CONTINUUM written by Mik Godley
Review of Marek Tobolewski, Continuum exhibition
at The Hive Gallery, Barnsley UK
Originally for Nottingham Visual Arts November 2009
I’m no formalist, and I have little appreciation for “process art” if that’s what this is, so for the last twenty years I’ve often wondered “what on earth is Marek up to – painting circles all the time?”
Frankly, such a practice would drive me nuts.
More recently though, I think I’m beginning to “get it”: both the motive and making of Marek’s marathon graphite drawings presented as the focus of his current show (with progress reports on Facebook) were instrumental in this change of mind. Despite the idiocy of the process, the sheer craziness of spending months applying graphite onto large sheets of paper then erasing it off again, the economic reality that no one would ever buy such a thing for anything approaching a decent hourly rate – artistically some things just have to be done: the commitment and endurance of making such things forces the maker to really think about what they are doing.
As a counter to the all too common attitude of maximum return for minimum effort, on one level the impressive drawings “2LC DipSym NEG” and
“2LC DipSym POS” (Marek’s titles are reminiscent of particularly challenging 1970’s musical scores) celebrate artistic difficulty and perseverance.
Even the material, the sheer mass of shiny metallic graphite, is hardly easy on the eye. This show demands some work of its audience.
But what really got me in the end was the cumulative effect of looking round this show of drawings,
paintings, prints and a diptych of CAD routered MDF sheets of contrasting wood veneers. These days Marek joins his circles up and the elegant quality of line, often perfectly smooth curves as one arc joins the next, contrasts with very human cack-handedness of brush marks, blobs of paint or smudged erasures. Subtle multi-layered colours in watercolours or oils, the trace of every move left evident, create compositions by layering wobbly loops suggesting X-rayed micro biology, giving an organic beauty that argues with its making, a dialogue looking towards symmetry and calm, yet just avoiding by a whisker, retaining its life by never quite reaching it.
I loved the scrappiness of some of bits of paper showing Marek working out his compositions, his very hand-made spirograph-like designs scratched out or drawn on watercolour grounds seeping under masking tape edges, counterbalanced by the sharply controlled coloured line drawings, formal framing and neat linen canvases. In fact the whole show was all a balancing act between cool formal mechanical (or digital) abstraction and our very human imperfect hands – perhaps a perspective on the way we live – and a debate on aesthetics: does my hand look shaky in this?