Queer art is still a niche in Poland. Although this artist has numerous exhibitions in his bio, the theme of his works is a constant target of criticism, scrutiny and even censorship. Conditions for artists like Zukowski are tough. An exhibition planned to last two months, was shut down after only four days. Have a look for yourselves, and see how Paweł Zukowski combines traditional symbols of Catholic faith, wooden icons adorned with gold foil, with motifs that are anything but traditional or mainstream.
It seems paradoxical that Pawel Zukowski, the artist behind boundary-pushing, hardcore gay fetish art, was commissioned to do floating, fragile, lightweight origami for a popular mainstream fashion brand. For Risk Made In Warsaw, he created origami medusas and sea creatures that hung from the ceiling at Risk’s space. Zukowski enjoyed the project and says it was a great opportunity to do something different. He spent his summer doing origami workshops in a public park in Poznań and campaigning for LGBT rights. The origami result was 1000 Cranes for Equality, which were used in the Poznań Pride.
If you read Polish, follow Zukowski on Instagram for a daily dose of ‘ten kurwa moment w zyciu kiedy…’. It translates to ‘that fucking moment in life when’… followed by his caption. He is not only good fun to follow but also an interesting persona, not least if you are into LGBT+ communities and their campaign for equality. For his artwork visit pawelzukowski.com to see more series of work.
This series was a bit inspired by byzantine paintings. I spent a year in an orthodox school that tried to teach me how to write orthodox icons. I use the word “write”, because in Polish it is said that orthodox icons are not paint, but written. I missed the intellectual reflection on what we write (paint) and how to compose the actual icon, the school looked more like a classroom in a rural centre of culture. I decided to use what I saw there and to make a project icon-like on my own. I chose the subject of gay sex and portrayed the couples and triangles having sex. All the time the silhouette of the man that is receiving the anal sex, the “bottom” one is covered with golden foil. Being a bottom in a gay culture is perceived as being less masculine, more powerful, more submissive also in a life outside of bed. I decided to fight with this stereotype, that’s why in these works, the bodies of bottoms are covered with gold that is reserved to saints, kings and very important persons. I used also the technique of pyrography, the burned wood reminds me always about local macho culture from Polish mountains, where the stereotypes are the strongest.
Materials: acrylic paint, burned wood, golden foil on wooden board, dimensions: 25 x 40 cm, total series of 12 works.
Multifetish is an ongoing series of paintings on wooden boards in which I examine the idea of gay sex fetishes. It is a bit a continuation of GOLDENBOYS series. The paintings are all based on my private pictures, but all I’m interested in are not the models themselves, but clothes. That’s why I paint only the outfits and the rest of the body is just marked by black line. I examine the idea of fetish and the sex play in it. I still have more pictures to choose from than the final works. The story continues…
material: acrylic paint on wooden board, dimensions: 20 x 30 cm, the number of paintings still change.
OUR KITCHEN LADY
“Our kitchen lady” is a series inspired by two stories. First – the history of legendary Black Madonna of Czestochowa. In a legend, this icon was paint by St Luke the Evangelist on wooden board or worktop of the table from the house where The Holy Family lived. That’s the first legend. The second one was the story of schizophrenic mother of my friend, where she was seeing the Virgin Mary everywhere, especially on cutting board in her kitchen. She kept this board with her all the time saying to everyone that it is in fact a portrait of Virgin Mary. These two stories melted in my mind and created the vision of doing icon-like paintings on old cutting boards, with using pyrography technique and covering some parts of drawing with golden foil. Cutting board – for bringing Virgin Mary closer to the homes, burned wood (pyrography) – to make it more traditionally Polish (orthodox icons were never paint in Poland) and golden foil – Gold for Goddess. I chose as inspirations for drawings the various Madonnas from Poland and all around the world. There’s one board presenting Christ’s Mandylion, based on the painting made by Jerzy Nowosielski, the painter that inspires me a lot. I even have three of his works tattooed on my forearms .
Materials: used wooden cutting boards, pyrography, golden foil, dimensions: variable, no more than the size of A4, series is an ongoing project, 12 works have been made so far.
WORDS & CRAFTS
This is a series of handmade embroidered materials that made the content of my first solo exhibition. The idea is taken from a real anger, when I came back from really bad exposition made by two of my friends. It was supposed to show a story about my generation, and instead of it I saw badly taken pictures of my friends and badly paint paintings based on those portraits. I was so furious and that’s why I decided to do a story on my generation on my own. The inspiration was traditional Polish embroideries, that consisted of a phrase, proverb or slogan and a corresponding illustration made with blue thread on white background. This tradition is also known in some parts of Germany, in Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania. The illustrations in my series was based on my private pictures presenting friends, friends of friends and totally unknown people, the pictures were taken in the period when I was snapping all my life on analogue camera and believing that one day I will be a photographer (I still perceive myself more like an artist-at-large, not just a photographer). The texts are taken from books, articles, internet or my own mind. I did all the embroideries by myself, not doing that before, I have no idea how did I learned to do that properly. When I got the proposal of exhibiting those works in Poznań, I was scared about the amount of work that I need to do. My mother offered me her help, but she failed with saying “Son, you do it better than me”
materials: cotton thread on white linen background, dimensions circa 44 x 66 cm, series contains 30 various designs.