Marcin Owczarek is a Polish photographer and digital artist, currently living in Belgium. His work focuses on the condition of the planet, and the condition of man himself. He expresses through his work a fascination with consumerism and the effect new technologies have on our lifestyle. We chat to him about his work and his inspirations.
'The Garden of Urban Delights' by Martin Owczarek 2010
How did you get into photography/ digital art?
In my case, choosing photography was the consequence of my previous interest in art since I was a child. The crucial moment came at the age of seventeen when I created my first paper-collage. At that time, I used to create traditional collages (scissors, paper and glue).Since that moment, I started to consciously follow the 'path of art' and tried to find the best medium to express myself. This what led me to buy my first digital camera. After a few years it was not enough and I discovered computer programs Adobe Photoshop to be precise.
Finally, I chose to specialise in digital-art collage which gives me many more opportunities to articulate my thoughts and perceptions. Digital collage in my case let me connect many complicated elements, many reflections and shape them in a coherent universe. I am sure every artist finds the best medium to express themselves. In my case this medium is digital art.
What inspires you photographically?
In my case, the initial and essential moment of my photographical inspiration is voyage. While travelling I talk to other people, observe the reality around me and the rapidly changing world. I note down my observations and take thousands of single photographs which I use subsequently in my final collages. The great value of inspiration for me is also reading. I was profoundly influenced by: Antonin Artaud, Jean Baudrillard, Michel Foucault, Walter Benjamin and Aldous Huxley.
'Consumption' by Marcin Owczarek, 2010
Could you talk us through how you came up with and took one of you favourite shots?
To be honest I have no one favourite shot. My art is an open-ended project called ‘Dystopy Land’ and I treat every single part in the same way. But if you want me to name one of the images I take special fancy to, it would be ‘Consumption’. Once I visited a totally devastated factory, nearly in ruins. I thought to myself, this is how this world will look like in the next few centuries, if it doesn’t stop trying to eat itself. This is the story behind 'Consumption' (above).
Your work is very metaphorical and casts quite a negative view on society today. What drew you to this style?
As I said, my art reflects what I see and I am simply honest in my visions. Sometimes I am perhaps too honest, but in my opinion the main purpose of art is to speak when others prefer to stay silent. Of course, we can pretend we live in a perfect world, but the truth is that we live in a dystopian universe. There are several wars currently in this world, and thousands of people die every single day from starvation. There is a problem with overpopulation, pollution, deforestation etc.
We are surrounded by beautiful images in advertisements. Photoshopped models, new cars, shining teeth. But to me it's only a grotesque mask. Under this mask the shape of the world is revealed with many problems. I only show the world from under the mask.
Apart from that, one of my main influences is katharsism from the 'Poetics' of Aristotle. You can describe katharsis as 'purification' of the community from bad emotions and poison. My art is not terrible, katharsis is terrible because it gives you a view of naked life without masks,a true life that we are afraid to see and accept. The destruction of the present world is a very negative aspect of the human condition. I am aware of that process, and for me it is a great tragedy. I think this knowledge led me to a style which might be called ‘dystopian’.
'Unknown Soldier' by Marcin Owczarek, 2011
You seem to take quite a negative view on the consumerist society which is portrayed through your images. Why is this?
What I want to confront by criticism in my artworks is that man through the past centuries has totally devastated his planet and proved extremely destructive.
Many unique creatures now have been made extinct and some species are rapidly disappearing, for example fish. New technologies and hyperconsumption contributed to dehumanization of human race in my opinion.
Human beings are not able to properly cope with technology because the technological progress is far more rapid than humanity's spiritual evolution. In this case I also want to show through my work that people seem to be absolutely addicted and enslaved to the consumerism way of life, sometimes without realizing it. Mostly, they spend their life on the internet, in supermarkets, shopping and eating junk food- which contains high levels of saturated fats, salt, or sugar which can lead to diabetes and cancer. The crucial moment came when people trusted more in television, radio, and internet than in the real world. Hardly ever do we have moments of reflection. Some people spend more of their life in a virtual world than in the real world.
I think that we need to consider: what the difference is between taking from nature and only using the nature and the planet to coexist with it. I do not agree with the the path most of the world currently takes, and in consequence I express this in my digital art.
To find out more about Marcin and his work, take a look at his website