Dariusz Zawadzki was born in Poland in 1958. Since childhood, he has built surreal worlds in his imagination. At eleven he started painting and has never looked back. Growing up, he wanted to attend an artistic secondary school, but was told his eyesight was too poor. Refusing to let others stymie his artistic development, Dariusz taught himself the ins and outs of painting, and developed his own techniques. For more examples of his work, please visit the Morpheus Gallery.
First off I’d like to ask you a question in the spirit of Nightmare: What scares you the most?
Unless you want to talk about very mundane and unpleasant issues, there is nothing that I am especially scared of. Maybe I’m trying to scare myself with my paintings?
Who has influenced you artistically?
As a child I liked Salvador Dali. I also remember a booklet with Schiller’s ballades I found as a toddler on my parents’ shelf. I spent hours, mesmerized, with my eyes fixed on the illustrations. Later, of course, I had some painters I particularly liked and still like, but what actually influences me is rather a profound world of emotions, not necessarily raised by art. Eyesight is not everything.
A good portion of your work blends organic profiles with inorganic components, and contains shapes that echo gas masks and World War I Brodie helmets. What is it about these shapes that inspire you?
There is something fascinating about this — a helmet means power, war, protection, or death; I like the polysemy it brings. When I paint, I don’t have a thesis I want to illustrate, it’s about the emotions I want to show, and symbolic associations are helpful.
What inspired Siren’s Island, the image appearing as the cover of this month’s Nightmare?
Nothing in particular. Subjects come themselves, depending on my mood, music, dreams. The first version of this painting was very different, but I only left the face; my mood must have changed. Sometimes I leave paintings mothballed for months or even years before I feel like finishing them, and it usually results in something completely new. I’m going to show some examples in an upcoming album of my works.
What do you imagine the Siren in Siren’s Island is thinking?
She might be hunting, watching for prey — maybe the boat on the horizon . . . ? But I don’t understand this kind of question. I don’t self-interpret my paintings, their meaning or sense is rather vague. And even if I knew that “this painting is about something or other,” sharing this would only spoil the pleasure that I hope some people get looking at my work. Success is when a beholder feels he can pass through a painting and take a look around the world inside.
You work with oils, but also sculpt with metals. What is your favorite medium to work with, and why?
I don’t have a favorite medium. Metal sculpture consumes more time, effort, and materials, which are sometimes hard to find, and maybe that’s why I paint more often. But when I become tired with paint, metal is a wonderful entertainment. And the other way round.
Is there a location you find particularly inspiring — perhaps a place you visit often, or a far off destination you hope to visit one day?
Well, I would like to visit Mars one day, but with a return ticket, so I have to wait. To find inspiration I don’t have to move far — it usually comes from my dreams, visions, and observation of people. But I think it’s good to know my works are not painted from nature.
When you illustrate, do you have any little rituals? For example, is there a certain kind of music you like to listen to, or certain type of beverage or food you like to have on hand?
When I start a new painting, I like to have my workplace cleaned up. Then I can stand in front of a clean, white board and wonder what will come forth out of it. I know what it is that I’m going to paint, but at the very same time I am just observing and looking forward to find it out. Music is very helpful here. Spacious, dark, electronic music takes me to the worlds I paint.
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