We are no strangers to imagery that captures the beauty of the everyday: from plastic bags dancing in the wind to Wolfgang Tillman’s sausages, we know that the ephemeral can be found in fridges and car-parks everywhere. It is a wonderful thing to enjoy these moments privately, but in terms of art, what is moving for one individual often appears cliché in a gallery space. The Maciejowski exhibition at the Wilkinson Gallery on Vyner Street satirizes this kind of ‘ethereal’ aesthetic with gentle wit. His playful use of imagery is combined with earnest dedication to the process of painting.

A wry sense of beauty is manifest in his paintings of people dancing in pubs and house-parties.  His painting entitled She is inspired by everyday reality, moments, light, depicts a girl walking through a field holding a camera. This is balanced by his painting Girl Reading on the opposite wall, in which the natural slouch and contemporary clothing of the girl reading make the image feel warm and familiar.  His paintings are often tender, but perhaps slightly teasing, portrayals of hipsters, indie girls and art students. The up-to-date feeling of his paintings gives them temporal relevance and vitality: we feel drawn to each character through the familiarity of their clothes and body language. 

Maciejowski directly references impressionist artists in his distinctive painting style, and particularly in his painting entitled Could Renoir really be wrong?. He also likens himself to Van Gogh in Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear. These echoes of impressionism appear within a contemporary context, and Maciejowski fuses it with other styles, such as that of a graphic novel. He is proudly aware of his role as a painter who is continuing a narrative of historical art practice. The luminous glow of skin and gloss of hair in paintings such as Woman arranging hair in a bun, have a photo-realistic texture. But the soft focus and absence of intricate detail loosens the formality of the image. His paintings have a poetic honesty, which sharpens in the imagination, and avoids the bluntness sometimes found in more slick photorealistic painting styles.

Another interesting painting technique throughout many of Maciejowski’s works is his use of angles and the way in which he obscures certain details, such as the book in Girl Reading. This gives the images a photographic sense of having captured a fleeting moment.  It also echoes one of the main characteristics of impressionism, but adds contemporary awareness to the immediacy of the image.

Simple and light, this exhibition is refreshingly self-aware, without being dismissive of ‘the beauty of the everyday’. There is something fatherly in Maciejowski’s portrayals of individuals.  His detachment from each character he paints is that of a compassionate observer.  He is mindful of his role as an artist, without being cynical. Maciejowski's passion for painting is evident in the big, bold canvases and in textural quality of his brushstrokes. And the humorous banality of his subject matter is simultaneously enchanting and satirical.

Marcin Maciejowski, at Wilkinson GalleryJessica Shepherd reviews Marcin Maciejowski at Wilkinson Gallery.3