This comes from a newspaper article published in Dziennik Lodzki in the first months of 1992.
A drama full of... hope
A mystic feeling.
He has liked painting since he was a child. He graduated from a technical secodary school because his parents wanted him to have a proper occupation. Later he studied economics at university level as well. One day in 1978 he walked into an art gallery in Piotrkowska street where paintings by Zdzislaw Beksinski* were exhibited. It was the first time he had ever seen his works and he was dazzled. It was a mystical feeling. He thought: this is it, this is what I must do, I have to paint. He discovered that Beksinski’s artistic expression and the atmosphere in his paintings suited his own personality. He tried applying to Krakow’s art academy, but he didn’t qualify himself for the entrance exams. He didn’t have any good paintings at that time. So, he started painting on his own. He tried to sell his work to art galleries. One day a certain “artist” contacted him after seeing one of his paintings in a gallery. He suggested a “collaboration”.
They were supposed to paint “together”. Mr Przybylski would make a part of the picture, an unfinished version, so to speak. The “artist” would give it the finishing touches and his signature. This went on for eight years. In the beginning they made copies of certain famous artists – primarily of Dutch painters. Later on, they made paintings according to the “artist’s” own ideas. Those were to imitate the style of the Dutch painters, mainly still life. Through his contact network, the “artist” exhibited them in art galleries abroad.
‘It was all very clear from the very beginning – Mr Przybylski says – I got paid a certain sum of money for this work. I agreed to this. Thanks to this agreement I could provide for myself and my family working as an artist. I was very happy I had met this man. He’s my friend. He’s helped me. I have learnt a lot from him – mainly the technique.’
Recently the “artist” exhibited “his” work in Amsterdam. Around 30 percent of the paintings were actually made Mr Przybylski. He isn’t the only one to collaborate like this. After coming back from Amsterdam, the “artist” told Mr Przybylski about how great a success the exhibition had been, how many paintings he’d sold. ‘There’s only satisfaction in it for me – Mr Przybylski says – but on the other hand I’ve never expected anything more. The whole situation’s been as clear as a day.’
Throughout the whole period of the “collaboration” Mr Przybylski has also painted his own pictures, many of them inspired by Beksinski. He has sold some of them in various art galleries. Once he was approached by a “haunted” businessman who bought many paintings paying him in advance. This deal ended abruptly when the man got into some financial trouble. Mr Przybylski has but a few paintings of his own at home. He has sold or given away most of them. He never cared about what happened to them, as long as he could develop as an artist. He always believed he’d finally get to the surface and be successful. He knew what he wanted to do.
Today he can merely talk, move his head and toes.
‘It’s impossible to live in this flat’ – Mr Przybylski says – ‘We only have electricity. Water and coal must be carried up the steep stairs. My wife who’s ill has to do all this. She suffers from backache and depression. She’s been on sick leave for several months now.
Mr Przybylski is a member of the housing association in Lodz-Chojny district, but they haven’t any flats available there. As Jozef Krol, the director of the housing dept. of the city office, told the Przybylskis, there are apparently some flats which aren’t in high demand because of their small size. One could possibly transfer Mr Przybylski’s membership, but there isn’t anyone to take care of this. For the time being Mr Krol has sent an interventional letter to the Lodz-Baluty housig dept.
Mr Przybylski receives 520,000 zloty a month in social benefits [today’s equivalent ≈ 12€, translator’s note]. Social services representatives have recently visited Mr Przybylski only to tell him that he won’t be getting any more money, because they have none to distribute. The Przybylski family live together with their 8-year-old son for not even a million zloty a month [today’s equivalent ≈ 25€]. They have no parents alive. Distant relatives help them. Mr Przybylski’s friends bring food. It was in the technical secondary school he met such wonderful people. They keep in touch after so many years – and they help him constantly.
‘I’m prepared to paint holding the brush in my mouth – Mr Przybylski says – I could be painting with my feet. It’s much easier. But my legs and feet are useless.’
‘The officials think I should be put in a hospital so that my wife can work. But then our son would be on his own all day long. My boy says: ‘I want dad at home. Better to have a dad like this than none’. There’s one more solution. Put me to sleep and my wife still on sick leave… No, I’m still an optimist. Life’s still worth living, at least to be able to chat with my friends.'
'Now I know how to draw using my mouth, but it’s difficult. Maybe one day I’ll be able to paint again, maybe I’ll be able to sit upright. It’s hard to paint oil paintings using your mouth. That’s why I’m using a ball pen, holding it with my teeth, sometimes I have it taped to my left hand.'
'It’s weird. I’m getting more and more similar to the creatures from Beksinski’s pictures, my beloved pictures. There live such muscle-less characters. I’m going to write a letter to him. Perhaps this time he writes back. I’d love him to lend me an album of his. Perhaps his agent, Mr Dmochowski, would be interested in my “mouthpainting”.'
'I wonder where I get all this optimism from, when everything has let me down so and nailed me to the ground.'
Reporter: Bogdan Sobieszek
* Zdzisław Beksiński (pronounced [ˈzd͡ʑiswaf bɛkˈɕiɲskʲi]; 24 February 1929 – 21 February 2005) was a Polish painter, photographer and sculptor, specializing in the field of dystopian surrealism. (source: Wikipedia)