View of Pyszczek’s studio in Berlin, 2014
Winnipeg is a creative hub and many of our aesthetically-driven residents have attended the University of Manitoba’s Environmental Design program focusing on Interior Environments, Architecture, or Landscapes. In fact, many of our Winnipeg-based employees have graduated from the program. This month, we reached out to fellow Environmental Design graduate, visual artist, and Berlin resident Przemek Pyszczek. Pyszczek went to school with EQ3’s Creative Director, Thom Fougere, and is good friends with EQ3’s Visual Coordinator, Clifford Goodwill.
This is our conversation:
Where did you grow up and where do you consider home?
I was born in Poland and moved to Winnipeg as a child. Presently I live in Berlin. In response to where I consider home, that’s complicated. My parents live in Winnipeg, however, they moved out of my childhood home during my time in Berlin, so coming back doesn’t have the same nostalgic feeling anymore. As such, I would consider Berlin home because even though I don’t have a nostalgic connection to the city at this point, it is the city that is most in tune with my personality and way of life.
How has your education background influenced your work?
The Environmental Design program reinforced my interest in architecture and urbanism, causing me to always observe my surroundings. As my work deals with the physical and social landscape of pre/post-communist era Poland, this has directly influenced my work.
When and why did you move to Berlin?
I moved to Berlin in the summer of 2010. I had visited a few times before and really liked the city as it is a large capital and there is always something going on, yet remains very relaxed with no sense of urban chaos. Additionally, I felt an urgency to engage as an artist on a broader international scale, and I knew Berlin was an important art capital that still felt accessible.
How has Berlin influenced your art practice?
Berlin is a very international city, with a number of galleries, museums, and other cultural institutions. It is important as an artist to not be stuck within your own head and your own practice, but to be cognizant of what has happened artistically in the past and what is currently happening. Berlin facilitates a constant education for both local and visiting artists.
The work I have been making over the last few years has directly resulted from my regular travels to Poland. As Berlin is only an hour from the Polish border, I have been going to Poland very regularly over the last four years. These visits have really made me notice all of the elements I have become obsessed with in my research. While my subject matter is based in Poland, I also appreciate the distance I have living in Berlin as each time I come back, it is like looking with new eyes. Living elsewhere would not allow me to be this engaged.
What is the conceptual basis for your current work?
My work is an analysis and deconstruction of memory and physical space. More specifically, I am looking at the contemporary Polish urban landscape, and my relation to it. After World War II, due to the resulting devastation, a rapid program of reconstruction was enacted. A large proportion of construction was realized using a number of prefabricated modular building systems. Concrete panels would be made in a factory, and then brought on site to be quickly assembled into a building. These buildings could be anywhere from three stories, to 20 stories tall, using the same panels.
Every sort of life function – housing, schools, offices, hospitals – could be built this way. My father worked as a construction worker on these types of buildings. A very small crew of people (4-6) could build an entire floor of a building in one day. This type of residential construction often resulted in large housing estates with a great number of identical buildings. The resulting landscape and my connection to it is what I am ultimately exploring in my work.
What inspires your approach?
The paintings are essentially deconstructed building facades. After communism, the buildings had to be dealt with as they were drab, grey concrete, and had issues relating to insulation. So what happens is that the buildings are covered in styrofoam to add insulation, and then stuccoed. The stucco is then painted, but often the buildings are painted on all sides with a wrap-around graphic mural.
On the ground and first floor, residents in these buildings often install security bars, which they have made by a local metal worker. As you travel throughout Poland, you can see that people really go to town on customizing their small section of a very repetitive building. Some of the bars are very simple, but others are very expressive. So the paintings take a section of the graphic facade, and combine them with a section of the security bars to convey this fascinating aesthetic that permeates the contemporary Polish landscape.
Another aspect of these housing estates that really fascinated me was the playgrounds in amongst the buildings. I was drawn to them because they looked like abstract sculpture and not playground structures. I then noticed that similar forms would appear throughout Poland, but they were not made by one factory as they were all a bit different. I had these reconstructed by metal workers in Poland who had also had a connection and memory to these forms. I then deconstructed them by bending and cutting – a way of reconfiguring and addressing my memory and relation to these objects.
An Example of a graphic façade referenced by Pyszczek’s work
View of Playground Structure (Steps) and Playground Structure (worm), 2014
How and where are the metal components of your recent work created?
My uncle and cousin are building contractors in Poland and work with a variety of craftspeople – metalworkers, painters, etc. I worked with them to realize the sort of metal work they create within the building projects that they regularly work on in Poland. My hand as well as the hand of the craftsperson is equally important in this work.
We Thank Przemek Pyszczek for this interview and images.