Ziemowat Maj emailed us recently to share a new series of his called ‘The Unpowerful.‘ The severity & loneliness of the compositions was appealing to me right away, but I was intrigued when he described the series as a depiction of ‘the current political scene’ in London. I didn’t pick up on that from the images, so I asked him to elaborate. This was his response -

” I try to depict the tensions I see in the British society as I see them daily on the street – to touch on the issues of class, gender, race (most visibly in the shot with the painting, but that theme in present
constantly, I find it absurd in England), current financial downhill and the way unprivileged classes here deal with it daily – and still I try to bypass the journalist tradition, as I’m not interested in working that way. I hope I can create more iconic and timeless images, that derive from current situations, but will be interesting after this conditions change as well. A lot of my work is instinct based, those major topics are in the back of my head, but I don’t shoot to ‘illustrate an idea’, I shoot when I ‘see a good image’ in front of me.”

I think this a great example of an artist forced into explaining one of the most fundamental aspects of their art and art in general. Tension. So often artists are forced to explain the subject matter of their work in literal contexts so that those interested can understand the message or statement they were trying to make. This can be a really difficult thing to do. That’s why you’ll often here artists begin an explanation of a work with what the piece is literally ‘about’ only for them to deflate the explanation later with ‘but it’s not really about that.’ This is because they are trying to communicate or capture elemental emotions or ideas that transcend the literal context in which they are represented. And so very often – this idea is tension or conflict.

If any of that can be deemed as reasonable, then the thing I often wonder about is whether the literal, contextual explanation is necessary for the piece to be deemed ‘good’ art. Does the piece need to tell a story or send a clear message, or can it just evoke an idea or a feeling in the viewer for them to interpret as they will? I go back and forth over whether the info cards at galleries are at all necessary because of this question. Do they add anything to the viewers experience? I would argue that on some occasions, they detract from work itself because it forces viewers down a certain channel of thinking and can completely alter how they interpret the piece. Which, in my opinion, negates the whole point of art.