Piotr Klemensiewicz: an autobiographical and intimate work

Piotr Klemensiewicz

Born in 1956 in Marseille, Piotr Klemensiewicz studied at the School of Fine Art (ESBAM) and today teaches in the same school (ESADMM). After obtaining the DNSEP in 1979, he founded the Lorette workshop with other artists (G.Autard, G. Fabre, F. Mezzapelle, ....).
In 1986, he left the workshop at the moment the city of Marseille repurchased it and when he took up a position at the Marseille School of Fine Art as a teacher. He says that teaching has certainly influenced his work, without thwarting it. Today, he views his work as a teacher as a commitment, not unlike the teachers he met as a student. On the occasion of two exhibitions in Montreal (1999 and 2000) he stayed there a long period of time and taught at UQAM.
A school remains a privileged place for debates and meetings however the necessity to travel remains essential.
He is represented by the Baudoin Lebon Gallery (Paris) where this new exhibition is being presented.

Your new exhibition is being presented in Paris, at the Baudoin Lebon Gallery. What are your new works?

Piotr Klemensiewicz

Piotr Klemensiewicz: There are, at once, very large sized paintings that cover most of the walls of the gallery and a large series of landscapes that I photographed and of which I later covered the greater part of. This series named "never been there" was created in another workshop I have in Berlin where the work has become more intimate, more autobiographical. The large paintings continue the polychrome work of the stripes and the covering of the previously painted backgrounds as though they could remain monochromes.

You are an artist living in Marseille but you also have a residence in Berlin, why that city? 

It is by an accident of history, related to the Second World War, that my parents, who were born in Poland and both part of the resistance, arrived in Marseille. My father immediately adopted this city. My mother waited in vain for an impossible return to her homeland. A few years ago, and after numerous travels, I had the desire to live elsewhere. The idea of having an additional workshop opened the opportunity for new projects. I will not go back to Poland to rewind the thread the family saga and Northern Europe attracted me. Of Berlin, I was hearing only positive things and after a first visit I was under its charm. The artistic community there is dense and international. Painting is in full activity and has a current history.

Your works were also shown in Asia, China, Korea ... Can you tell us where you get your inspiration? How do you prepare your exhibitions in Asia?

Piotr Klemensiewicz: It is South Korea and the painters I met there that allowed me to rethink my work. There, painting breaks away more easily from questions on its legitimacy, its past or future. It is very independent and interactive from a physical and spiritual point of view. Few speculations on its upcoming death or eternal return… In China, the relation to reality and to contemporary images is quite present, almost brutal. But the virtuosity of certain artists is troubling. I do not make particular choices when an exhibition project comes up. I only notice that certain series of my work are often preferred. The «inkwells» and «heaps» in particular.  

In your paintings there is always the idea of mystery. Can you tell us more?

Piotr Klemensiewicz

Piotr Klemensiewicz: It is the autobiographical aspect of which I was speaking of earlier. Autobiographical does not necessarily imply narration. I have little by little moved many true stories through a pictorial spectre. Some are related to politics, philosophy, others to decorative aspects. There is the idea within this that painting exceeds psychological motivations. Painting the smallest shift with reality is always a challenge. It can end up being loud and demonstrative or on the contrary, become the guideline of the artistic project. 


The superposition of layers and congestion are very present in your works. Why?

Piotr Klemensiewicz

Some Indian tribes tied branches to the tail of their horses to remove all traces of their passage. Of their passage, all that was left were long tapered traces. I often consider the painting gestures in this space between apparition and disappearance. Something represented, or an abstract surface, always covers its equivalent surface that existed before the final result. There is no house, no stripe, no ladder. The «encombrements» (congestion) series was as figurative as possible but refuted the idea of a subject. I was painting off centre fragments of objects. In the centre, nothing was represented. Making room for the paint itself was my wish. 

Technically, how do you approach the creation of your work?

Piotr Klemensiewicz: With these elements that I have described and that sometimes articulate, in disorder, the painting process. The gap between intention and action is great. I am not looking for rules that would make my approach mechanical and programmable. Practically, acrylic, throughout all seasons, allows a variation of textures that use the properties of the medium rich in possibilities and that sometimes dictate the choice to make.

Do you have painters to which you refer?

Piotr Klemensiewicz: Too many or none depending on the day. In recent years, I have often been in communication with a South Korean artist, Lee Kang So. His path has gone through performance, in video. But today, it is with photography and painting that he is working. When I say communicate, we in fact exchange views on our paintings or our photography. I love painting in its widest range and I can feel it all around me, with or without brushes in hand. It is an artistic practice that develops perception before anything. Many artists participate in this construction.

The first time I saw your work, you were painting clouds and you named this painting "mensonge" (lie). What is the significance?

Piotr Klemensiewicz

Piotr Klemensiewicz: Lying interested me as something mental, a painting concept. It then had to be expressed through a drawing, a shape, a sign. I thought of a closed shape. The cloud is an intensely pictorial object and lying is a constituent part of the idea of ​​representation in painting. At the same time, I was asking friends to draw this word as an allegory. All of them proposed different shapes but they were all closed. Because the image of the cloud persisted, I painted a series of (paint) "heaps" over which this lie seems to float.

Your work involves extensive use of colour. What would you like to do that you have not already created?

Piotr Klemensiewicz: I believe that colours have a clean visual language that quiets words. Depending on the parts of the world and cultures, colour arises, more or less, as the main vector of pictorial language. This is not the case in the West, unless it is assimilated to categories that, over time, wear themselves out: fauvism, expressionism ... Using too many colours appears to represent a danger for some. Two or three colours appear more imperious and stronger. I realized this very early on and I wanted to take the risk of a certain excess. It is an aesthetic and political choice, not a question of temperament ... I travel a lot better with my work having made this choice. In recent years, thanks to the Pébéo Company, I have the possibility to explore the pictorial issue with substantial resources. The development of new components also allows me to create new textures from which emerge other colours, other projects.

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