Multi-disciplinary artist Michal Maka from Kalisz, Poland uses sharp colours and geometric forms to create interventions in urban spaces. Maka draws inspiration from both spaces and people. In this interview, Maka talks to us about sneaking out on his first painting excursions and his current attempt to visualise the Pythagorean Theorem!
Please tell us a little bit about yourself!
My name is Michal Maka. I am from Kalisz in Poland. I am 27 years old.
I am a graduate of the Masters programme in Visual Arts at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Pedagogical and Artistic Department in Kalisz.
I developed both my street art and easel painting in the painting workshop under the direction of professor Marek Zaborowski and PhD Joanna Dudek. I also made work in the graphic workshop which is managed by professor Maciej Guzniczak.
I deal with a painting, graphics, photography, and street art. Often as a surface or subject I use things encountered in urban space (old newspapers, sheets metal, windowpanes, leaflets). I give them a second life.
How long have you been making art? How did you start?
Art has been important to me for a long time. As a child I attended a visual arts workshop in my home town. In around 2000 I discovered the art of graffiti when I was reading a polish magazine about the culture of hip hop which was called “Slizg”. There were photographs of graffiti, mainly painted trains. Fascinated by this, I started to write my name and paint simple letters. Most of the projects were not on the walls and have never come to light.
No one really knew about my passion, I was sneaking out of the house in the evenings and I bought spray cans with the money I saved. I was working alone, I have never belonged to a group. I had never taken painting seriously, it was always my hobby. Around 2008 I discovered stencils. It was the second beginning of my creativity. After an unsuccessful attempt to study land management and trying out working abroad, another waste of time, I came to a conclusion that the only way of my life is art. In 2010 I started studying Art and in 2015 I graduated with a distinction.
Painting on the street is a lot different to paper – how did you make this transition?
Painting on the streets and in the abandoned places are the most important things to me. This becomes my inspiration to try and reflect on a canvas or another surface. A work from the street should not be located in an art gallery and should not be cut out (as they do it with Banksy’s works). The street is its natural environment, the only way to show it is through photography. A painting on a canvas can be shown in various galleries, then the art becomes mobile.
Do you do legal or illegal pieces?
50% illegally, 50% legally.
Who do you paint for?
I paint for people, for every one who goes out, who goes away from a computer and log out of Facebook to experience their life, not only through photos and snapchat. Recently I was painting in a very poor district of my city. The project was called “Art in the window”. I was painting children’s portraits combined with geometry found in the windows of the abandoned tenement house. I was painting 6 portraits for a month at various time intervals. I had no idea that I would become such an important person for these children.
They were keeping me a company while I was painting, they always waited for the next visit. They were telling me about their life that they would like to go somewhere and see something different. I did not expect that I would make them so happy by doing these portraits. I could show them that it is possible to live differently, to live like they would like to, instead of following in an alcoholic father’s footsteps.
What styles/materials/techniques inspire you?
Abstraction, in action-painting and an abstract expressionism have always been my inspiration. In my latest compositions I am inspired by geometry, optical art and illusionist painting. I try to integrate all my creative experiences. I am still cutting stencils which I neglected just a little bit because of a geometry.
If resources were no issue, what would you create/do?
I would paint a moon.
Where is the best place in the world to be a graffiti artist?
It is a hard question. There are many interesting cities which have a rich culture of graffiti, and where someone can create. I would love to spend some time in Detroit and visit post-industrial abandoned buildings where I would like to leave some of my works. In my headphones I would play J Dilla’s beats. He was from this city. It could empathise with a given place both visually and musically. I like forgotten places which were once teeming with life. These places have a magic. I would like to revive these areas with art.
What life experiences led you to the work you do now?
The works ‘Selfie’ and ‘Women Clones’ are about narcissistic behaviour and the idea of achieving perfection through plastic surgery, designer clothes and gadgets. Which can then be bragged about on social media. It is all just to achieve a false sense of recognition. I took this idea further by combining geometry and a character.
I started to get into the geometrical part, resulting in my “Geometric Intervention” series which were painted in 2016. Currently, I am working on project “Geometry of sound” in which I try to visualise the Pythagorean Theorem.
What else have you been up to recently? What are your plans for the future?
Now I am preparing to painting my first big wall. I am painting it in the spring in Olsztyn in Poland for University of Warmia and Mazury, on the building of art department. In the summer I would like to go to the US to make some of work.
Do you have any other projects/goals aside from in graffiti/street art?
I do not have projects which are not related to art because everything in my life relates to it.
What other questions should we ask you?
Am I a happy person? Yes, of course I am! 😉
All photos courtesy of Michal Maka.