Briefly describe the work do you do.
I call myself a painter but my work inhabits a space between 2D and 3D. I use anything and everything in my paintings, sculptures, and installations which are layered collaged surfaces with paint over top usually. I am obsessed with pattern and symmetry.
At what point in your life did you decide to become an artist?
When I was in kindergarten we had troll day. I forgot my troll but decided to draw one and cut it out so I could have my own troll without help from my teacher. That night my teacher informed my parents about what a talented artist I was. So, I guess it was troll day when I was 5 years old that I decided I was an artist.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I went to a catholic school until I was in 8th grade and this has influenced my art more than I want to admit. Although traumatized by the conformist mindset of a catholic school and uniform policy; the architecture, stained glass windows, icons, mysticism, gold leaf facades, ornate marble work, and the stories have stuck with me. The aesthetic of the Catholic Church is present in my work but I strive for a more universal meaning.
What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?
I am concerned with power structures whether it relates to painting hierarches, governments, religions, and even hunting. My abstracted compositions borrow powerful symbols from churches, government buildings, formal design concepts, and the natural world. Symmetry is at the heart of this concept of showing importance. I like to use low brow materials in my collage work and elevate them to high art context in order to illustrate a confusion of this power system and present a piece that has become more than the sum of its parts.
We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard everyday. What motivates you in your studio practice?
I have an incessant need to produce art work, it has a direct relationship to my feeling of self-worth, not sure if this is a good thing or not. Deadlines are a huge motivator for me though. I load up my calendar with shows and then I strive to make new work for each one.
When artists living or non-living influence your work?
Jules de Balincourt, Tal R, Gert and Uwe Tobias, Daniel Richter, Jason Rolf, Wangechi Mutu, Jeff Sonhouse, this list could go on for days…
When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?
When I’m not making art I enjoy teaching others to make art, riding bikes, treasure hunting at thrift stores, petting my cat, dancing, road trips and making wishes.
About John Kowalczyk
Born in Chicago, IL in 1988, John Kowalczyk currently lives and works in Milwaukee, WI as an artist, curator, and educator. Before moving to Wisconsin Kowalczyk was the winter artist-in-resident at the Around the Coyote Gallery in Chicago.
After receiving his BFA in painting from Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in 2010, John began his residency with RedLine Milwaukee, where he curated gallery shows and taught workshops. Currently he is the artist-in-resident at Bay View High School. Kowalczyk’s work has been exhibited at the Sienna Art Institute in Italy, The Charles Allis Art Museum, The Harley Davidson Museum, The Cedarburg Cultural Center, and The Racine Art Center along with other galleries across the U.S. His work is comprised of mixed media paintings and installations that incorporate vintage fabrics, thrift store treasures, glitter and gold. The collaged elements of his paintings become more than the sum of their parts exhibiting a spiritual nature.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.