Jan Delikat is an artist of Polish descent who lives in Montreal, Quebec. For me, his work www.jandelikat.com references the theater of life, grand occasions and simple pleasures that remind us that life is for living and enjoying while we can. I wanted to find out what truly inspires his work and I was glad to chat with him.
MICHAEL: Hey Jan, Your work is very elegant and looks like it's inspired by Romanticism. Is this the kind of world that you would like to live in? What inspires you to paint this way?
JAN: Hello Michael, thank you for inviting me to talk about my work. The technique is one common feature between my painting and Romanticism. I am using the traditional oil painting technique with monochromatic palette. In addition, my compositions are based on drawing. My education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow, Poland shaped my way of painting. Long drawing sessions spent with models or study of nature, taught me patience and perfection. However, I would not identify with Romanticism. An inspiration can be a book, a movie, a special place or a beautiful woman. I try to capture unique and rare moments. By creating art, I become part of it and this is my world. I consider my art as a stage in the theatre of painting.
MICHAEL: Your paintings actually glow. The way that you create light makes it appear that light is shining through them. How do you do this?
KAT: I never work on a blank canvas. I need to have previously worked the surface with patches of color. Based on the sketches, I prepare the ground for the future painting. I use often apparent random spots, put on and pounded with a spatula. I create multilayer glazes application, scratching and rubbing at the same time, revealing the hidden layer. Light shines so much better on dark background. A good craft, supported by skilled observation, can faithfully reproduce the play of light on the contours of objects and people. But to make images shine and paint the heat that warms, there must be something more. I'm using feelings to make my paintings glow.
MICHAEL: I understand. Your paintings seem to show happy times with people and life lived to the fullest in restaurants and in the city. Is this what you want people to see and feel?
JAN: We are living in a world of hurry and more or less forgetting to take time to be happy. Maybe in this colored mosaic of my paintings, some people will find a pleasure to be with an art piece. Through my paintings, I try to create a special atmosphere. Among many topics that I undertake, many places are in my compositions in which I create dozens of characters. The scenes of their meetings are often imaginary restaurants, streets, terraces, theatres, etc. I don't want to document a specific place or event. It is important to me to create an atmosphere and mood. In theatre, I am more interested in the audience than on what happens on stage. In ballroom dancing, figures on the floor are performing deliberate movements like paws on the game board. On terraces with multi-colored umbrellas and sophisticated ladies with glittering hats, sipping coffee, are flickering like scattered porcelain beads on colored carpet. On sunny days, I'm looking for shade and at night, I throw in the warm light of lanterns.
MICHAEL: What are you feeling while you're painting these things? Does this kind of painting give you a sense of control over your own life and the real world?
JAN: I feel like a director of a theatre, choosing my actors and giving them a space to perform. Painting gives me a sense of freedom and fulfillment. It meets my need for creativity and seems to be an endless source of inspiration. At the same time, I am aware of the responsibility involved with my profession. It is not just my hobby, I live off it. Years ago, above all, I had to take care of finding my place to work and needed my own studio. While I was living in Poland, I received the Elisabeth Greenshields Foundation grant. The objective of the foundation is to promote worthy artists. The mention confirmed that art is my destiny. At the same time, I met my life partner whose passion and profession is theatre design. She was from Canada and studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow, Poland. We came to Montreal in 1993 where we still live and I practice my art, painting and making exhibitions in galleries. Finally, I had my studio built on top of my bungalow. And now I can dedicate myself to painting, an everyday discipline.
MICHAEL: How does Life in Montreal influence your work? Is Montreal a cool art city?
JAN: Montreal is a very multicultural city and European too. I feel at home with the old architectural buildings and the rich cultural life. We have a very cold winter and a hot summer. There are many indoor and outdoor summer festivals, art shows, streets filed with many people and animated evening terraces. A city with such a hot atmosphere has an influence on my paintings and precisely on my palette that I use. The monochromatic hues are enriched by color.
MICHAEL: Your work makes me think about Toulouse Lautrec. Of course, the styles are different, but the message I get from both of you is that we should live life to the fullest. Given that, does it matter whether or not people focus on your technique?
JAN: When a painting is finished, it has to defend himself. If the message contained in the art work is clear, then the chosen technique is appropriate. The biggest satisfaction is when the painting is well received and understood. Recently, I have been rewarded for a painting, “LA VALSE EN ROND,” purchased by a mature couple. Upon reception, they wrote: "J... and I fell in love again and danced with the painting.” Sometimes I wonder what is happening with my paintings after they find the owner. For this one, I'm not worried. I already know; it's dancing. What happens to the rest? Seriously, I would hope that my art will become immortal like the paintings of the great Toulouse Lautrec. Your comparison, Michael is an honor for me.
MICHAEL: Poland strikes me as a country that's rich in artistry and creative history. What was it like to study art there? Do you miss home?
JAN: I agree with you, art plays a crucial role in the minds of Polish people. For many generations, it was an important element in keeping the hope of freedom and to maintain Polish nationality. The period of my studies at the Academy of Fine Arts was an opportunity to grow up in an artistic environment. This time was very important to form my idea of art. The most significant lesson that I got in school was to understand that the value of art is not in the materials used, but in the spirit and the energy that comes out. What counts are the idea and originality. Artists need to have a daily practice to improve their technique and manual skills. There is no other city like Cracow where in every stone there is a history and a legend written. I will always have nostalgia to my roots, but my home is where I am.
MICHAEL: Technology is changing the way art is created for many artists. Do you use any technology in your work? Do you trust it?
JAN: As an artist, I am sensitive to everything that is going around and it has influences on my work. I use technology to communicate, to document my work, but it remains only a tool for me. I don't make compositions of my paintings on screen, I realize it on canvas and I mix colors on palette. Technology surprises with new inventions. Digital Art is fascinating. The computer provides unlimited possibilities for transforming the image, the color, scaling, the use of layers, etc. Can we expect that art will remain what it was for Rembrandt? In the fifteenth century, for Jan Van Eyck, color was the staining mixture. For the impressionists, it was a game of waves that blended in nature, on canvas and in the eyes of the painters and the viewers. Are we going to judge a painting in the future, by pixel resolution and memory on the hard drive? I don't think that technology can replace a painting, it can be used as a medium, as a tool in the hands of an artist. Many confuse art with technology. Most innovators don't know how to draw properly a horse, but nearly all of them are capable of brilliant and concise justifications and advertisement for their work. On one hand, a large number of electronic toys and new tools of creation are making an impression. On the other hand, all this worries, because of the mass phenomena it is not easy to find something special … something that moves, that is an outstanding work that not only stays in my memory, but in the long term "memory" or in the art history.
MICHAEL: What do you think about the art world today? Do you feel embraced or alienated by it?
JAN: Each generation of creators is opposed to the previous generation. Yesterday art no longer pleases anyone. The artist profession has ceased to be regarded as a combination of talent and experience. All rules and restrictions have been abolished. Everything is possible in art. A huge responsibility falls upon the one who has to choose in thousands of creative opportunities. There are so many new styles and media, but I'm sure that the traditional drawing and painting will remain forever. Will my paintings survive? Time will answer that question. Do I have a place in contemporary art? Van Gogh wrote in one of his last letters "...we can speak only through our paintings..." Since you Michael, have paid attention to my art, than it can fit in contemporary art world.
MICHAEL: Thanks Jan, this has been great and I love your work.
JAN: I'm not strong in words. Thank you, we'll keep in touch.
MICHAEL: You were great. Thanks again.
Check out Jan Delikat’s work at www.jandelikat.com