Cape Town based Kenyan-born artist, Stanislaw Trzebinski’s artistic practice draws from the experiences that make up the landscape of both his physical and psychological childhood memories. Largely self-taught,  Trzebinski uses both the historical lost wax method and contemporary, technologically driven techniques to create evocative bronze sculptures. The works are brought to life through mutable patina finishes which are integrated with elements of natural forms and textures, inspired by the mineral organic and coastal landscapes of his childhood surroundings which he was exposed to while growing up in Kenya.

“I wish to share those dreamlike visions I had as a child through my art - Foggy memories, distorted through the refraction of water in rock pools of an interconnected unspoiled world up close”.

Trzebinski’s passion for nature, together with his most significant experience of loss, fuel the creation of the work, which aims to engage the complex relationship we share with our natural environment. Not only in our physical interaction with it but also in our existential placement of it within our lives. The earliest human relationships to the natural world were so profound that their justification inspired a belief in Gods that were ascribed planets, elements, and other components of nature. This veneration of natural phenomena is compared against the present dominion of man onto his natural surroundings, which suggestively, hints at the erosion and disconnect of this ever-changing relationship.

Trzebinski’s father was a painter and his mother a fashion designer, vocations which would ensure an upbringing ingrained in creativity. Having a family that would pour into him the values and principles that a creative life offers continues to inform his narrative today. His entrancement with nature was nurtured through experiences with his father who would take him out on enriching adventures in the natural landscape that Kenya had on offer. His sense of this time and these memories, depicted a world of seeming perfection, only until they were plunged into swirling distortions of melancholy invoked by the loss of his father at the age of nine.

The work, therefore, attempts to grapple with a connection severed and indifferent, an altered picture of disjointedness, deprived of the integration of the natural modes and laws that surround us. This felt disassociation with the natural environment and a yearning to maintain a connection with his father, form the central elements in Trzebinski’s work. 

“I recall peering into exposed rock pools at low tide while my father surfed in the breakers offshore – the water was just calm enough between the gusts of wind to peer through the rippled surface and catch glimpses of reef fish, corals, anemones, and nudibranchs in the shallow water” A sense of childlike innocence is felt, experiencing wonder, curiosity, and bliss in a perfect world. An innocence that erodes as this picture of the world becomes tainted with realities of loss, tragedy, and suffering, An ever-growing sense of solastalgia sets in.

 

This individual, personal grief is echoed by humanity’s ongoing withdrawal from the natural world. Boundaries of truth and fantasy blur, and as time passes and the narrative of the work progresses, a dynamic exploration of varying interactions between figure and nature become the emerging sculptures. In an attempt to reimagine these memories, which act as potential representations of an ideal world, Trzebinski attempts to replicate forms of fungi, coral, minerals, and the earth its self. These forms are inspired by Turing patterns created through various reaction-diffusion equation solutions in nature. These natural processes encourage realistic replications of shards, textures, and patterns on and around the figurative elements. Other naturally occurring processes including metal oxidation materialize in the work through the colour and patina of the surfaces, which are mutable to the environments in which the works are placed. Alchemical processes are echoed here in the changing nature of the patina, which inspires awe among the viewers.

Trzebinski’s attention to detail in the execution of the organic elements ignites the similar childhood wonder and curiosity that he had experienced with his father, the resulting surfaces demanding closer inspection. The presence of the female figure suggests a reference to historical depictions of the feminine as the embodiment of nature. This symbol of ‘mother nature’ creates a conceptual canvas, onto which Trzebinski works.The depiction of these natural forms integrated with the figurative elements attempts to recreate these memories for the audience and also pays tribute to the excellence of design present in the natural world. Experiencing the works invoke feelings of nostalgia, capturing memories of amazement and curiosity that implore viewers to engage their own innate connection to nature – or their lack thereof.

Formally, the sculptures begin to form a narrative when seen in context to each other. Some figures are more abstracted and some seem less overwhelmed by their natural components. Organic forms and shapes overtake and distort the human form in specific pieces, while others seem in contrast. The figure and the organic components fusing to become neither figure nor nature but existing, perhaps, as a contemporary version of the relationship between the two main components.

The richness of the patina finishes further echoes this connection as it oxidizes and changes over time. This invites an ongoing back and forth dynamic between the interaction of man and nature.

A review by Danny Shorkend

"Powerful figures, torsos and heads bespeak a certain strength at once capturing a solidity and sense of movement. Trzebinski’s sculptures in bronze and copper plates that are showcased as the actual artworks rather than prints are phenomenal, even more so considering the artist, who hails from Kenya is largely self-taught. His understanding of human anatomy and his technical virtuosity at such a young age is remarkable and a must-see collection at Eclectica Gallery is now on offer.

I enjoyed the combination of muscularity with the additions of protruding shapes that emerge from these bodies. The artist speaks of the significance of nature as an inspiration for his works and it is thus as if the figures are both constructed by skeletal structure as well as an alchemical interweaving of the very substance that is at the heart of the earth or more mystically, of the cosmos itself. This is further justified considering the plates where the figures appear to emerge out of a kind of interaction of the basic chemistry that define matter. It appears that the artist, intellectually, intuitively and in terms of acute observation is concerned with the properties that coagulate to form the stuff of things – the very molecular, atomic and force fields that energise and vitalise natural phenomena.

Then beyond the configurations of matter, there is perhaps a more mystical component. There appears to be a surge of energy in Trzebinski’s work that bespeaks of the chakra points, vitiating energy points of the human body that reflect higher patterns of universal modalities of being from the rarefied level of the will, of pleasure and of thought down to the emotive spirit that in turn vitalises the nether regions – the gut, sexual organs and the limbs.

These forces are contained with the electro-chemical and magnetic resonance one finds in nature and particularly through the human form, a microcosm of the macrocosmic universal template. One might conjecture that such an interpretation finds an accord in the artist’s use of odd appendages that emerge from the head and incisions, like tectonic rock forms that are etched into the body. Such interventions thus bespeak the idea that man is from the dust of the earth, and at the same time such is not mere dust, having been incubated from the starry heavens and as physicists would have us believe, having emanated from a seminal point, known colloquially as the big bang. I sense in these works then the transformation of matter – sculptures that are far from inert and copper plates that vibrate with higher resonant patterns, the ebb and flow of the natural world itself. 

What is perhaps most positive in this show is the general sense of health and vigour, a zestful, youthful spirit that enables the three-dimensional forms to, as it were breathe, and the plates to somewhat pulsate, notwithstanding his repetitive iconography.

There is one sculpture where the form is created out of minimal sinewy “lines”, the rest of the body being vacuous, emptied of solidity. Perhaps this invites contemplation on the idea that, like the atom, matter is primarily empty and the human body changes to a large degree year after year, just as the planetary system moves within the vast expanse of space and stars exchange tremendous amounts of hydrogen and helium, and like, the human body, follow a course of birth, growth, decay and death.

Trzebinski’s work is self-assured and confident. He is in command of the technical skill required and as I have argued this bespeaks a wealth of ideas that ought to invigorate a healthy respect for nature and indeed one another. This in turn should ignite interest, scientific, philosophical and artistic into the very origins of matter itself. At some point, however, an impasse may be reached. It is at that point that the strident quality of the human figure gives way to humility and a diminution of the ego and self-centeredness".