Nothing is Wasted, Only Reproduced
Nothing is wasted, only reproduced.
A year ago my therapist told me, that if I want to survive as an artist I need to take care of myself first. Sleep enough, eat well exercise and take care of my spirituality and social life.
I am a workaholic, at least when it comes to making art. Since I was a teenager, I thought that focusing on different areas of life which aren’t creative was a waste of time.
Going from art school student who worked creatively almost seven days a week to a graduate who is working a full-time job to pay the bills with only two days a week off, I could not imagine how I would find time for anything that would not be related to pushing forward my practice.
At that time I did not take the advice given to me and I would obsessively think about getting successful as an artist fast.
This is how my day would look: waking up at 5 am and painting for 2 hours before work, then I would research while commuting to work by the bus and then again doing research for most of my shift while working in a weird boutique where no one would ever come. Then after going back home and being exhausted, I was forcing myself to paint before going to bed. For months of that hard work, I was getting very little response as a result.
Then one night when I was preparing artwork, my sister called me and asked to fly back home asap as my dad who had cancer might die anytime as doctors have said. Ironically, I was preparing artwork for screen - printing, that was my dad's portrait; the first portrait I ever made; and the one who inspired me to focus on portraiture in my artistic practice.
My dad died that same night. I didn't even have a chance to say goodbye, as I found out at the airport.
During the flight, strangers were hugging me and letting me cry on their shoulders like they were my mothers.
After going back to London, I still didn't do much to let myself relax, and process the pain of losing my father. I thought that if I can only manage to create work, everything will fall into right place.
At that time I was working at a tiny weird boutique in an expensive part of London. Sometimes only two customers would come through the whole day and I was nearly alone for eight hours. I lived with 6 random people in a house where real mushrooms grew from the ceilings, and we had a waterfall in the kitchen every time someone would take a shower in the bathroom upstairs. I felt like I was trapped in a strange psychedelic box.
I was overeating and putting on weight, and working even more—I thought that success would stop my problems.
I stayed in that depressed mode for the next few months until I decided that if my greater focus on work was only making me more depressed, then I must be doing something wrong. I thought, I might take a break and go back to doing everything that I love, not necessary art related.
First, I moved to Kraków – the city where I was happiest in my life. In the first week after arriving, I went to my local library and got myself all the available Dostoyevsky books. A week after I decided to go back to screen printing (my focus at Central Saint Martins) and signed into a local artist workshop. I renewed relationships with people I had genuine connections with.
But most importantly, I allowed myself the space to not be creative. And then a weird thing happened.
Let me explain further; there is a very significant building in Kraków publicly called: the 'Szkieletor', which means Skeletor (real name: Unity Tower).
At 102.5 meters high, it is the second tallest building in Kraków. The construction of the building started in 1975 and stopped in 1981 due the imposition of martial law in Poland in that year.
Skeletor was intended to be tallest at the time and most significant building in Cracow but for years investors have been discouraged by the high cost of demolition and adaptation as well as the complicated legal status of the land.
That unfinished skyscraper changed the panorama of the city known for medieval architecture, giving it an absurd, abstract twist for more than forty years.
Because of its height, I saw it all the time; at lunch at work, while shopping, while on the tram; I somehow felt observed by it and had a very uncanny feeling while seeing it.
Then one time during a four-hour work-related presentation, I saw it from a window and it hit me: the reason I feel so emotionally connected with that building is that its story resonated with my life.
The story of something that was supposed to be big and significant but became 'its own shadow' due to uncontrolled life events.
Image of the Skeleton building
That feeling wasn't forced, it was spontaneous and strong.
The story of that building became my inspiration, something that I now see as an acceptance and rebuilding phase in my life, both artistically and personally. I did not find it in library or museum. I did not pressure myself to get a great idea and work on it obsessively. I just gave up the pressure and a fear of losing creativity disappeared.
I do not need to be making art 24 hours a day and get an exhibition in Tate one year after graduating for my creativity to flow.
I see creativity as a gift that I have used to build myself since I was a child: I used art to overcome my shyness and express and develop my personality. It will never disappear as it's part of me, the way I see the world. It's more than passion or profession; it's an unstoppable strength, power and life goal.
And that is the reason I keep on going.
I recently started to work on new material. Nothing forced, nothing planned. I am focusing on everything that energizes me and makes me feel more connected to myself like Russian literature; 80's music, Polish folk art, old-school bars and pubs in Cracow, the great contrast of a massive flock of birds flying over the 'skeleton' building.
It might sound clichè, but as an emerging artist, it is essential to take care of yourself and let inspiration come to you naturally as you grow as a person and surround yourself with things and people you love.
Don't get into the rat race, at least as an artist; it doesn't work anyways.
By the way; there is a new chapter in Szkieletor's history.
Metal 'skeleton' will be used as a construction base for a new significant building with a budget of 100 million euros. It will stop 'haunting' and open for public use in 2017.
What will I think looking at it in the future?