An interview with Karol Kochanowski: patience.HEADSPACE. resilience

Karol Kochanowski received the Granada Foundation Gallery Exhibition Award at the inaugural Manchester Open Awards in 2020 for his work Class. Kochanowski’s exhibition, patience.HEADSPACE.resilience, is currently on show in our Granada Galleries until 5 Sep.

Karol talks to us about creating this new body of work during the lockdown, sources of inspiration from Old Masters to artists David Lynch and Matthew Barney working in film or music, the Manchester Open, and transitioning from studying Architecture in Poland to Fine Art in Manchester.

Kochanowski is a Polish artist and painter based in Manchester. He graduated in 2013, from Fine Art (BA) at Manchester Metropolitan University and has exhibited internationally, including in London, New York, Berlin, Raleigh (North Carolina).

You first exhibited your work at HOME as part of the Manchester Open Exhibition in 2020, could you maybe tell us a bit more about what it was like to be part of the first Manchester Open?

It felt great to be part of one of the biggest exhibitions in Manchester in years.

I remember the opening night, hundreds of people queuing to see the show, many of them were people I had not seen in years. It almost felt like the whole Manchester art scene had gathered in the venue for one night. Prior to the show, I was curious about the layout of the exhibition considering the wide range of styles/genres of art included in the show, it worked out fantastic. It was also one of those exhibitions where you had to visit it on a number of occasions to be able to absorb everything.

You won one of the Manchester Open Prizes, which meant you have been able to work on a new body of work for the Granada Foundation Galleries, what was that experience like for you?

The winning of the prize was definitely a massive surprise but also an uplifting moment for me.

Going forward, I was quite excited about the idea of creating a new body of work specifically for my next solo exhibition. The Granada Galleries walls are quite big in size, it felt like the right moment to get back to a large scale painting.

Image: Karol Kochanowski, Alia A. (2021) 50x60cm, oil on canvas

You created this body of work during the lockdown, do you think this impacted your work in any way?

The prize and idea of a solo exhibition came along just before the lockdown in early 2020. Once the pandemic started, I was optimistic about it and was aiming to look at the positives of this global change.

At some moments, it was tricky to get access to the art materials or even my studio. There were ups and downs, however, I had ongoing support from HOME and Castlefield Gallery all the way in the form of a number of crit sessions, professional advice, artists and art professionals (online) studio visits.

When did you first start practicing as an artist and what was your journey?

When I was a child, like most of us, I’ve been creative in every possible way and it was my dream to carry on being creative through my adulthood. Somehow I ended up studying Architecture back in Poland. I have never completed the degree and instead, I moved to the UK when I was 19 and in the end, I finished university with a degree in Fine Arts at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2013. Since then I have carried on being an artist.

Image: Karol Kochanowski, Four Of Them (2021) 120x150cm, oil on canvas

Your work brings together a wide range of elements and there is a surreal and sometimes dark feel to your work, what and who are you most inspired by?

There is always a wide variety of sources for inspiration. They could be Old Masters such as Bosch, Goya or Caravaggio as well as modern avant-garde artists working in film or music. I find the works of surreal filmmakers such as Matthew Barney, David Lynch or Alejandro Jodorowsky stimulating. Or in the last couple of years, writers Haruki Murakami or Frank Herbert. My personal experiences are also motivating factors.

You say that you try to avoid having a fixed idea of the final artwork in your mind, could you maybe tell us a bit more about your artistic process?

When in the studio, I’m interested in the process of painting, I’m focused on the moment. No matter what idea I have for a painting at the start, it always surprises me where the brush takes me in the end. I am not interested in painting from a ready image, even if it was an image created by my mind, however, I could use it as a starting point.

Image: Karol Kochanowski, Things Boys Want To Know (2021) 50x60cm, oil on canvas

You also like to make sure a piece of work remains in some way unresolved, how do you know when to put down the paintbrush when the work is complete?

I usually don’t. Perhaps, some of my paintings are not completed or are overpainted. I feel like the viewer should have the freedom of interpretation when looking at my paintings, therefore, I aim to keep the elements of my works, as you said, “unresolved”. Sometimes I can give some hints in the form of a shape, a brushstroke or a title, but I would do that to take the viewer even further away from the possible interpretation of the painting.

Submissions for next year’s Manchester Open exhibition are now open. What would you tell someone who was thinking of submitting to the Manchester Open, but hesitating?

It’s a chance to get your work to be exposed to a wider audience, in a prestigious venue. If you win one of the prizes, it’s a fantastic opportunity to develop further your artistic practice. You should apply if you like, if not, do it anyway…you might get surprised with the outcome, just like me.

What are your plans and hopes for the future?

I’m taking a well deserved two months holiday in the very near future. The last couple of months have been quite chaotic, I will use the time off to think about what’s next. I also have been developing some new ideas for paintings, once I’m back, I’m ready to get back to the studio.

Visit Karol Kochanowski’s website.

The Manchester Open 2022 is now open for submissions and will return from Jan-Mar 2022, with a new round of awards.

The deadline to submit your work is 17 Sep 2021.

Click here to submit your work.

Karol is the 2020 Manchester Open Granada Foundation Award Winner, one of five Manchester Open Artist Awardees and received a programme of professional and creative development from Castlefield Gallery, commissioned by HOME. Castlefield Gallery has provided Karol with support to develop his practice and his work for the exhibition, including a series of one-to-one sessions with Castlefield Gallery Curator and Deputy Director Matthew Pendergast and artist coach Jo Clements, and one-off sessions with artists Andrew Bracey and Iain Andrews.