The Artist as an Instrument of Grace: ART TALK with Krzysztof Klimek, Polish Painter & Photographer
Krzysztof Klimek or simply Kristof, which is less scary to read and pronounce by non-Polish speakers, is a genuinely kind and profoundly spiritual person. He is the sort of artist described by Henri Matisse in his art book Jazz as full of creative energy, truthful, and utterly modest.
A graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, Kristof displayed a stunning retrospective of his body of work in 2022 at the International Cultural Centre in Krakow - a cross-section of plein air and abstract paintings as well as photographs.
Kristof has acquired the gift of seeing beyond appearances and listening deeply via many years of art and spiritual practice. In addition to being a loving husband and a devoted dad to his two kids, Kristof paints. He paints pretty much everywhere, but mainly en plein air, like the masters of Barbizon did, and in his studio, as any serious artist does.
He is not a figurative or an abstract painter. He is, actually, both or in-between, like an antevasin (Sanskrit), "someone who exists between two realms".
As Kristof explained to me, he has been practicing abstraction to this day because abstraction is absolutely necessary for him to mute the “talkative" part of his mind and focus on signals from other "broadcast channels". As a means to recognise and contemplate a reality greater than himself that extends beyond his senses.
Forms are pared down in his abstract paintings to their essence, quietly witnessing the incomprehensible and undefinable ...
On the other hand, the plein air painting exposes Kristof to a wide range of unexpected, unusual, and sometimes startling situations, making the experience of painting from nature addictive. Plein air painting, he believes, “gives the painter a natural skeleton of forms and tensions that can easily and quickly be used to create a picture.”
Kristof’s plein air paintings, however, aren’t hyperrealistic. He observes and distils reality through the lenses of his artistic sensibility, the emotions he feels when out in nature, and the extensive knowledge of composition and colour.
Until 2007, Kristof worked on a series of “Views Through the Window” (“Widoki przez okno”), unique paintings that connected abstraction and the phenomenon of observing nature with the studio window as the focus. A careful viewer will notice that there’s also an aspect of time passing in these paintings.
Finally, there are his photographs, mostly from the 1980s, which were taken with a Soviet 6x6 camera called Kiev, which was a copy of the Swedish Hasselblad. He was interested at the time in chronicling life in a communist country with its poverty and oddities but also with some joy and mystery that has since vanished.
Kristof paints honestly, with his soul and sharp intution rather than his logic and rationality. There are no tricks or stratagems in his work, just a valuable understanding and mastery of composition and the traditional oil painting technique.
Abstract and plein air painting, photographs, oil on canvas, depth of knowledge and understanding of the art phenomenon, contemplation and creative energy, Kristof has it all, but, first and foremost, he has the humility of an ascetic when it comes to the wonder and mystery of making and exhibiting art. Kristof is a true and humble instrument of grace flowing down and pouring into this paintings from upabove. As a result, he is free because he is not a prisoner of his reputation or success.
In this era of ego and vanity, Kristof reminds us of Henri Matisse’s wise words from his art book Jazz:
"Si je crois en Dieu ? Oui, quand je travaille. Quand je suis soumis & modeste, je me sens tellement aide par quelqu’un qui me fait faire des choses qui me surpassent." (If I believe in God? Yes, when I work. When I am submissive & modest, I feel so helped by someone who makes me do things that are beyond me.)
"Les Goncourt n’ont-ils pas écrit que les artistes japonais de la grande époque changeaient de nom plusieurs fois dans leur vie. J’aime ça : ils voulaient sauvegarder leurs libertés." (Didn’t the Goncourt [brothers] write that those Japanese artists of the great era changed their names several times in their lives. I like that: they wanted to preserve their freedom.)
My ART TALK with Kristof in a nutshell
In this podcast episode, Kristof tells us his fascinating story from when he first fell under the spell of art until now, when he is not only a passionate painter but also a committed husband and father of two.
He talks extensively about the unique experience of painting in nature, primarily in the countryside, among regular people going about their daily lives and carrying out regular jobs, and the challenges of being a plein air painter.
He addresses topics like artistic creativity, inspiration, finding versus seeking, and the question of perception and reality in visual arts, and reveals the secret behind artist block. He also discusses the link between passion and discipline, as well as the wisdom of living in hic et nunc and of practising art in a less rational and more intuitive way.
Kristof touches upon the incomprehensible and undefinable in art, that something else that transcends logic and language, as British-born Mexican artist Leonora Carrington would put it. He reveals himself as an artist who understands what it means to be an instrument of grace, a channel of creativity, as Henri Matisse wrote in one of his art books.
Not least, Kristof tackles the topic of humility as an artist and the significance of being humble when making art. He sends out a subtle and profound message of modesty with this art talk in a culture dominated by ego, vanity, and the obsession with mundane aspects, such as number of followers on social media, image, and profit.
Painting is the experience of the intuitive in hic et nunc, in this exact moment, which is unique – the only moment that we have. The ability to recognise that we can never control a moment except to flow with it and be a channel of creative energy is, in fact, the true essence of life itself.
I wholeheartedly invite you to listen to my art talk with Kristof on The Pointless Artist Blog > ART TALK with Krzysztof Klimek, or on THE POINTLESS ARTIST PODCAST on Anchor.fm, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.
Via The Pointless Artist Blog and Podcast, I support the creative energy of life and the artists who contribute to transforming this world into a freer, kinder, more inclusive, caring, transparent, and compassionate place to live. I firmly believe in the passion for art, the importance of sharing knowledge and experiences, and the power of personal stories to bring us together.
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Recognise your pointlessness and keep creating!
From Germany with love,