Originally from a town called Rzeszów in South East Poland, Mateusz Ziarno has been living the good life. “I tend to start drawing in the evenings, catching the rhythm while listening to music or 24-hour news channels. Sometimes, documentaries narrated by David Attenborough [Ziarno says he loves all kinds of wildlife, and that the ways of his pet praying mantis very much remind him of his cats back in Poland]. It depends on the subject and medium but I tend to spread loads of paper and materials all around my room and work on a few things simultaneously. Sometimes I draw while being on the phone, especially when my mother calls.”
By the time Ziarno was 18, he hitchhiked through parts of Europe, and now lives in London, where he has a day job working the mailboxes and stuff. “I guess its called UPS in the US, which although not a dream job, allows me to meet very interesting characters— legendary illustrator Quentin Blake, novel writer and interior designer Robin Anderson, WPP wining photographer Heidi Bradner, ballet producer Gavin Roebuck, and many more.” Ziarno is under full belief that these peculiar characters help him mold his artistic taste.
Voyage remains a muse and inspiration as well, “To fulfill my lifelong dream of seeing orangutans in the wild, I went on a week-long expedition in the hot and humid jungle of Borneo, sleeping in a canoe. It was so surreal to wake up to the screams of proboscis monkeys in the trees and the light of the equatorial sun, and to eat freshly caught miniature catfish and fried bananas for breakfast. I also got to travel to some of the most unusual places, like Mount Fuji or Hiroshima in Japan, Reykjavik and lunar landscapes of Iceland, and to the beautiful islands of Indonesia.”
His hitchhiking years sound just as amazing. “Nothing was ever planned, and I never knew what would happen next, from being robbed at gun-point in South of France to being woken up by a foam frothing Rottweiler, or by a howling seal. It wasn’t all robbers and evil dogs though. I’ve encountered dozens of great friendly people that were prepared to pick me up and have five-hour conversations or share five-hour silences with a complete stranger sitting in their car.”
I saw your Kim Jongs. How do you feel about politicians? Do you have any favorites, or most despised?
I try not to get too involved with politics. However, I can’t help being intrigued by the power of some politicians and the ability to supress a whole nation, which can alter an entire country’s lifestyle and belief system. In particular, the “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il. I have been following his “career” for a long, long time, even before he passed away recently. I find it so fascinating how North and South Korea, two countries that used to be one, are now as different as night and day after just a few decades. I would say people like him are a good reminder/warning that there’s a very thin line between what we might call normality, and complete paranoia and insanity. In this case the very thin line physically exists in the form of DMZ separating North from South.
I guess I judge politicians as objects of fascination. It is a luxury we can only afford living in certain parts of the world. I guess you could be more passionate about something if you're really suffering but maybe I’m just too spoiled. Amongst others, I also find Obama, Bush, Berlusconi, Mugabe, and QE II inspiring (maybe I was wrong maybe I both love and hate them all at the same time).
What would you say most of your drawings are about?
I would say that most of my drawings are just personal expressions of my mind. It’s the way I see things, it’s things that I am drawn to, things that jump up screaming for my attention. The way I see it, most art in general is more about the artist him/herself rather than the subject he presents. With books, for example, I find myself more intrigued with the way that the writer presents the subject, about his thoughts and feelings and ways he arrives at his own subjective conclusion, rather than the subject itself. When looking at a painting I don’t actually look at the picture in front of me but also at the person ‘on the other side’. That’s why it’s so fascinating to go to the museums and galleries to see the ‘old masters’ as it makes you feel that you can almost meet them. You are standing in front of something they were standing in front of 50, 100, 200 years ago. They were thinking, “What should I do next?” or “What colour should I use?”; I like that connection. I think in that sense my works are also about that. You can look at it and see the world with my eyes. I think that’s what art is all about, to let people see it years and years from now, and see the world in the artist’s eye.
“I always keep my sketchbook with me and make lots of little fast drawings that I put together later on in larger compositions. I try to create my own 'vocabulary' of images I draw over the years and reuse them in new works.” Mateusz is currently working on a design for a friend’s Australian fashion label where his drawings will be used as print for the clothing line, and was also chosen as the artist for a limited edition line for Unkle, an Indonesian clothing/ product label, which will be exhibited later this year. Ziarno loves taking “seriously long walks in the maze that London is,” and every winter turns into a ski jumping world cup fan.