Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Joe Krawczyk - Still Point Art Gallery Artist of Distinction

Perhaps there is a spot in your home where beautiful light comes in at certain times of the year - perhaps early in the morning or late in the afternoon. The light slowly crawls into the room, slowly bringing with it a feeling of warmth, a soft glow, and playful designs as the light moves in and around the various objects in the room. Bring this image to mind and then look at the stunning paintings of Joe Krawczyk that are showing in the current exhibition of Still Point Art Gallery. Krawczyk was named one of three Artists of Distinction for his contributions to this exhibition - The Serious and Playful Sides of Light.

Awaiting the Mail, Gatherings, Ready to Gather

The idea of the exhibition is to show the many ways that artists understand and use light in their compositions. It is clear from Krawczyk's work that he has been attentive to and has studied the way that light filters into a room and plays with the objects in a room. His skill has allowed him to perfectly recreate what he sees. But there is so much more in his work than attentiveness and skill. Krawczyk has titled his pieces Awaiting the Mail, Gatherings, and Ready to Gather - focusing on what the baskets are doing, even though the baskets are really doing nothing. By focusing on what they are doing, the artist is focusing on their purpose and thus their emptiness. The basket is awaiting the mail, but there is no mail yet. The basket is ready to gather, but nothing is gathered yet. The emptiness of the baskets gives these paintings a sense of utter simplicity, but it also allows the viewer to focus on another important subject in the paintings - light. In turn the light allows emphasis on the emptiness of the baskets. Light and emptiness are the subjects of these paintings, but they are inseparable. One relies on the other to create the inseparable whole of the composition.

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I asked Joe Krawczyk some questions about his work:

Christine Cote: What led you to become an artist?

Joe Krawczyk: I was born an artist. I have been drawing, painting, carving, building and creating as long as I can remember.

CC: This exhibition is about the artist’s use of light. Could you say a bit about how you approach the painting of light? In particular, how did you approach the painting of light in the pieces that are in this exhibition?

JK: I have been a student of light since my studies at the Art Institute of Boston. My major was Advertising Design. One of my painting teachers said “If you want to starve, become a fine artist.” I pretty much enjoyed eating, so advertising was the road I followed. Having worked as a commercial artist for over 40 years, I honed a lot of my skill and understanding of light, conceptualizing and directing photo shoots. I especially enjoyed directing product photography. Spending hours in a dark studio playing with light, I learned that with the right use of light, almost any product could look like jewelry. All this experience has been translated into my paintings. I first paint all my canvases dark using a 3 color combination. I then draw my subject using a white drawing pencil. After that, I begin to paint the light, layering the color to reach the intensity I want. I prefer to paint in the evening when it’s dark. I illuminate my canvas with one light to get me in the mood of my subject matter. I love creating visual drama through the contrast between the highlights and shadows (which are actually the original background color).

CC: How would you describe your artistic style? How has your style developed over time?

JK: I would describe my style as contemporary realism. I have only seriously been painting for a few years. I started painting still life using pretty standard fruit, vegetables and such. One day while exploring subject matter, I illuminated one of my wife’s baskets from her collection. The thing that grabbed me the most wasn’t the basket, but the light speckled shadow it created. That was it, from then on, all the paintings I’ve created are of baskets. Some from our own collection, some borrowed, some purchased.

CC: From where do you draw inspiration for your work? What inspired the pieces in this exhibition?

JK: I draw inspiration from everywhere. A lot of my paintings are from places in my own house, both inside and out. I have also imposed on my friends and neighbors if I see something at their homes that looks like a good spot for a basket. As an artist, I believe we see things differently than most people. I guess that’s how ordinary objects become works of art.

CC: Is there anything you want people to know about you or your work?

JK: When I finish a painting, I feel that I’m leaving a real piece of myself behind, because art has always been such an integral part of my life. So even when I’m gone, my art will live on.

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Joe Krawczyk - Artist Statement
It's all about the light and the high drama that can be created. The subjects I choose to illustrate this dramatic light are baskets. It's a single theme, but every subject is different. The light beautifully illuminates the basket, then passes through it to create a never ending array of light speckled shadows. By always painting them as empty vessels, I allow the viewer to mentally fill the basket with whatever they choose.

Joe Krawczyk - Profile

For close to 40 years Joe Krawczyk has been an award-winning graphic designer. During that time he has seen the industry go from linotype and magic markers to having virtually all graphic design created on computer. "I successfully made the transition to the computer age, but I began to long for some hands-on art. I decided to get back to painting, a fine art I hadn't practiced for many year. So now along with my advertising design firm, I have a part of my office dedicated as a painting studio."

Joe describes his still life paintings as contemporary realism, and his medium is acrylics on canvas. His paintings are created in a tenebrist style. Both tenebroso (Italian) and its English equivalent, tenebrism, refer to a style of painting characterized by high contrast between light and shade. Frequently the main subjects of tenebrist paintings are illuminated by a single source of light, as if a spotlight shone upon them, leaving other areas in darkness. In order to achieve this dramatic lighting effect, Joe first paints the canvas dark, and then begins to paint the light areas of his subject, allowing the dark background to become the shadow areas. These dramatic paintings of baskets in the tenebrist style have become his trademark.

Joe first exhibited his paintings at the 2008 Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival where he received 3 Patron Awards. He won Best of Show at the 2008 Windermere Art Festival and a Merit Award at the 2008 Maitland Rotary Art Festival. He won an Honorable Mention in the 2009 Atlanta Arts League National Juried Exhibition and Third Place in the Infinity Art Gallery Fall Expo 2009 International Juried Show. His work was recently accepted into the International Association of Acrylic Painters 2nd Annual International Online Show. He won an Honorable Mention at the 2009 Winter Park Autumn Art Festival and has been exhibited at The Northlight Gallery, Kennebunkport, Maine.
Return to Still Point Art Gallery

Christine Brooks Cote
Still Point Art Gallery
December 2, 2009

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