Oil on Canvas, Courtesy Hauser & Wirth
The colorful, phantasmagorical canvases of Jakub Julian Ziolkowski are full of imaginary recurring characters sourced from the deepest recesses of his imagination who interact in non-linear and disjointed narratives, grotesque figures fraught with death and decay, otherworldly forms, and obsessively created and rehashed imagery. The young Polish artist, born in remote Zamosc in 1980, makes his debut at Hauser & Wirth New York-where he is the youngest artist in the blue-chip gallery's staple. It's his first American solo show, and only his second viewing in America, after he was included in the New Museum Triennial "Younger Than Jesus." The show, "Timothy Galoty & the Dead Brains," comprised of 50 new works, is based on a fictional rock 'n roll band headed up by front man Timothy Galoty, Ziolkowski's altar ego, who appears throughout the canvases in such various roles as a musician, ex-husband, sculptor, and writer.—MARGARET KNOWLES
I really like to create artificial, imaginary names and situations. I just invent them, which I think is more real. If something is completely imaginary, like a portrait without a name, it's surreal, but if you've got the names, you think, "Who is this Timothy Galoty? What's going on here?" The central figure in the painting is Timothy - imaginary genius artist, musician, writer, very much an alter-ego. I first called him Timothy Dalton and then changed it to Timothy Galoty because it sounds better. Galoty [in Polish] means very very old fashioned pants, so it's like a joke: "Timothy Pants." This work is a mock-poster for the band, Timothy Galoty & The Dead Brains. The name is very Rock & Roll, because you've got the "&"—it's so Rock & Roll! The band was inspired by Frank Zappa. Actually, the whole show was made because of him.
I made several works, then I tried to place them somewhere, like New York City or Japan. For the band, I wanted to imagine where they would play. New York City is crazy, it's the center of the world, but Japan is where I've always wanted to go, so that's what I chose. I invented a hall where the concerts are held, and Galoti plays there, in S.O.SAKA Hall, which has in it "S.O.S." This work is almost a key, a layout for all the other works in the show. It is an introduction to what you can expect if you enter into S.O.SAKA Hall, and make your way backstage. If you go through the red curtains, black curtains, then you are here in my world.
The figure, Timothy, has two faces, male and female, because everyone has something from the different genders. And then the third figure, the brain, appears like a soul, or like a mystery. It is sad, I think, this common about artists having mental parts: sensitivity is supposed to belong in the realm of women, so the artist seems to be more female than male. This work shows the two sides: I am male, and I am female. The skin is black because this human is from "the other side"—like the otherworldly realm in Alfred Kubin's  book On the Other Side, in which a young man and his wife journey to a mysterious city deep in Asia only to find a nightmarish kingdom. This place, the other side, is first the imaginary world, the fantasy to which you escape. It is, second, the spiritual realm of life: you are real, but things aren't real, they are transparent, made of glass. It is, third, literally on the other side of life—death. Timothy Galoty is from the other side.
In this corner there are plants, and a candle. That's me with the glasses, hiding behind the candle. Then there are insects, worms, and a dead bird feeding on the worm. Insects in my work are sometimes a symbol of mankind, but also sometimes a reference to death. They represent the worms that eat us-eat our bodies when we are in the ground. Insects are interesting to me visually because their shapes are so different from the shapes of our human bodies. We can like dogs and birds, but insects we have a problem with; it's like they're from a different planet.
I painted myself there because that's my corner. That's where I stay. I am in between the snail, which I imagine to be made of intestines, and the candle emitting blue light—blue which means something spiritual. So I'm between the intestines, the body and the candle, this spiritual thing, this light of energy. While I'm surrounded by these grotesque things, I am still happy; I am just waving. This is because I have accepted where I am. Amor Fati is Latin for the love of fate, so you have your fate, and you cannot change it. You might hate it, you might dislike it, it might not agree with your reality, but it doesn't change anything, so you have to love it, you have to accept it. That's why I'm happy; I know where I am. I accept whatever happens in the painting. I am there [in the piece] because I have seen this. I am like a journalist; it is me relating it to you.
The piano has veins, and the key just fell off. It's like a living thing, and its teeth are loose. The instrument isn't in the real configuration of a piano; I don't care about things like that. I didn't make it with lines, I didn't count. I just work every day, and the work appears. I just use the images that I am obsessed with, that are inside me, and I just don't control it. It's like a ritual. I don't care about the logistical stuff because it's not important. It's not a realistic painting. I just use light and shadow to describe things the way I envision them. Somehow, there are so many things that are imaginary, but that I am related to in real life, and I'm just re-filtering.
Eyes are an obsessive motif for me; they represent the idea that we are under observation. We think that we go somewhere and we are the observers, even a place where there are no human beings, but we are under observation by everything. I think that trees see us, storms see us, the sea sees us; plants, everything, everything sees, looks. Everything breathes and sees. It's about a supernatural force, which is like a big eye that looks—or perhaps, at times, doesn't look. I wear glasses, and I always paint myself in them because the glasses are another motif. It's something between your eyes and the world, that makes you see things more clearly. Things that are maybe not so visible. The glass and they eye are very symbolic things in Poland. If you wear glasses, it means that you are scientific, that you discover things using your brain more than your spirit. This is not me: I try to be scientific, but the world overwhelms me every day.
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