Interview with Rafal Zawistowski

How did you find your voice as an artist?

After spending a year in Florence Italy, I was intrigued by how portraiture is idealised in frescos and in early renaissance painting. I was lucky enough to have a friend who was a restorer and upon visiting his studio and seeing a work being restored up close I realised there is a fine line between beauty and decay in the work. As it was held together with rice paper to prevent it from falling apart. This idea of beauty, decay and ugliness shaped how i see portraits but also how society views the human figure and how it is idealised but can be shunned at any moment.

Rafel 1

Iscariot’s Requittal, 2015, Öl auf Leinwand, 80 x 80 cm

Has your approach and process changed throughout your artistic career?

My process is very traditional i make all my own paint and gesso as well as the supports I paint on. This was not the case in my early career but after my time Florence I realised that this was the way the old masters did so i followed suit. My studio today is a modern replica of an old master studio.

At 8

At 8, 2018, Bleistift, Kohle auf Papier, 152 x 122 cm

And looking back at your earlier works, what do you think about them today?

I started out as an abstract painter working with acrylic then moving into encaustic (mixing wax and oil paint) I enjoy the work i made as it was colourful like my work now and it envied a feeling, but it accomplished this in a different way than my current work.


Madonna Grey, 2015, Öl auf Leinwand, 60 x 50 cm

What interests you in portrait painting the most?

The fact that i am creating a representation of a specific person the process of painting creates an anonymity and allows anyone to see what they want to. My portraits are like walking on tightrope you either love them or hate them but you are still intrigued by them.

What have been the highlights of your artistic career so far?

My big break through came when Charles Saatchi bought my debut solo exhibition before it was open to the public. Since then I have been selling work regularly and working as a practicing artist.

Madonna Red

Madonna Red, 2015, Öl auf Leinwand, 60 x 50 cm

Which artists do you admire?

Frank Auerbach is definitely my painting hero, the way he creates a work is mesmerising. another artist i admire is Anselm Kiefer for the way he uses material. One of my all time favourite painters from the early renaissance is Massacio for his development of aerial perspective and the mystery surrounding his death.

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