Jacek Wańkowski




Jacek is fascinated by scientific discovery and the underwater world – the strange, fragile life forms that live there and the huge forces of tide, current and water pressure that surge around them. He explored this world during his professional life as a marine biologist in Scotland, Papua New Guinea and Australia, and his practice offers a dynamic, personal perspective on this world.

The creatures inhabiting the seas, rivers and lakes are the inspiration for his dynamic abstract explorations of nature and the laws of physics and biology: resistance to the crushing weight of the deep ocean, the lightness of soaring flight in the open sea . . . . . . .

"Sculpture is like architecture. I am inspired by exploring boundaries and by the spaces between things. My shapes decide their own identity, they become what they want to be, they are a way to say something fresh and immediate."

Jacek's sculptures are mostly made in steel transformed from one state of 'being' to another, still showing the marks of the making process, they may be associated with scientific artefacts and sometimes include other materials and objects. They range from large-scale, outdoor pieces to smaller, intimate works – a play between the small and the large, between intricacy and simplicity. Inspired by observation of pattern and form in the natural world and spatially activated by the distribution of their mass, they are intended to embody movement and anticipation, and often a sense of unfolding, unwrapping – an opening in anticipation of something to be revealed.

  • Some pursue that moment between balance and flight where the precise distribution of mass, form and space activate the sculpture – a creative engineering that aims to imbue a potency of energy, of aerial lightness, or alternatively of crushing weight.

  • Others explore how the tension generated by environmental forces interacts with and is reflected by the complex external forms of marine life. Often made by folding/unfolding steel surfaces, these works are concerned with how the essentially soft structure of living organisms can be embodied in the spirit of a hard-edged 'industrial' object reflecting the fact that steel is hard and unyielding while living things are soft and pliable.

  • Another body of work explores the dynamic flow and force of the ocean's waves, currents, tsunamis and storms and their interaction with marine geographic and geological features – reefs, coral, seashore archipelagos, seaweed forests. This work is significantly influenced by mythical and archaeological imagery, such as the Chimaera and ancient megalithic structures.

  • An interest in material diversity has prompted an exploration symbiotically combining intact industrial and scientific objects and equipment with fabricated biomorphic forms. The 'Laboratory', 'Encased' and 'Kuntskammer' series explore the making of things through the construction and manipulation of objects and materials; an evolving inhabitatioin of the objects and equipment.

Jacek works in a variety of steels: mild, galvanised, Corten, stainless. His steel is highly worked: cut, shaped, welded and bolted; ground, electroplated, hot-dip galvanised, heat-treated; oxidised, patinated, painted; cut back and relieved. These treatments often result in the development of quite complex surface patinas. The intention is to keep the 'industrial' nature of the work clear and unambiguous – the surface treatments deliberately retaining the 'grain' and other marks of the making process.

Fabricated through additive processes, the components are pre-formed and joined symbiotically. Thus, they relate to each other as surfaces, as individual entities and as parts of the whole. The interplay of the spaces and hollows between the components is as important as the individual parts themselves – tension results from the desire to integrate these spaces and to explore how they respond to each other, the physical elements, and the piece as a whole.

Jacek's outdoor works are intended to interact directly and unambiguously with their immediate visual, physical and human environment. The pieces are envisaged for installation in a natural, soft pre- or post-industrial environment – on grass or old flagstones, amongst trees or with a backdrop of weathered brickwork or stone, where weathered surface patinas will gradually develop with age.

Some pieces inhabit a museum display case or 'aquarium' – unknown marine life collected by an exploratory or scientific research ship from the distant past, a taxonomy alluding to the nature of the thing inside and the remarkable journey made by the (real) ship. These are the sort of things one might find when searching through the cellars and warehouses of the Natural History Museum, the Smithsonian or some Gothic pile and bring us face-to-face with a now lost world of science and discovery.

Others are associated with vintage scientific instrumentation from the early part of the last century – for example, encrusting curious brass balances in rebuilt mahogany cabinets. A 'kuntskammer' cabinet of curiosities which creates a microcosmic theatre of the world, a 'memory theatre' which symbolically conveys the artist's control of the world through its indoor, microscopic reproduction of that world.

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