From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Artist Spotlight: Dariusz Zawadzki

Dariusz Zawadzki is a Polish artist whose paintings and drawings range from the surreal to the grotesque, with touches of the sublime. As you’ll read below, Dariusz is a self-taught talent whose work springs from dreams and visions, almost creating itself at the end of his brush. His work has appeared in many places, including the beinArt International Surreal Collective. Born in northwestern Poland in 1958, Dariusz is the co-founder of Yogoro Artworks, where more of his work can be seen. I’m grateful to his agent, Patrycjusz R. Łogiewa, who helped facilitate this interview.

What was the inspiration for The Last Rites?

Now, after all this time, it’s hard for me to recall the feelings that formed this painting—because my inspiration is always feelings, elusive emotions. They usually come from my dreams, my longing for other, unreal worlds. I create such a world with my paintings; they all make a whole. The Last Rites is just one of this world’s elements. [Zawadzki painted The Last Rites in 2008—JTG.]

The Last Rites is only one of your works that draw on religious themes or imagery. How does religion, spirituality, or the divine influence your art?

I’m not in any way a religious person, yet I do believe in a controlled order of the world—or worlds. A sacred sphere is a very important part of my works because it’s a very important part of my life. As well as a profane sphere…

Many of your paintings feature wings, flight, or birds. What attracts you to these subjects?

There were always birds in my dreams and visions, I don’t know why. I was subconsciously fascinated with them. Today I’m fully aware of their mysteriousness and independence. Birds also have many symbolical associations, which I sometimes use.

Which artists or writers have been most inspirational to you?

I had the earliest inspiring visions as a two- or three-year-old child, when I hadn’t had contact with painting or literature yet. I remember a raven flying out of a picture hanging in my room. Somewhat later on my parents’ shelf I found a booklet with Schiller’s ballades. I spent hours fixing my eyes on the illustrations, enchanted with their mood. And so it is today—what I find most interesting is an atmosphere, emotions. A part of those emotions is an echo of my contact with art, but the lion’s share results from my observation of people. I could name the artists I like, but none of them is my direct inspiration.

How would you describe your work in the context of fantastic art in Poland or Eastern Europe?

I’m not a specialist in this field, and towards art I take up the attitude of a common viewer, searching out what I like. I don’t think of my works with reference to somebody else’s works. It’s never been my purpose to be like or unlike someone else. I just do my own thing.

What was your training as an artist, and what led you to focus your skills on the fantastic?

Since I was a child I have had various visions and dreams that built surreal worlds in my imagination. These worlds came first, and then I felt a need to express them by drawing. When I was eleven years old I started painting. I wanted to go to an artistic secondary school, but I was told that my eyesight is too poor for that. Well, I can’t agree… From then on I’ve been self-teaching and getting to the bottom of painting craft myself. I don’t regret having chosen this path. It may have been more difficult, yet it let me develop my own techniques.

What are some of your favorite approaches to illustrating fantastic scenes and stories?

I never use a sketch-book, because I don’t want to force myself to reproduce on a painting something that was already put on paper. The most beautiful moment is when I’m standing in front of a white, clear board when I am just starting to paint. At this time I both do and do not know what will emerge from this whiteness. I can feel what I want to paint, but I don’t know yet what it’s going to look like. It’s hard to describe this process; some things just can’t be put into words.

Many of your paintings have a strongly unified color scheme, virtually monochromatic or duochromatic. Does this unity relate to the themes in your work, or technical challenges you set for yourself, or is it something that comes out of the story behind each image?

When I start painting I never have any assumptions about the colours—a colour, just like a subject, always comes itself. It surely depends on my mood. Recently my paintings have been rather colourful; it seems I’m having a better temper now.

You’ve spoken about how some of your subjects have come from dreams or feelings. What is your process for transitioning from that to a finished work?

All of my paintings originate from my dreams and emotions, and all of them are created as I described above.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working mainly on taming my parrots. No, seriously, now I’m doing a lot of different things at one time. I’m painting a new piece and finishing a few older ones. I’m sculpting, constructing a motorcycle, and working on baroque-style frescos.

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J.T. Glover

J.T. GloverJ. T. Glover has published fiction, non-fiction, and poetry in Dark Recesses and Underground Voices, among other venues. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, he currently resides in Richmond, Virginia with his wife and a not inconsiderable number of aquatic friends. By day he is an academic reference librarian specializing in the Humanities.