Interview with award winning artist Bartosz Beda

Bartosz Beda

Born in Poland in 1984, Bartosz Beda relocated to the UK in 2008 to study at the Manchester School of Art. After graduating in 2012 with an MA in Fine Art, Beda was selected for the 2012 Catlin Art Guide as the most promising emerging artist in the UK. Short-listed for the Title Art Prize, the Door Prize, and The Saatchi New Sensations 2012, he won the esteemed Torwy Award for the Best of the North of England in 2012. Beda was a finalist for the Williams Drawing Prize in Connecticut, USA, and won second place in the Viewpoints 2014 competition at the Aljira, Center for Contemporary Art in New Jersey, USA, 2014.

Bartosz Beda was awarded a six-month scholarship from Manchester Metropolitan University to attend the Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden, Germany in 2012/13, and received a fellowship from Fondazione per’l Arte, Rome, Italy in 2016.

He has participated in group shows including Microarte. El tamano si importa, Galeria Liebre, Madrid, Spain, 2012; Schools of Art. Voll.3, Oktogon der HfBK, Dresden, Germany, 2013; Petty Theft, Launch f18, New York, USA, 2013; ING Eye Exhibition, Mall Galleries, London, UK, 2015. He has had solo exhibitions in Poland, United Kingdom, Spain, Colombia and the United States. His works are in private collections throughout Europe, the United States, South Africa, and Asia. In London, his work can be found at Zebra One Gallery who will be featuring his work in an exhibition for their 40th year in June.

Bartosz Beda

  1. Francis Bacon said, “Painting is a duality, and abstract painting is an entirely aesthetic thing.” What does this mean to you?

To understand what he meant by it, I had put myself in the context and times he said this. This is a philosophical problem where abstract and representational painting are in the range against each other. For Francis Bacon saying perhaps it was a defense system against the trends of abstraction around him. When for him it was a combination of both. Just like it is for me. By saying “aesthetic thing” maybe he simply meant aesthetically pleasing, or maybe he went deeper, which make sense if we refer to abstraction. By duality, he meant that form play against meaning and meaning against form, and I see it the same way when I combine figuration and abstraction together. By doing it on canvas, I get two meaningful pictures of representation and abstraction together. I want to refer also to Freud who suggested that a dream is the fulfilment of a wish and there is a great connection between dream itself and daydreaming. I feel the same with an abstraction that it fulfills the figuration. It is a connection between daydreaming and passing into a deep dream where we combine consciousness with subconscious. That way we can talk about painting in various ways and leave it unanswered, just like our dreams.

  1. Could you please explain figurative, representation, and the idea of form?

It is a very interesting question. Often when we see the painting, we have that expectation to see the picture, and we want to recognize the objects in it or find the personal attachment in it. This is one way of defining what is real, and that is why we created the term ‘realism.’ However, when we look at the abstraction, we do not necessarily think of figure or object, but abstraction has that notion of physicality in the process of making it. For instance, Pollock or Rothko used specific objects, tools beside brushes that created the painting. It goes back to the first question about the duality of the painting. The form itself is interesting and does not need much representation, but can’t have much meaning around it – as when we bring the figuration or combination of abstract and representation.

When I paint, I combine abstraction and representation, but I don’t create any systems in the abstract or figurative form within which objects, figures, and strokes find their order. The form is a conscious connection between me and the canvas. I interpreted the form created on the surface as the subconscious activity of the mind that reflects directly on the surface of the painting.

Bartosz Beda

  1. You paint, you publish, and you are now working on an ambitious sculptural installation series which hopes to address the social structures.  What is the motivation for you as an artist, could you tell us about your need to create and the themes behind your work?

Like others, I have my dreams and goals that I want to reach in painting. This becomes my motivation. I always was inspired by Seneca, who once said: “It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.” I think the same about myself as an artist. It is not the lack of time or opportunities that were given to me, but how I manage them. If I see results that I am not happy with, that means that there is something wrong with my use of the time I have. The time is a motivation for me as an artist and becomes a primary inspiration to create. The fact that I am given specific circumstances pushes my limits to invest into creating a new combination of subjects and styles in my painting. Themes are not based only on my background, and it is not exactly true that I am only interested in exploring political issues like I stated in my statement that you could find on my website.

There is much more to discover in my work. The themes come from various impulses I receive when I prepare for next painting sessions or next body of work. When I produced sculpture installations, the initial idea came to me after seeing the pyramid on the back of US Dollar note, but it doesn’t mean that I am interested in the conspiracy behind it or that I want to deeply go into Egyptian history and culture to study social pyramid statuses that existed back then. Of course, everything comes with it, and those interpretations can be applied to it. But there is much more to it. There is also a philosophical question of our existence. When we are born, we learn, we study and work hard to fit certain frames, but do we really need to follow rules that where created to keep us sane? What is the norm for behavior? My themes are around the same existential question on who I am and what painting is for me.

  1. What are your politics and how do your leanings affect the work? Has living in the United States changed the way you think, the way you see Europe, and the way you paint?

I don’t have any specific opinion about politics or how this can affect my work. It happens that my work oscillates around politics, as this is a daily bread for all of us, whether we want to participate in it or not. I have painted a lot of paintings that never were about politics or even close to this motion. I have always been interested in history, that is why you see portrait of Hitler next to another two portraits of choking women that refer to Heimlich Maneuver. This is a sarcastic irony about history and the present day where the history repeats itself. The work always had some positive and negative elements opposed to each other. There is a Hitler who killed millions and Heimlich who saved lives with his invention. Of course, it has much deeper meaning than that.

First, when I moved to the United Kingdom, I began to understand other cultures better. The politics in the UK and the agenda of the country I lived in affected my personality. Nowadays while I live in America, I calmed down myself about politics and social problems around me. These two elements are still deeply rooted in my work, but the meaning changes and more often I go around the subject of politics. However, I am still the same concerned painter I was a couple of years ago.

  1. A growing number of artists have taken to self-publishing catalogs of their work, complete with high-quality reproductions of their art and essays by noted critics. Why did you feel you should publish your own and what was the intention behind this?

I did publish a book that features my work for few reasons. One of them was Execute Magazine that as you know, I founded a year ago. To be more specific, I wanted to go through the entire process of publishing a book. I wanted to know what it means to involve people in designing the outlet, writing introduction, essay and work with a person who edits everything to make sure there are no mistakes. It is a long process. My book took me close to one year to be ready for publishing. Now I think, I am ready to use this experience for the magazine.

I think that it is a good introduction to something much bigger that can take place in the future. At this point when every artist has its website and their own marketing model, being able to create your own opportunities is crucial for further development. Damien Hirst didn’t wait in his studio for a gallerist or collector to come. He decided to act and through that, he created his fame and rest is history. I don’t do it completely myself. I came up with the idea of a book; then I talked to people if they would be interested in writing something and I found a designer who was willing to be involved. I don’t care what other people think or do. I don’t like to seat and wait. I like action. We have tools and technology, why not to use it properly.

I wanted to produce a book that I can share to my collectors, so they can have something that they can easily share with others.

Bartosz Beda

  1. “Ten Starts from One” could you explain to us what this body of work stands for, and what is it all about?

The title “Ten Starts From One” comes from the simple idea that when you finish counting on a number ten, than the number itself contain number one and zero that means it starts from one again. I hope that the title stands for itself. The paintings from this series are based on various inspirations. One of the paintings is based on the performance of a Los Angeles-based artist John White in the 70’s. The painting is a reflection of colors and shapes, as well as formal and informal interpretations of the way we perceive space and ourselves in that space. The ‘Ten Starts From One’ series, invite viewers to discover the metaphysical connections between these paintings and the space around them. Viewers are encouraged to encounter and consider how the paintings and space around them interact with each other. Another painting from this series is based on the propaganda posters from the Soviet Union period. Posters were encouraging women to work and build prosperity of the Soviet Union. From today’s perspective, it sounds funny, but our culture has the same purposes and values, but the way the massage is delivered is different. It also comes to the idea that paintings express the painter. That means that I refer in my work directly in what I am interested in or I use source for latest reading I do in the studio.

  1. Where can we find your work? What next?

You can contact me directly about my work or get in touch with Zebra One Gallery in London.

I will have a group exhibition at Foundry Art Center in Missouri, USA in March and another group exhibition in London this summer. I am also working on Serial Installments now that are already collected by twelve collectors from around the world. This project will finish with a catalog that will be available late summer. You can find more information about Sequential Installments on my website.

Bartosz Beda Website:

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Images Description:

  1. Bartosz Beda, Green and Yellow, oil on canvas, 183x127cm, 2017
  2. Bartosz Beda, Ten Starts From One II, oil on canvas, 184x190cm, 2017
  3. Bartosz Beda, Atom I, oil on canvas, 175x133cm, 2017
  4. Bartosz Beda, Atom II, oil on canvas, 175x133cm, 2017

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