200%: ‘Overwhelmed by the great tradition of the city, 2012’, [above] is a painting that features four people at a home party. Although you don’t see their faces it is still an intriguing realistic painting to view, such as the low angle – which makes you able to see the chewing gum stuck underneath the table, the simplification of the scene, the flashlight of camera and the desaturated colours.MM: The things you mention about the painting is exactly the reason as to why I painted it. It is based on a photo that a friend of mine took of a home party. When I saw the picture, I noticed that everything is hidden, but the composition is still interesting enough to paint and think about it.
200%: Is ‘Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear’ your homage to Van Gogh?MM: Kind of. It’s an association with holy paintings as it has a similar composition of the ‘Maria’ paintings with a woman putting her hands to her heart. This image is based on an old photo that I took when I was at the Academy. During his life, Van Gogh wasn’t regarded as a good painter, and his life was quite sad. In my picture, the girl carries his picture like a treasure, thereby giving him respect. My intention, with this painting, just like Renoir, was to make a painting about the girl’s beauty, with her hands tenderly holding a little catalogue of Van Gogh. When I look at it, though, other associations do arise. 200%: Such as? A woman holding the portrait of her missing child, or relatives glasping to their chest pictures of those whom have been killed. There always seems to be a deeper hidden meaning in my work – I can’t make a painting that is just about beauty in itself. [laughs] 200%: When we interviewed you a few years ago I recall you said, “You don’t need to paint well to be an artist”. Do you still believe that technical skills are no longer required? MM: Yes, I still believe that what an artist has to say is more important than his technical skills. It is, however, a relevant question in relation to this show, as this show asks the same question you ask: is it enough to just paint beauty in itself? Is it enough to be a technically great artist? Last month, I found four paintings that I made in 2000 – I regret I can’t paint like that anymore as I have developed myself as a painter and my technical skills have improved. My assistant said to me when I expressed this regret: ‘But you can always paint as you painted ten years ago’. Yes, I can, but when I paint like I painted then years ago, it would feel that I have to pretend. 200%: As those paintings have some spontaneity, perhaps rawness, and lack of inhibition to them? MM: Yes, I developed my skills and I lost that austerity and roughness. In my earlier paintings there is a wilder energy when you compare them with my paintings nowadays. The energy of my newer paintings is different. I like my old work very much and I think it’s really good. For example, one of the paintings I recently found was of a football match between Poland and England at Wembley. It’s a painting of a radio on a white background, with a text balloon containing football commentary.The comment in the text balloon referred in some way to the painting as it described all the colours: “… flashed in the rays of this wonderful sunshine here at Wembley and white T-shirts of Polish footballers were reflected from bright green grass.”
200%: Could you indicate a painting in this show in which you believe you have succeeded in capturing beauty?MM: I don’t think in terms of, here’s is an example where I managed to capture beauty. This show is meant to be seen as a dialogue with Renoir’s ideas about painting and traditional painting. There is, however, a lot of classical beauty in this show, for instance, the pose of this girl reading [points at ‘Girl Reading’ first picture of this post] The girl in this painting with the quotation, ‘She did whatever she wanted’, is, in a metaphorical sense, a representation of art. It’s not the artist who orders what he wants to paint; it is art who imposes that on him. Interview written and conducted by Thierry Somers. Paintings (From top to bottom): Marcin Maciejowski, Girl Reading (Alone in her march towards intellectual challenges and new points of view), 2012, Oil on canvas, 200 x 150 cm, WG/MMAC00149; Marcin Maciejowski, Overwhelmed by the great tradition of the city, 2012, Oil on canvas, 170 x 130 cm, WG/MMAC00147; Marcin Maciejowski, Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear, 2011, Oil on canvas, 60 x 40 cm, WG/MMAC00158; Mecz, Polska Anglia 2_4 110 x 126cm, 1999; Marcin Maciejowski, She did whatever she wanted, 2011, Oil on canvas, 110 x 80 cm, WG/MMAC00152. Copyright the artist, courtesy Wilkinson Gallery, London. Until 17 June at Wilkinson Gallery, London.