Painting – Marek Okrassa at the Wiedemann House

Marek Okrassa’s paintings transport the eye far away to the clouds and the unknown, but at the same time direct it to the open doors of elegant hotels of major metropolises. The painter invites the viewer on a journey towards the blue sea, towards the expanses of the sky that a person can touch from a modern aeroplane. The world portrayed by Okrassa is La Dolce Vita – here somewhere echoes of the discussions of distinguished people, residents of Rome or Venice – can be heard. The sounds of glasses of wine, louder laughter, retorts, long-winded analyses about temporality, but also dreams, illusions. Great Beauty enchanted in the elaborate costumes of the women and the men in suits accompanying them. Maybe their conversations are not trivial, maybe it is in the white gloves of charming gestures and smiles that they express the worst about themselves. The smell of perfume, expensive limousines parked under century-old massive blocks of hotels or embassies, yachts at the harbor, the sounds of a transverse flute concert, laughter, muslin curtains in high windows – these are the frames portrayed.

The exhibition, entitled Straight Painting, consists of nine paintings painted with acrylic marker and traditional oil technique. Some of the canvases are more drawing-like Clouds, for example. The artist has composed in two-thirds of the surface the dynamics of the changing clouds in the sky, placing aircraft machinery and people at the very bottom. The painting is dominated by a clear drawing of cirrus and cumulus, the gaze only after a while turns to the lower part – the tarmac and the shapes of a private plane in the windy twilight, as indicated by a kite flying in a strong wind. Another painting, titled Hydroplane, also with a dominant definite marker line shows the machine and the inauguration of its mission – a banquet dedicated to the launch. Or maybe it’s quite the opposite, maybe the participants of the show enjoying wine are not interested in the achievements of technology. On the contrary, they are interested in themselves. With their refined appearance, they are busy talking – perhaps about investments, travel, a beautiful summer on the coast of a European resort… In the painting entitled Session, the photographed female figure poses shyly in high, bright stilettos. She is standing in front of the master of ceremonies – the photographer. The weather is very windy – and this theme is repeated in the paintings presented in the exhibition – as indicated by the hanging part of the flash. A woman like a cult figure stands right next to a luxury car in yellow colors. It is a scene of seduction of the viewer – the world of fast cars and beautiful women, as if taken out of lifestyle magazines, has been captured with lines and a few colors. Vacation depicts a female passenger in a train compartment, busy with a phone call. On the table stands a plastic bottle with a drink, right next to the heroine lies a small bag on the seat. The woman is going on a journey alone, there is no one else in the compartment, but her conversation foreshadows a future meeting. A similar motif – people on a journey – is depicted in the painting titled Compartment. Here, two women sitting opposite each other in the claustrophobic can of a train compartment seem to be bored with the long journey, as indicated by their half-lying postures. Marek Okrassa portrays people in everyday situations, but he plays with the convention of a given performance, introduces contrasts into it – an ordinary train resembling a second-class suburban transport is haunted by characters from a different setting – one closer to the regulars of ceremonial concerts or banquets.

The last of the paintings described (Riva, Couple, Venice. Banquet, Venice. Flutists) are painted with stain rather than line and show the relationships of people. There are painted conversations, a concert or figures sitting close together, but their emotions express isolation. The apparent couples are in fact strangers to each other – Okrassa metaphorically portrayed modern loneliness, loss in a world full of wealth, appearances. The portrayed world of high society is stripped of false smiles and glamour – what remains is the loneliness of an individual surrounded by excess. Okrassa’s world is a nod to Edward Hopper, who also depicted loneliness in a large metropolis. While the American used chiaroscuro to bring out the figures he portrayed, leaving the rest of the show in the gloom of mysterious bars or hotel rooms, the Polish painter focuses on the scenery of the gilded world and places small silhouettes of people on the set as if a film was just being made.

Painting is an exhibition about the big world of business, balls, raves, vernissages or photo shoots with the presence of the protagonists of these performances: distinguished extras, regulars at cultural events, travelers, hotel guests, people seemingly happy, but struggling with the role given to them in life.

Header illustration: Marek Okrassa Clouds. The Plane, 2023, oil, acrylic on canvas 160×180 cm (Translated with