Manc of the Month: Karol Kochanowski

With so many exhibitions and awards under his belt, not to mention his amazing paintings full of texture and depth, it is no wonder artist Karol Kochanowski is this October’s Manc of the Month! It has been a pleasure to find out more about Karol, why and how he paints, and find out who his favourite artists are.

Cotton On MCR: Please introduce yourself and your work to the readers.

Karol Kochanowski: ‘Hi, I’m Karol Kochanowski and I’m an artist. I’ve been creative since I can remember but only after graduating from BA Fine Art in Manchester in 2013 have I labelled myself as a contemporary painter. I mainly paint with oil paints, occasionally mixing them with various painting mediums, on canvas, sometimes paper. You could describe my works as abstract, non representative forms, often with elements of geometry and architecture. I’m interested in exploring themes such as subconsciousness, the idea of absurdity and dreamlike logic.’

CO: What attracts you to working with oil paint?

KK: ‘Oil paint is as beautiful as frustrating to work with medium. And I like challenges. When I create and feel too much in a comfort zone I know there’s something not right, that I’m not pushing myself enough. Therefore, I choose to work with oils, as there’s always something new to learn about working with them. I also like natural materials and I have a weak spot for traditional methods of making things and observing how they find themselves in contemporary settings.’

Resolutions (2018)

CO: We are particularly drawn to the textures in your work, how did you develop that style?

KK: ‘When I started working with oils during my time at the university, I didn’t really know how to use them, therefore I have been improvising, playing around with the medium and letting it decide where the work will take me. My paintings then were quite expressive. The brush strokes on a canvas were reminding me of textures you could see in real life, like patterns on a piece of wood for example. I have taken it forward and started using things like squeegees, pieces of cloth or my fingers and mixing paint with a wax paste which helps to preserve the marks on a specially prepared surface.’

S19E01 (2019)

CO: You seem to have been a part of quite a lot of exhibitions and competitions worldwide, how have you found the process, and which place was your favourite to exhibit in?

KK: ‘Having a great exposition and being around like minded people, not only on your local scene, has always been my aim. I think the mindset of “learning from your all successes and failures” has helped me to stay focused and to grow. I don’t have a favourite place I have exhibited in, it keeps changing. I can say something about important places or rather moments. My first group exhibition abroad in the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh in the US and my first solo show, at People’s History Museum in Manchester, I have managed with the support from Manchester Pride. Those events that had taken place not long after my graduation gave me a massive confidence boost towards building my career as an artist.’

CO: You took part in the HOME mcr Manchester Open and you won a prize! Congratulations, can you tell us more about that?

KK: ‘At first, I saw it as a great opportunity to show my works to the HOME audience, the same place where my idol David Lynch would exhibit a couple of months earlier. The opening night was, I believe the biggest exhibition preview I have ever experienced, plus it was wonderful to see literally almost everyone you know in the Manchester art scene in one place at the same time.’

Gossamer (2017)

‘It was truly uplifting to see my name on the shortlist for the Granada Foundation Gallery Exhibition Prize next to the names of excellent artists I admire. I was not expecting to win, I hadn’t had this thought even for a moment, therefore,  it was a pretty intense, beautiful feeling when I heard someone calling me at the stage to pick up my prize. Part of the award is a solo exhibition at HOME in 2021. Now my hands are full working towards the exhibition.’

CO: What is your favourite piece you’ve made and why?

KK: ‘I keep moving forward in my work as a painter, keep improving and expanding, therefore, usually it feels like the latest painting is my favourite. I’m working on a new body of work towards my solo exhibition at HOME lately. I can’t tell more than that: it’s a small painting, quite minimalistic, it reminds me of that black monolith from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.’

class (2018)

CO: Manchester vs Poland – which has a better art scene?

KK: ‘I can’t answer this question to be fair. There is quite a lot happening in arts in Poland at the moment but I’ve spent most of my so far adult life here in the UK and I really think Manchester’s art scene is exciting and it keeps growing. One of my future aims is to get to know more about the contemporary art scene in Poland, I still haven’t exhibited in my own motherland!’

CO: If you could speak to any artist, past or present, who would it be and why?

KK: ‘David Lynch, I have no idea what I would ask him but I’m truly grateful to him for bringing back to me my passion towards mindfulness. His book Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity is a tiny gem which helped me in difficult anxious moments of so called stagnation. Plus, Mulholland Drive is my favourite film of all time!’

A thin husk 17.09 (2017)

CO: What would be your perfect weekend?

KK: ‘That’s easy, late spring somewhere in the Polish countryside without access to the internet, TV or telephone. Make it a year.’

CO: Lastly, if you were to live in any artwork, be it painting, photograph or sculpture etc, what would it be and why?

KK: ‘It would have to be a truly entertaining, large and busy piece of art. The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymous Bosch I presume. I’m a surrealist by nature, I like odd things and the world presented in Bosch’s painting is pretty entertaining. It’s one of those pieces I look at and each time I see different elements. Also, who wouldn’t like to meet God himself?’

The Garden of Earthly Delights


Find out more about Karol’s work on his website – karol-kochanowski.com

Read more articles and Manc of the Month features on our blog.

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