Robert Motelski / Space and Time / CAT
Space and Time
22.10.2020 – 10.01.2021
The Centre for Creative Activities / Zaruskiego 1a / Ustka
Robert Motelski creates extraordinary paintings which combine abstraction and landscape art. The works combine observation of nature with an artistic quest to become liberated from the literal. Despite the titles, such as “Mountains”, “Island”, “Clouds” or “Trees”, his paintings are not limited to what appears in the landscape in the field of view. Nor are they limited to catching fleeting moments and passing impressions, even if the artist dates his works with accuracy to the minute. The viewer has no sense of continuum, or even the infinity of time and open space. Their minimalist form eliminates unnecessary details and makes us focus and discover hidden laws of nature and the order of the universe. The artist does not stop at ordinary outings to the open air; each new series being a great journey, which proves inspiring for both the painter and the viewer, as it frees us from the chaos that is omnipresent today and restores our lost sense of harmony. Robert Motelski’s third album begins with the latest paitings. Their theme is light.“Light and shadow draw me in the most right now,” he explains. “I still have plenty of ideas for this series. At first, I was inspired by the light that I once observed in nature, but with time I changed it, and finally started to design my own light which is more expressive and better composed. Composition is extremely important for me, I see it as the backbone of each work. Sometimes I create it intuitively, and sometimes even mathematically, in order to make the proportions perfect. Composition is the skeleton of a painting that you can build on; only then is there room for expressive brushstrokes.
These dark pictures with flashes of light are actually fully abstract, but they also echo nature – reflections of moonlight on the surface of a body of water, or a starry sky. They also evoke painting reminiscences with the romantic aura of landscapes that are characteristic for Caspar David Friedrich. The two painters may be more than 200 years apart, but Robert Motelski, out of his sympathy for the German romanticist, recently even visited Dresden and the surrounding area, and followed a forest trail to reach several places in Saxon Switzerland where Friedrich painted. Mountains also constitute a frequent theme in Robert Motelski’s paintings with a much more dynamic approach than “Light”. Mountain ridges are outlined with a zigzag line running endlessly. We have no doubt that these are mountain ranges, although on the canvas they emerge from a completely conventional space. The line of snow-capped peaks sometimes resembles white textured clouds, cut off from the dark background, at other times its expression is enhanced by a fluorescent glow which resembles lightning, and at sunset it takes on an intense orange which brings to mind a burning horizon. It is at its most mysterious in the winter daylight, when it transforms into a delicate strip of blue merging with the bright background – white sky and snow, sometimes slightly muted with a hazy shade of gray.
Mountains as a painting theme began to fascinate him when he travelled to Salzburg in 2018 to hold an exhibition at Galerie Sandhofer. As he arrived in Salzburg early in the morning, he decided to walk to the gallery and admire the alpine landscape on the way. “In the distance I saw snow-capped mountains, merging with the sky. This inspired me to create the first painting of the mountains, with some obvious references to abstract art, such as divisions into vertical and horizontal sections – a bit Malewicz’s style,” he explains. His nearly monochromatic “Clouds” also show to the phenomenon of the merging of the colour of the sky and the earth depending on the light and the season. The backgrounds of these acrylic paintings are therefore uniform and flat, while the lines tracing the shapes of the clouds are much more expressive. These compositions are guided by the opposition between statics and dynamics. The artist wants his paintings to work visually, so he pays a lot of attention to the colour. In his earlier oil paintings, he did not avoid strong contrasting colours, but with time he opted for dark or light monochromatic paintings, diversified by a change of tones in horizontal surfaces of colour, as in “snowy” landscapes and in “Clouds”. The same is true for his other works, including the nocturnal series “Shadow”, in which the dark layers of shadow are intertwined with blue stripes at the edges, as if they were the afterglow of the sky reflected in a body of water. To some extent, we can observe the artist’s inspiration with the American abstract minimalist Barnett Newman and Mark Rothka, who used large surfaces of colour. The maximum pursuit of synthesis, combined with spiritual contemplation, gives Robert Motelski’s paintings brevity and depth of meditative haiku that is rid of any unnecessary words. Speaking of contemporary Japanese references, Motelski reveals that he was greatly impressed by On Kawara, an artist who worked in New York. Especially his series “Today” – black paintings where only the dates were updated in white.
Painting and nature constitute a very broad subject. For over a dozen years, Robert Motelski has been going on a boat trip down the River Brda in the Pomeranian forests of Bory Tucholskie. He perceives this trip as a “mental plein-air experience”, during which he refrains from painting or making any sketches, sometimes he only takes some photos, but in fact, he never copies them faithfully on canvas. However, these are very important trips for him, as they always provide him with new ideas. Although sometimes the same effect may be achieved by the all-too-familiar view of the forest the artist can see from his bedroom window in Mazovia – the area once described by the writer Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, who gave him the idea for a series and rhythm of his own abstract trees. The artist’s painting ideas are therefore related to nature, although completely transformed into his own vision and abstract code. (Monika Kuc)
Robert Motelski was born in 1977 in Warsaw. In 1997, he graduated from the Secondary School of Fine Arts in Warsaw. In 2002, he obtained an honours’ degree in painting at the European Academy of Arts in Warsaw, under the supervision of professor Barbara Szubińska. Before that, he studied in the studios of professors Antoni Fałat, Andrzej Sadowski and Ewa Pełka. He has participated in over a hundred solo and group exhibitions. In 2004, he received a scholarship from the Creative Promotion Fund from the Ministry of Culture and Art. In 2008, he received the “Young Poland” Scholarship from the National Cultural Centre. His works can be found in many institutional and private collections in Poland and abroad, and his artistic interests focus on studying landscape and an innovative ways of presentation.
Selected solo exhibitions
2019 – Galeria BWA, Sanok, Poland
2018 – Galeria Sandhofer, Salzburg, Austria 2016 – Galeria Sztuki BWA, Legnica, Poland 2015 – Galeria -1 Centrum Olimpijskie, Warsaw 2014 – Galeria Olympia, Kraków, Poland 2014 – Galeria Milano, Warsaw, Poland 2012 – Galeria Opus, Łódź, Poland 2012 – Galeria Wegert and Sadocco, Winkel, The Netherlands 2010 – Galeria Sandhofer, Innsbruck, Austria 2010 – Galeria Sandhofer, Centrum Kongresowe, Alpbach, Austria 2010 – Galeria Ślad, Ełk, Poland 2010 – Galeria TEST, Warsaw, Poland 2004 – Galeria ZPAP, Gdańsk, Poland