The Purposeful Mayonnaise

September 24, 2021: Martyna Benedyka Interview

Martyna Benedyka is a vocalist and visual artist working in several different media including painting, photography, collage, video and sound art. She studied Art and Design in Scotland, UK and graduated with a First Class BA (Hons) degree in Fine Art Painting in 2014. She has exhibited in the UK, Poland, Ireland, Romania, Canada and the USA, among others. She is represented by Albe Art Gallery.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Gdynia (near the Baltic Sea), Poland in 1991. One of my earliest memories is of painting raw fish fillets that my after school art club teacher brought on a plate saying she would like me to paint a still life. She placed a giant easel on a stage (our painting studio hosted also music and theatre performances)for me and asked me to paint what I see. I guess I was 8 years old and did not care too much about what other kids in my class were doing at the table. I focused on my big task. A few months later, my painting made it to an exhibition and I won my first art award. The funny thing is, the gallery hung my work upside down.

I believe I became an artist without saying it out loud. This is how I have always spent my time - creating. I would paint, draw, and make collages, play guitar or dance. I started

singing and performing as a child and I understood the importance of the ability to express yourself in the ways you want. I think an unusual willingness to learn has played a major role in my story.
Over a decade ago, I got accepted to Gray’s School of Art, where I studied Art and Design and graduated with a First Class BA (Hons) in Fine Art Painting.
At the moment, I can identify myself as Romania-based but Scottish-trained artist. 

What themes or ideas do you pursue in your work?

When I create, I see various forms and shapes right away and often choose only fragments which are crucial to the specific piece and bring me some sort of relief. My works are often fragmentary or disconnected so that they can be read in different ways. That is why I can say that my work oscillates between abstraction and figuration.

I draw inspiration from monumental art. “Monumental” comes from the Latin word “moneo” which means “remember”. I work a lot with the idea of memory and its fragility. I always liked the idea of looking behind what is seen and it is still the foundation of my artist statement.

Right: Mother Sleeping, oil on wood

Before the Mirror, oil on canvas

Potter's Wheel, oil on wood

Plait, oil on wood

During the past few years you trained and have been part of various residencies in different countries (UK, Italy, Romania, Spain). How do you find working with artists from diverse backgrounds and adapting to different cultures?

First of all, I feel that finding yourself in a new creative environment is just so liberating. I studied in the UK so that was my first experience in working with foreign artists and that was the moment when I needed to adapt quickly to British culture. I still think that it was the best decision I could make at such a young age to grow as a person and as an artist.

I think of an art residency as a fascinating performance where adaptation is a key. You can invite people to your performance, but just for a little while. This blending of the creative world and personal life can remove boundaries.

I have also had a chance to live in Paris, London and Vienna, where I realized that learning about life and art in an unknown place is one of the best lessons.

In the studio 1 & 2

You are a vocalist and a visual artist. Do music and visual art go hand in hand, are they fueling each other?

Of course, the music you listen to while painting will affect your subconscious. But it was challenging to show both in one piece of art. I have finally decidedto challenge myself again and started making videos as well as my visual art/sound composition installations.

Thanks to that, I could observe how they are connected and intertwined. I believe they impact one another and I cannot wait to discover how my voice can change my creation in the future. I am also a flamenco dancer, so I might explore some new sounds in my artworks. I cannot imagine abandoning one at the expense of another.

Can you tell us a bit about your sound/art project “In Memory of My Feelings”?

It is the first part of a project developed between July and August 2021 in Squillace, a wee ancient town in the region of Calabria, Italy. I was one of the winners of the In-ruins Art Residency and was invited to create and show my work in the ruins of the Squillace Castle which was built by the Normans in 1044. It was my sound/art installation debut. Works on paper (charcoal, ink, pastel, graphite)as “feelings” in one room corresponded with a piece of music coming from another room. The sound, created by blending my vocals (12 voices) in a canon, was an interpretation of a fragment of a medieval piece by Hildegard von Bingen O Virga Ac Diadema (Praise for the Mother). I focused on investigating the themes of landscape of the past and translation of subjective experiences into general history.
By examining and recording historical sounds, I wanted to explore “new” soundscapes around me and study the acoustics at archaeological sites.

Above: In Memory Of My Feelings, Installation View 2

Left: In Memory Of My Feelings, Installation View 1

Two Hands from On the Border Photobook, silver gelatin print

Can you tell us a bit about your analog photography projects?

My analog photography projects are so special to me. The first and most important body of work was a vast collection of small-scale black and white photographs taken over the years in Scotland and England. Some of them appeared in On the Border, a photobook that I made myself for my degree show in 2014.

I feel that traditional film photography resonates with my sensitivity; they are like two very close friends. The printing process is what I enjoy the most; the moment when you move from an enlarger to the first tray and something emerges on a sheet of paper is indescribable. I would spend all day working in a darkroom on my film rolls.

Two Stones from On the Border Photobook, silver gelatin print

Morsel by Morsel and White Minutes, BW photographs on FB paper

Do you actively search for inspiration or wait for inspiration to find you?

The answer is both! I read and write, and try to make connections. I often find inspiration in philosophy, poetry, design and movies. I search in the places I live and conversations I hear. Being an artist also means seeing inspiration literally everywhere; it awaits us.

What's the most peculiar thing/situation that sparked your inspiration?

To me, words are always the most peculiar... like this quote by Alex Katz:

“Make a painting you can work on for a long period, and make it look like it doesn’t show any effort.”

What artist(s) do you admire? 

The Old Masters (Piero della Francesca or Nicolas Poussin, among others) and classical music composers had the greatest influence on me during the studies. Talking modern/contemporary artists, I have chosen the ones I often come back to: Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Tina Modotti, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Eva Rubinstein, Wolfgang Tillmans, Alex Katz, Walter Sickert, Prunella Clough, Merlin James, Gary Hume, Cornelia Parker, Anish Kapoor, Richard Serra, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Cildo Meireles, Olafur Eliasson, Louise Bourgeois, Max Richter, Philip Glass, and Arvo Pärt.

Left: Garden Sculptures, paper collage

How do you relax and recharge?

I travel, take photos, listen to music, practice Japanese calligraphy or journal for mental clarity.

In an ideal world where money or time is not a constraint, what is your dream project?

As a soprano, that would be recording with Max Richter. As a visual artist – having my art books and photobooks published. As both – a monumental sound/art installation in Parisian Grand Palais. 

Tell us about the future: plans, dreams, anything you’d like to share with the world.

I have made an uneasy choice of being a visual artist and a musician and the plan is to create work that will bring joy to others and fulfill me. I am always happy to share my projects with the world so please have a look here:

Open Studio, Castello di Squillace, TGR Calabria TV, Italy

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