Series of portraits. Face of city is the theme of your VOLUPTUOUS TOWNS series. Intriguing!
Jan Astner: Every town is different. It has a different face, or rather faces. A series of portraits of cities is not about urban planning and architecture. Towns are people. Each city has different people, a different way of life, different customs. We all know it, but we seldom study it more closely.
Portraying people follows certain rules. How does this relate to painting cities?
Jan Astner: Cities show their true face only if we look at them carefully. Cities are sensual, just like people. When we look closely, they show us much more than appearances. Because cities, like people, hide secrets and protect their taboos. Viewed, viewed from the inside out, from the inside, from the bottom, from the hidden side, they show something that goes beyond the conventional frames of perception. This is the search for their true portrait. Or, to put it right – one of the portraits.
So fascination, inquiry, and, as you say, “peeking” at towns, watching them?
Jan Astner: What is fascinating about traveling is getting to know this sphere that you cannot see, that you can experience individually. The series of portraits “Voluptuous Towns” – portraits of cities – is a travel diary. Each picture refers to a different city I have visited. Each is a record of the feelings that accompanied the visit. It is a description of discoveries and experiences.
This travel diary of yours translates impressions into colors, stains …
Jan Astner: Each city has its own specific color, from pastel, delicate to aggressive, imposing clashes of colors. Bright street grids, but also limiting webs, walls and partitions. In each city, you can turn your imagination in overdrive into a flow of fantasy and savor delightful views, because each city image is different. Just like us.
You use your own method, painting technology.
Jan Astner: Every portrait in this series is painted using the imprint method, without the use of a brush. Stamped with all sorts of tools and surfaces. My paintings refer to cubism, macro pointillism. Thanks to this technique, portraits are very rich and multi-layered. The structure of the picture can be studied many times, and each time the viewer will discover something new.
Your series of portraits, your urban art is more of a story, isn’t it?
Jan Astner: It’s a story about people, it’s a metaphor. Cities are not streets, they are not squares, not houses. Cities are people. Each city is different because different people live in it. That is why the word “voluptuous” appears in the name of the series – because only people can be voluptuous.
The pictures from the “Voluptuous towns” series of portraits are not cityscapes. These are notes from meetings, a catalog of feelings and sensations. It is a moment spent with somebody over coffee in the square, a conversation during a walk, the atmosphere of a chance meeting. It is a memory that remains after leaving.
So a very intimate depiction of the face of urban space …
Jan Astner: I want to show the uniqueness of cities. I watch them. Every of the portrait has a specific, corresponding color. Each picture is a record of the feelings that accompanied the visit, a unique experience. The most interesting thing about traveling is discovering the sphere that cannot be seen, but can be experienced while looking at people, or actually watching them, picking at them. In my paintings, I leave the viewers space for their interpretation. They can turn on the fantasy. People who view the pictures of this series, without knowing their history and names of the cities, have associations with cities. Colors and painted forms give them emotional associations and shape their feelings. The reception is very private. It is possible only thanks to the abstract form of the works.
Will this series of portraits ever be a closed, finished one?
Jan Astner: It is an ongoing project, an endless series. I systematically record portraits of the cities I visit. The project has been going on for several years. Every year, new works are being added to it. Each portrait is an impression of a meeting with a city. I will paint this series of portraits as long as I will travel!