview with Aleksandra Waliszewska

MC: I see that apart from drawing inspiration from, say, the artists you mentioned in My Dance The Skull interview like Memling or Poussin, you also seem to be fond of painting skinheads. What is the problem here?



AW: I really like the sort of British skinhead attire from the 70s. When I'm painting a male figure that's not a skinhead, or a football supporter type, I obtain unsatisfactorily effeminate figure. Maybe I should try with the bodybuilders, but they are just a bit too comical. I remember scene from the park where Hare Krishna were handing out some food to the people who would gather there. Suddenly, there was a whole lot of panic, because a group of skinheads came running through the trees and bushes. They looked quite beautiful in the scenery of the park, in the sunlight that seeped through.



  MC: I guess "try" refers to bodybuilders posing for you. But, anyway, I don't see too much of a male figure popping up in your paintings. It's most often someone like teenage girl that's in the forefront, someone like Alice, but this Wonderland is truly dark and twisted.



AW:I feel a bit over the top with Alice at the moment. But I have to admit that such paintings are relatively easy and nice to do. It's a bit of cliche that I would be the "painter who does little girls'n'nightmarish stuff". Now when I paint a grown up woman with small breasts, some people would be willing to see Alice anyway.



  MC:Anything wrong with the cliches? Do you believe that what critics might be saying about your work, or how they would be describing it, could be harmful? That it could eventually convey totally wrong idea of what you're about, mess up with people's expectations?



AW: Oh, as an artist you surely know a thing or two about cliches. I get the impression that art critics are often afraid of art itself, because they're not able to understand, or to "feel it" through and through. Whole system of artifical values is created in order for them to feel better in this alien and hostile environment. There are artists who not only take this situation for granted, but they create according to demands made by "the scene". Disappearance of all critics from the face of this earth, and return to pre-Salon times, would be ideal to me.



  MC: That's a really tough solution. So, in this ideal situation, would anyone be interested in art besides artists themselves?



AW: This one seems easy to answer as this situation really existed before the model of 19th century Salon became prominent. Today, with internet and all methods of reproducing anything, access to art is so much easier. On the other hand, competition from television and other media definitely diminishes art's range of influence. Lack of critics' support would perhaps make artists retreat to the role of cratfsmen, which could theoretically turn out to be beneficial for art itself. Many people would probably give up on making art altogether.



  MC: So what would they start doing instead? Can you offer any piece of advice?



AW: If they pursued artistic careers for money, perhaps they could be successful in some business-related fields. It is sometimes said that one can obtain highest profit starting a bank.



MC: Let's leave "the end of Salon" thread. I've heard comments and rumours on your work. Some seem to imply that watching your paintings could be harmful for certain individuals. Do you have any type of addressee while working?



AW: First and foremost, I paint for myself. I would not like to shock anyone with my pieces. If anything, possibly to make them a bit depressed.



MC: Why would you like anyone to get depressed? Are you misanthropic?



AW: I like particular persons. I'm not that much into crowds.



  MC: Are there any artists, international and Polish, that you could collaborate with, have an exhibition together or some such?



AW: Generally, I do not find exhibiting works to be totally exciting. But I like publishing it, like in "Frederic" anthologies that my French friends put together. There are also some interesting names in the books that United Dead Artists, another publishing entity that I collaborate with, puts out. Anyway, there is no a single artist role-model that I relate to, or with whom I am in some sort of a dialogue. Perhaps there are some people whose exhibitions I could see, but not necessarily to share gallery space with. I like solo exhibitions and publications most, I think. Some time ago, I discovered engravings by Polish 17th century artist Jan Ziarnko who illustrated the Apocalypse, and it was absolutely mindblowing. I made a series of works inspired by his complex depictions. He is forgotten and virtually unknown so I thought it might do him some justice to organize an exhibition that would show originals and my interpretations of them.



MC: You are talking about Renaissance painters and being in love with apocalyptic-themed woodcuts. Are we led to believe that you are consciously and ultimately rejecting contemporaneity?



AW: I worship art of the Renaissance, but some elements of what is going on right now are also an important influence. For example, not long ago I've painted a series of pieces on the massacre on Norwegian island of Utoya. It's a bit of a romantic need to locate "grand subject" of the present time, I guess. All kinds of influences, both by Memling's doomsday painting and weird Japanese horror movies, are being mixed at this point.



MC: Why all the massacre and bloodshed? Don't you believe in the victory of reason and inherent good?



AW: Sure. Through my imagination, I see gazillions of happy human beings, people and lambs and tigers embracing in an endless dance of happiness. My art, forewarning of possible evils, will only make happiness come earlier.

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