Refusing to be confined by the term “collage”, Tm Gratkowski continues to develop new techniques commonly attributed to painting—layering, scraping, blending - and applying them to paper. His creations are not only visually dynamic and stimulating, but they are chock-full of historic and social content and complexity.
Tm’s education and early works are rooted in painting and drawing; however, in his current work his primary source material is reclaimed paper, often found on the street. He has always sought out the unexplained, the curious, the strange, and the undefined within popular culture. Searching to reexamine and question systems and meanings that usually go unnoticed and are taken for granted, his investigations have led him to the disciplines of science, medicine, literature, popular and not-so-popular culture to explore the polarities and interpretations of belief systems.
Composed of layer upon layer of print media, and existing somewhere between painting and collage, his work often initially appears at a distance as an abstract composition, but upon closer examination reveals a subtle, yet complex and challenging subject matter. The result is something of a cross between Cubism and Abstract Expressionism, with layering of text and graphics making the work contemporary, referencing current cultural influences, and the juxtaposed, seemingly unconnected fragments gelling to convey a unified message. Compositions such as “99% Bailout” are timely and forthright in their presentation, while others like “… Patriot Act” are much more subtle, with a wealth of inferences to be made.
Tm says his image- and text-laden works are “conscientiously fashioned reflections of the media-saturated world that speaks to and for our inundated psyches held heavy with words, often to the point of confusion”. Intriguingly, several of his compositions seem to reference more an oversaturated digital world than the print media he pulls from.
His previous career as an architect is present in his work, once you slow down and see. He elaborates: “My work at first appears chaotic, but as you move closer, you discover the layered order I’ve presented … what hidden agendas I’ve expressed; the more time you spend with it, the more you’re able to take with you.”
Featured works are from the artist’s latest series: Palimpsest, which delivers a process-driven body of work about words, meanings, messages and how they are viewed and appropriated in a contemporaneous media-driven world. This body of work chooses to use text as subject in how it appears alongside graphics and images and how that meaning and message is allowed to change and reinterpret itself. Tm’s unique process, often using historical documents / laws / declarations, creates an abstraction of patterning and imagery in very associative and dynamic ways - a way of lateral thinking. The process becomes evident as the viewer becomes engaged in a visual dialogue about specific issues relevant to the current social climate. Tm hopes to leave the viewer with a topic for conversation in which they are at liberty to see, discuss and challenge that which has been discovered.
Tm Gratkowski received a BA in 1991, and his BS in 1992, from the University of Wisconsin and went on to study at the Hoschule fur Agawandte Kunst in Vienna. Returning to the States, he received his MA from SCI-Arc in Los Angeles. His resume includes creating a series of collages for Moby’s “Spiders’ video to a stint working under renowned architect, Frank Gehry. Widely exhibited and collected on the West Coast.
Palimpsest interview: You tube
CDX WORK (available)