Behind The Canvas: Interview with Marta Lech

01.07 by Marta Lech

 

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Marta Lech. I live and work in my hometown of Wrocław, Poland. My artistic practice consists of printmaking, drawing and painting. I am also an instructor at Open Printmaking Studio for children, youth and adults.

 

Tell us a little bit about your process…

I usually begin my work on dark plain surfaces. No matter which technique I choose, blackness is the most natural space for me to begin my artistic creation. Thus linocut has become my favorite graphic medium. The technique is very simple. There is a cut on a plain. There is a pure white or pure black.

The whole process of cutting the mold is time-consuming.  However, the preparations before I start take much longer. This includes the following: taking photos, choosing and sketching the motives, then analyzing and clearing it from unnecessary and distracting elements, and finally finding the crucial ones and deciding about the unique arrangement of the light.  This preparation process demands both immense concentration and patience. This involves part logic, part intuitive thinking. The final process of cutting the mold assumes a form of meditation.

 

You are a Teacher in your field. How did your decision to teach come about?

I could call it rather an accident than my aware decision in a sense. Thanks to my artistic achievements – several international prizes and awards – I was offered to set up and open for the public: The Printmaking Studio. The workshop was supposed to create the conditions to further my artwork, and make the idea of printmaking popular among people not really connected to an artistic environment. At the beginning I had some doubts regarding my pedagogical skills, but now I am grateful for the given opportunity. It makes me satisfied to see people getting involved in a printmaking theme. Observing children’s creativity, spontaneity, forthright attitude and fun also gives me a refreshing view.

 

What are you currently working on?

I hack through piles of photos, my computer is cracking. As the photos are usually the main inspiration at the beginning of the graphic process I am taking a lot of them.

 

What inspires your work? Is there a specific theme that runs through this body of work?

My graphic work constantly revolves around the motive of light. I look for situations in which the light causes the illusory impression of measured, finite structure.  I trace the moments when it seems possible to be seized within the limits of my concept about the world and space.

There are more light-sensitive techniques than linocut. Photography or drawing, lithography and mezzotint allow very subtle value transitions. But when I strive to catch its volatile images in the material, try to fix on paper the atmosphere and image of the delicate light closed in the space of gloom.  I prefer to work with a chisel, not a soft pencil when I have to make clear decisions, mark separate points, locate the rays, and establish the surfaces with a confident cut.  I approach/reach the feeling of revealing the rules in which light appears on the surface – fills the space.

I often wait before I find the right motif, so I collect photographs. The topic develops until I find the “structure” of light, which involves me entirely and motivates me to take up the arduous work. That’s why I don’t have an imposing amount of linocut works to present. There are only nine of them created during the last several years.

 

03.06 by Marta Lech

 

How has your practice changed over time?

At the very beginning of my graphic studies I made a couple of portraits, but while working on that task I quickly discovered surprising and amazing possibilities that linocut gives while illustrating the challenging phenomenon of a visual definition for light, space and movement.

At the very beginning of my work on the “Light” print series, I mainly applied photographs, which were aesthetically valuable themselves. I am currently discovering inspiring motives in less picturesque, common urban sceneries, interiors and setups.

 

Are the sizes of your prints unusual?

Not really. In fact it’s the most common format I can use – B1. The thought of being able to design large format linocuts to strengthen the illumination effect is very tempting but the size of my prints is limited by the size of the press.

Because I do my best to take part in graphic events and exhibitions it is also convenient to keep such common formats of the prints so that they are easy to pack, send and frame.

 

Name an artist you most identify with…

I am aware of an immense influence by Mark Rothko’s artwork. I was strongly impressed by his paintings when I was studying, and I can say they had a great impact on me while the style of my expression was evolving and crystallizing the most. I suppose this fascination started my pursuit of simplicity and aesthetic signs of expression.

 

In the world of printmaking, who has been your biggest inspiration and model?

When it comes to printmaking work it is a very personal process. I look for inspiration deeply based on my own observations, intuition and emotions in life. In principle, I prefer not to divide the artistic world into particular fields of artistic activities. I am impressed by an artist’s work that deals with topics I am not able to confront myself. I love the sociable art of Chris Johanson, and I am crazy about the abundance in Tal R’s works.

Among the polish artists I am fascinated with the thoughtful and highly aesthetic video projects of Dominik Lejman.

 

At what age or moment did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?

Such a moment is impossible to indicate.. As far as I am looking back in my memories I was drawing constantly and liked it the most. I couldn’t imagine to stop doing it.

 

02.06 by Marta Lech

 

What’s your strongest memory of your childhood?

My childhood memories are fairly blurry. The earliest one is the moment when I was about 4 and my family moved into a new flat on the third floor on the block. I clearly remember climbing up the fence of the balcony and hiding in an empty flowerbed. I remember my parents’ petrified faces when they found me, and saw how dangerous of an idea it was.

 

What jobs have you done other than being an artist?

I used to work as a receptionist in a hostel, a shop assistant for a newsagent, a painter in a painting factory, a graphic designer, and for the last 3 years I worked as a tennis instructor.

 

Is there anything you would change about your lifestyle as an artist and Teacher?

Nowadays sharing my attention between teaching and creating seems to be well balanced. After giving up all my non-artistic jobs, I wish to be more resourceful and confident in terms of accomplishing my projects as well as organizing exhibitions.

 

19.04 by Marta Lech

 

Is there research involved in the way you use the medium?

Rather not. Considering the technical process, my work has not changed much, apart from me being a bit more of a skilled engraver. I have chosen linocut because of its extreme simplicity and roughness. The constraints of this technique have led me to what is crucial in my search in the theme of light, thanks to which I have avoided it’s rather sentimental, nostalgic and blurry depictions.

 

Where do you think printmaking stands today?

It’s a very difficult question. I am happy to have noticed that there are more and more graphic contests and biennales open to various experiments or installations including printmaking as a co-creating medium. It enables treating graphics without restraint, seeing it as one of the various accessible means of expression, and not a restrained world of professional graphic artists emphasizing focus on extraordinary technical values and skills.

 

What is your dream project?

Well, it’s so dark in it, you can hardly see anything when you are in it…

 

What wouldn’t you do without?

There is no such a thing … but my bike.

I am joking of course.

There is a lot.

 

 

For more information on Marta Lech and her practice, visit her at martalech.wordpress.com.

 

5 Comments

  1. Seamus Green says:

    Really Stunning!! I love how the prints are open for the viewer to impress their own imaginations onto the image.

    Reply
  2. 03.06, the table and chair piece is brilliant. Simplicity combined with complexity; is a real gem.
    great works Marta!

    Reply
  3. David Walker says:

    It’s the most powerful work I’ve seen in a long time.
    I can see the Rothko influence.
    There must be an emotional release when viewing the work in the flesh.
    Your work appears to search deep into the soul of Poland’s past.
    In the future I hope you attain the respect you deserve.

    Reply

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