Karol Bąk was born on May 30, 1961 in Koło in the Greater Poland Voivodeship. He graduated from the Secondary School of Fine Arts in Poznań and received a diploma in interior exhibitor. In 1984, he began studies at the Faculty of Graphics at the State Higher School of Fine Arts (now the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań). The artist knew from the very beginning which path of education he wanted to choose – Painting, Graphics, Sculpture was a prestigious field and was perceived as “the direction of pure art”. He knew it was the most appropriate choice for him. He graduated in 1989 with two diplomas with honors, both in graphics, with professor Tadeusz Jackowski, and in drawing, in the studio of professor Jarosław Kozłowski. The artist, recalling his final exam, says:
In the Art Exhibitions Office in Poznań, in two large rooms, I presented works of drawing and graphics with two promoters. In graphics, mostly in the copperplate technique, I tried to convey my perception of timeless content and values in my works. However, in large drawing works I showed myself in the current reality and looking for answers to difficult current questions. For example, one drawing with dimensions of 2m x 8m showing life-size Zomists in combat formation en face. As a counter, a barricade made of chaotically arranged chairs was placed in the shape of a semicircle in front of the drawing. It was a kind of “installation”. He was also, among others 3m x 3m self-portrait referring to the golden proportions of Leonardo da Vinci.
The professors under whose supervision he did both diplomas had a significant influence on the development of the nature of the painter’s work. Tadeusz Jackowski (born 1936) tried to create illusions in his art, to deceive the viewer’s eye. He mixed various techniques, among the less standard ones were engraving and painting with his hands. Jarosław Kozłowski (born 1945) has been exhibiting his works since the end of the 1960s and most often realizes them in the form of installations using media such as drawing, sound, light, photography, and also performs performance. It was related to the conceptual trend. He treats art idealistically, as a domain of freedom, unrestrained by any conventions.
Karol Bąk could take over from Tadeusz Jackowski his passion for graphics and drawing as well as play with illusions, while Jarosław Kozłowski conveyed to him the desire to create free art that everyone would read depending on the context.
He perfected his painting workshop with Andrzej Maciej Łubowski at the Secondary School of Arts, and already during his studies with prof. Andrzej Kurzawski.
In 1989, Karol Bąk graduated with two diplomas with honors – for his graphics he received the “Diploma 89” award in Toruń. The following year, he took part in the “21st Post-competition Exhibition for the best graphics and drawing of the year for the Jan Wroniecki “. In the category of graphics, he took first place. As we read in the archival text of the Arsenał municipal gallery in Poznań, by Danuta Kudty:
Undoubtedly, most of the participants of the J. Wroniecki, both in graphics and in drawing, she remained faithful to the reliability of the classic technique. And it must be admitted that their workshop is perfectly mastered. Many artists, especially young ones, enjoy expressing themselves in difficult metal techniques as well as in equally labor-intensive, carefully chiseled drawings. However, the traditional workshop is used by young artists to convey new ambiguous content. Behind the camouflage of technical perfectionism, there are important symbols and metaphors, subtexts and understatements … Among the drawings and graphics presented at the post-competition exhibition, the winners’ works undoubtedly stand out. First of all, the precisely made copperplate engraving by Karol Bąk, with the image of a metaphysical pyramid, awarded with the 1st prize and the J. Wroniecki Medal. (…) The graphics and drawings presented in this exhibition are usually more than just a soulless display of technical skills. They hide a lot of emotions and ambiguous content. They are a reflection of the reality that surrounds us, a record of fragments of contemporary human existence, often dramatic.
The work presented by Karol Bąk was entitled The Triangle Mystery. The aim of the graphic arts was to search for an answer to the question about the meaning of perceiving, describing and learning about the world using scientific and mathematical methods. The drawing of the pyramid was based on the principle of dividing the golden triangle, and the graph, made according to the pattern, spread indefinitely.
The first years after graduation, the artist mainly created drawings and copperplate engravings, in which one can find the characteristics of his later style. However, not only these techniques were close to him, because, as he himself said in an interview for the magazine “Food & Life”:
I’ve been looking for my way for a long time and I think I’m still looking. After all, it is not the destination that matters, but the arduous journey (…). While still a student, I started with drawings and graphics, I explored the world of sketches and frescoes. For some time, I also focused on modern art: abstractions, performances and installations, and finally, after many years, I reached oil painting.
In the following years, he was mainly involved in commercial design, including: magazine covers, stands for the Poznań International Fair, the first billboards and advertisements on trams, perfume packaging, company logos, tattoos, public and private interiors. It was not yet the time to break through with your artistic works.
In the early 1990s, he set off on several journeys to get to know and feel the uniqueness of the most important places for Western European art. In addition to intentionally visited museums in Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Spain, there were also places visited spontaneously and without planning. The artist often earned money while traveling by drawing portraits. He also mentions an unusual meeting:
… in Leer, I lived in the castle of an aristocrat I met by accident, where I painted copies of his private, original “Dutch”.
His artistic journeys, the longest of which lasted two months, allowed him to revise his views on the works of famous artists, but whose works did not make a great impression on him, as well as those less known, whose pictures he discovered in provincial museums. Nevertheless, the painter takes nothing away from famous artists and works.
It was surprisingly wonderful to deal with the originals, incl. Rembrandt, El Greco, Vermeer, Grünewald, Bellini, Greek and Roman sculptures, medieval and gothic architecture, wonderful cathedrals, ancient amphitheatres, (…) Nuremberg – Dürer, Chartres Cathedral, Lyon, Avila like from a fairy tale, Porta Niger in Trier, Brussels with an amazing drawing museum – seven floors underground (…).
Seeing with his own eyes many works of art important for culture allowed him to develop his own perception of the world of art, and thus create an original style.
I get my inspiration wherever I can, I look at the world from this angle, I have seen many masterpieces of art and developed my values of beauty and aesthetics.
In the second half of the 90s, he turned towards oil painting, which he has been dealing with professionally since 2000. In December 2010, in an interview for Food & Life, he told what oil painting was for him.
The technique of oil painting is closest to me because of the technique, freedom and freedom that colors give me and the very way of presenting a given painting. Style and technique allow me to achieve a state of concentration that triggers a huge dose of inspiration. I can create illusory images saturated with color and emotions, but stick to a specific form.
For several years, Karol Bąk painted several hundred oil paintings, which constitute the largest, but not the only part of his artistic output. The artist also created graphics, ink drawings, pastel portraits, pencil sketches, and wall frescoes. These works differ not only in technique, but in the way they are perceived. Oil painting can be considered the brighter and cheer side of the artistic soul, while drawings and sketches are the darker and more sinister aspect of creativity. Both of these elements are combined in the thematic cycles created over the years – Sailing ships and Dialogues. Apart from them, in oil painting there are also Cocoons, Aureoles, Four Elements, Judyta and Salome, Prima Mobilia and the series Nocturnes inspired by the music of Fryderyk Chopin, on the occasion of the Chopin Year 2010.
Since 1988, the artist has had over a dozen individual exhibitions and participated in several dozen collective exhibitions. Among the latter, e.g. Polish Surrealists (Warsaw 2008), ART.-EXPO (New York, Las Vegas 2008), Primavera (Rotterdam, the Netherlands 2008 and 2009), Magic of women The Charm of Flowers (Sopot 2009), Magical Dreams (Włocławek 2011), Art Revolution Taipei (Taipei, Taiwan 2012 and 2013), ARTEUOMO (Rome, Italy 2012), Magical Dreams II (Szczyrk 2013). His works also became an inspiration for students of the Academy of Art in Warsaw, who, based on the costumes created in the paintings, designed their own creations. He took part in international plein-airs in Poland and abroad, incl. in Segovia, Spain.
Currently, Karol Bąk cooperates with over a dozen showrooms in Poland and around the world.
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