Catching Up With: Leo Poloniecki


Leo Poloniecki is a British artist based in Singapore. He has been painting for 20 years and his work is owned by collectors all over the world, but particularly Europe and America.

His work is largely abstract, communicating emotion through the use of colour, line and texture. His paintings can often appear simple at first, but each one takes up to six months to complete and, on closer examination, glimpses of the many layers of the history of the painting reveal a richer journey.

Leo Poloniecki’s solo show, Black and White, is an exhibition of paintings in a fully black and white color scheme. With each of the works measuring 67 x 100cm, these are big paintings with a big monochromic impact.

In terms of color, this show is in direct contrast to Poloniecki’s previous series which were full of bright, bold colors, but he sticks to his artistic roots with a continuation of his signature geometric form and structure.

Tell us what inspires you to create?

I have absolutely no idea where the creative impulse comes from, but it’s something that constantly nags at you to respond. Personally, I am never more content than when absorbed in a painting (answering the call, if you like). And there’s nothing more satisfying than reaching the end point where you are finally happy with the work.

Who or what has influenced you as an artist?

I went to school in the English countryside, and my art teacher there was essentially an impressionist painter who was interested in the way the light fell on a field or a landscape. So I began by learning the painterly techniques used by Monet, Corot and Renoir, which was a good grounding in the formalities of composition, colour and light. When I went to art school, I discovered the abstract expressionists – DeKooning, Pollock, Kline, Motherwell, Rothko. They were much more exciting to me. I loved their work and what they were doing and that directly influenced the work I now make.

What is your process?

I start with a general concept for a series of works. I work in series because I like the cumulative impact of a series of related work, when exhibited together. I also think I have a somewhat obsessive personality, so I like to explore a topic until I’ve absolutely exhausted it. In terms of each individual painting, I paint in layers. And I will work on several paintings simultaneously. So while one layer is drying on one painting, I might be working on a fresh layer on another painting. In the case of these new black & white paintings, they began with very loose, very gestural charcoal sketches. These then ‘firmed up’ into something much more formal and structured. Each painting goes through a long journey (probably at least a dozen layers) before it reaches its final destination.

Do you find that in the process of new discovery, there is a common theme that runs throughout your artworks?

Formally, I think the tension that’s always been consistent in my work is between absolute freedom (think of Franz Klein’s liberated brushstrokes) and structure that prevents the work becoming too anarchic. In some ways I like the idea of each finished painting as an end point for that conversation. Even in these black & white paintings, which are apparently quite rigidly structured, there is still something a bit ‘off’ or asymmetrical about each one. This is the painting resisting being too perfect or well behaved, which I find satisfying.

Tell us about this current Black & White series. Was there a reason behind going monochromatic?

I love working in colour – it’s very seductive. But colour can disguise weaknesses in structure, drawing and design. Choosing to paint in monochrome was an active decision to deepen the investigations into geometric form that I had begun with the colourful E&A series. By taking away colour, and by painting on a larger scale (over A0 size, compared to A3 size for the E&A series), I knew that this work would be more challenging and less forgiving. But if it worked, my hope was that the paintings would be extremely striking and powerful. I also wondered if, without colour, I might end up with a series of nearly identical paintings, but what I love is how different they all feel, despite containing the same basic ingredients. I have my favourites, of course.

What do you have in store for 2015?

For one thing, I think it’s time to leave the structure of geometric form to one side for a while! Usually, the next series of paintings you make are a reaction against the last. So I suspect 2015 will involve bringing narrative and the human form back into the work. Right now, I have begun work on a series of large scale works for Red Sea Gallery, using gold leaf, which I’m enjoying very much.


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