Creating art in its multitude of forms requires a degree of patience, passion and obsession. The latter playing a pivotal role. One can spend hours and days on a piece, making corrections, watching it come together only to start all over again. Artist Marie Bukowski identifies with these traits too well. Inspired by mathematics her work comprises of geometric shapes, grids and motifs. We spoke to Marie about her work, the relationship between the objects she paints and exhibiting her work.
You’ve mentioned Mathematics as one of your key inspirations, what about this subject fascinates and drives you as an artist?
To me, mathematics and art are two sides of the same coin. They are both visual languages that express beauty in the world around us. Mathematics is a part of art and informs art that goes all the way back to the Renaissance. Considering the integral part math plays in art-making, it’s easy for me to find ways to incorporate it into artwork on many levels. Art and math both offer a means of visual expression through patterning that challenges me to think differently. I am interested in making art where I am doing more than just guiding a viewer across an aesthetic surface, but rather thinking about the intellectual ideas that occupy my head and arranging the ideas in a way that can lead to a more rational discourse. There is such sophistication within basic and complex mathematical theories that create beauty. I revel in the challenges that this produces, as it turns the art-making process into solving a mathematical problem.
You’ve exhibited your work on countless occasions, do you still get nervous before an exhibition even after all these years?
Always. No matter what the exhibition, or what work I am exhibiting, I always question the quality and validity of it at the last minute, even if I have every confidence in the work before an exhibition. The public viewing always changes my perception of the work and doubt sets in, even if that opinion is completely irrational.
Would you say that the objects in your paintings have a symbiotic relationship or are they all individual entities?
While I consider the different entities in my work as separate, I try to juxtapose them in a way where they are placed in direct conversation with one another, thereby, forming a symbiotic relationship. I am attracted to the idea of using seemingly disparate images or ideas, taking them out of context, and placing them in a completely new context with something else, giving them new meaning. The “landscape” then becomes a metaphor for something deeper and more complex than it seems at first glance. I use these individual entities or symbols as a means to search for an order, but not order with specific systems and constraints. I want no measurable point related to these forms, but rather for them to indicate constant flux, creating an entire symbiotic experience.
What advice would you give an artist just starting off their career professionally?
Talent isn’t the most important thing. Hard work will get you further. You get out of an experience what you put into it. Anything worth doing is worth giving 110% of yourself to it. Be honest through your artwork. Don’t make work that you think others want to see. Make the artwork that you feel is right and true to yourself. And be persistent; don’t ever give up on what you want to do with your art.
Are there any contemporary artists that inspire you?
I’ve been inspired by the work of Hanne Darboven for years. I enjoy the simplicity in her installations that consist of handwritten tables and numbers. I enjoy the obsession of counting in her work. Sol Lewitt has been an inspiration through his 2- and 3-dimensional work of structures in the form of towers, pyramids, geometric forms, and progressions. His work is a clear depiction of the influence of mathematics through art. It is reminiscent of Euclid’s work in math, which I also find inspiring.
How important is education from an artistic point of view? When did you start teaching art and why?
I believe that an education is the most important thing for an artist. It is important to be educated in the arts, but also in a broad sense. Art is an ever-evolving practice, continually redefining itself. Artists must be able to explore and develop with traditional and contemporary tools to create new ideas. These values are becoming increasingly important for people to adapt to a changing world where technology may render certain skills and knowledge obsolete. It is an important part of understanding the society in which we live. The importance of providing educational experiences and programs that blend multiple disciplines allows diverse groups of students to work together and use their integrated skills in ways that create a better world.
I started teaching art at the university level in 2000. I knew, when I taught my very first class, that the classroom was the place I wanted to be. Teaching art is about more than just teaching art. It teaches people to become better citizens in society. Teaching art offers people a new way of seeing things, where artists become catalysts for change, where they can improve communities and transform lives. I enjoy stressing creativity in the classroom, where students can become better thinkers, utilising design thinking, which can result in entrepreneurial opportunities. The arts are at the core of critical thinking to make a global change.
We live in an extremely vocal age, both online in the age of ubiquitous social media and in real life. But how important is the role of following those statements through in the form of action to you personally and as an artist?
The role of social media doesn’t seem to have much of an impact on me on a personal level. However, its role as an artist is significant. So much interaction, inspiration, and critical dialogue among artists and art lovers take place through social media. It has become a platform almost as important as a gallery exhibition, where artists can share their work, gain feedback, and sell art. It is a means to advertise work in a way that couldn’t be done years ago beyond a traditional gallery or museum setting. It is pervasive, and its tentacles can reach out further than traditional forms of viewing art, communicating about art, and sharing work with the public. It has become a powerful tool for artists that complements the traditional means that take place in real life. I think artists are at a better place today because of these multiple platforms.
What is an ideal Sunday for Marie?
Sunday is one of the days that I set aside to spend in my studio and is a real getaway from the work week. I enjoy Sundays because I can spend them in complete solitude, contemplating the issues at hand in my studio. Whether I am making work or considering an idea and writing out ideas for new work, these days are very meditative for me. My work is very obsessive, which is a form of relaxation and a way to block out all of the other daily thoughts that consume me. It puts me in a different, more relaxing state of mind where I am forced to think of nothing but the work in front of me. I consider Sundays sacred days that remain untouched by any other daily necessity.
This interview was first published in the April 2017 issue of CreativPaper Magazine.