To create a beautiful, lightweight classic sculpture out of a hard block of marble is both an act of creative strength and ingenuity.
Today, it also seems to be an act of courage – it’s not an easy task and the effects are not always satisfactory. Using such traditional medium and stylistics from the classical Greek sculpture to create works that facetiously reflect on human condition is yet another challenge.
In an era of the 3D print, where everything can be fabricated out of a formless mass of plastic, sculpting in a classic manner is risky. However, while it is a practice that slowly, yet consequently sinks into oblivion, there are still some unique creatures out there, who dedicate themselves to hard work of extracting shapes out of untoward materials.
Sculpture Using Classical Techniques
Michal Jackowski, a Polish sculptor and an owner of a sculpture renovation studio, is one of them. Until now, he has used classical techniques of sculpting in Carrara white marble mainly to create copies and reconstructions. Recently though, he decided to give a chance to the creative part of his nature and to present himself to the world as a full-fledged artist. In his practice, apart from applying the methods of traditional sculpting, he merges the classical stylistics with imagery from popular culture and works of artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Jeff Koons.
The Artist and Materials
These days, more artists either commission a technically complicated works to experienced craftsmen or they just work with materials, which are not so demanding. Also, the minimalist paradigm of fabricating works of art as series of non-artistic, purely objectual entities, prevails in contemporary artistic practice. We can say then that what we encounter in contemporary art is mediation of the artistic production or its total negation expressed by using ordinary materials and disposable techniques. In such conditions, sometimes one looks for something sophisticated, something rather elegant and classy.
Jackowski’s art described is – it merges the technical mastery with compositional nonchalance, as well as the classic way of depicting the human body with non-figurative motives. His practice, rooting from the art of mimicking the historical sculpting styles, can be described as the elegant appropriation of the classics – and by classic I understand not only the Greek sculpture, which is an evident source of inspiration for the artist, but also such great names of modern sculpture as Auguste Rodin, Giacomo Manzu and Constantin Brâncuși. Thanks to his great technical background, Jackowski can recreate baroque statues for Museum of Wilanów, as well as to create art-deco religious figures, but the field where he can really express himself is the creation independent from the rules of mimesis. As an artist, he has taken the path of a trickster, who aptly juggle styles and motives from diverse time periods.
Deconstructing the Schema of Styles
Jackowski uses the same strategy of deconstructing the schema of styles as, for example, Theo A. Rosenblum, Francesco Molfetta and Nick van Woert. Unlike these artists though, Jackowski is more subtle and delicate in his references to pop-culture, and, more importantly, operates the medium of sculpture in its traditional sense. While Nick van Woert destructs the elegant form of his busts and Molfetta plays with quotes from various eras, Jackowski refers to other artists’ styles and philosophically reflects on the human condition. The appropriation in his art serves as a gate to cross the boundaries of the medium itself – the artist fights with the hard stone like a Titan, therefore the dose of irony and humour is rather restricted. In turn, he focuses on bringing out the best from this heavy matter.
Classical Sculpture with Postmodern Humour
In his latest series, Antique Games, Jackowski combines classical sculpture with a specifically postmodern humour. A fragment from The Beatles’ song, “Yesterday”, becomes an ancient inscription in a sculpture with the same title. The words appear next to a defragmented head of a classically beautiful woman – they look like they were a part of her thoughts, but their form suggest that they are an intelligent reference to the poetics of a gravestone, with its remembrance of the past. In another sculpture from the same series, Why She…, we can see a clear inspiration with a comic book, taken from one of Jackowski’s favourite artists, Roy Lichtenstein. The dramatic, smoothly finished poses captured in the Carrara marble, juxtaposed with forms drew from the popular culture gain new – the extra-artistic – value.
Also, in the series Circles of Life, the artist proves that not only he is a master of taking fragile forms out of the robust marble, but that he is a real romantic reflecting on the feminine and masculine elements of the human nature.
The aesthetic layer of Jackowski’s sculptures, taken to technical boundaries that once would make him one the brightest stars of the firmament of art, emphasizes his deconstructing strategy. In contemporary art, the boundaries between what is original and unique, and what is reproduced and processed, are blurred and are getting increasingly difficult to detect. However, the originality doesn’t seem to be the artistic architype anymore – Jackowski shows that what counts is the endless experimenting with the possibilities of the medium, as well as the striving for technical excellence in utterly contemporary works of art.
About the Artist: Michal Jackowski is a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, where he gained a master degree in the restoration of the works of art. Known for his large-scale realizations in marble, bronze and terracotta. Major themes that run throughout his works are related to the human condition, his/her interpersonal relations and affiliations with nature. For more information visit http://jackowskiart.com/
Written by guest expert contributor Art Historian, Zofia Diamant