N.N. 70, 2018
Oil on canvas
160 x 150 cm
Paweł Książek’s main medium is painting, though he can be easily called an interdisciplinary artist. His interests lie in the roots of modernism. On the basis of archival photographs and film, Książek finds common motifs for seemingly disparate themes, which he in turn connects in a collage-like-way on canvas. Before Książek reaches for his brush, he seeks out iconographic sources on the Internet, in books, films (most often of the 1920s), and music. The research process is, for Książek, the main focus. He carefully excavates images to compile information that eventually converges on a core problem. His series of paintings and objects serve as an eloquent and powerfully executed formal record of this process. As such, his work is full of quotes and allusions: for example, the artist combines Black Metal music with modernism (the De Stijl vs. Black Metal series), German Expressionist cinema with modernist architecture of Central/Eastern Europe (Silent Utopia) or South America (Constructions), or the performances of Marina Abramović and Valie Export with the films of the Jackass series (N.N. vs. Artists). Książek effectively blends pop and high culture, and the past with visions of the future. This means that we might call him a conceptual painter. He treats painting as research into visual source materials, as the final stage of a long process of iconographic research.
Paweł Książek collected images of anonymous people on the Internet for the series N.N. vs. Artists, which comprises over 40 images and can be seen at the Salzburg Kunstverein. These unsettling images show young people in "consciousness expanding" activities, usually involving alcohol and sex. The subjects walk a fine line between pranks, sadism, or abuse. This impression is reinforced in these artistically transposed images through references to art history, such as Caravaggio or Vienna Actionism. The references to actionist and performative practices from the 1960s and 70s are shown in the exhibition as a picture dictionary.