Mikołaj Malesza is a painter, scenographer and a sculptor sometimes…
The body of his work is very extensive and perhaps there is no need to introduce it as Mikołaj says (especially with regard to painting) that if someone does not understand a painting, is not able to experience it, it means that this painting is dead to him and no explanations can revive it. However, it is good to know certain things about Mikołaj in order to understand the essence of his work, especially of his paintings. Mikołaj Malesza was born in 1954 to an orthodox family in the little Polish town of Krynki. Until the age of fifteen, he lived on the edge of the Knyszyn Forest, in the village of Trzciano Nowe, situated thirty kilometres from Białystok (the largest city in north-eastern Poland). In order to get to school, he had to go a long distance through the forest. He recollects those journeys with pleasure... In order to get to an entrance exam in the Secondary School of Fine Arts in Supraśl, he had to ride 20 kilometres on a bike... In the school he used to draw, sculpt and make wooden stools. During five years of study in Supraśl, only once did he visit a puppet theatre. In 1974 he got into the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, the Faculty of Interior Architecture (Art Exhibition). A lecturer that he highly appreciated was Jacek Damięcki. Mikołaj liked his unconventional way of thinking. Mikołaj became his assistant and worked for two years at the Academy, which he left in the early 80s together with Jacek Damięcki. In this way, Mikołaj began his life-long adventure with painting, and soon later (in 1985) – the adventure with theatre (especially puppet theatre). Many years of intense work in those both fields resulted in a considerable body of work as well as numerous awards.
The place where Mikołaj was born, where he spent his childhood and youth, influenced the way he perceives the world and made him develop a specific sensitivity. The influences of the unusual nature, orthodox religion, characteristic rural community and the world of animals can still be seen in his paintings (especially in the cycle “Return"). It also concerns his work as a scenographer.
Also the cycle “Closer to Animals” develops in a natural way as it is based on the painter's rich experience with the world of nature, too. This is what Mikołaj says: “The world of my painting consists mainly of people, however, it also comprises birds, cats, pigs (both the real and imaginary ones) – a whole big menagerie. This is the world which lives in me, which I evoke, standing with fear in front of the painting's white surface. At the beginning of my way I was impatient, I wanted to show too much at once – as if the lens of my eye watched the reality in perspective. Now I try to watch it closely, thus I can see less, but deeper – or at least I hope so. Painting gives me the possibility of an intimate statement – or even confession. The world of human menagerie is filled with animals and birds with human faces. They hug, they love and they hate. They miss, they cry and they pass away…”. Both in painting and in theatre, Mikołaj is interested in such situations in which a man with a hideous face can find something very human in himself, so that we can say: this is a deeply unhappy person, but I understand him, I agree with him, he is close to me… In Mikołaj’s theatre, ugly puppets play good people.
The cycle “Beyond the Word” is a response to various kinds of existential experience – it is dominated by the need of synthesis, metaphor and metaphysics.
Mikołaj says that he is not a “painter of one painting”. He likes various inspirations and he uses them. In his works we can find references to naïve art, surrealism, realism and abstraction. The paintings in the cycle “Between Painting and Theatre” are mostly the result of his meetings with theatre. And there were a lot of such meetings – and they were very diverse as Mikołaj has designed scenography for around 70 theatre plays.
© 2015 Mikołaj Malesza