I was born in 1967 in a small Polish town. The large garden surrounding the minor gentry abode where I was brought up had fruit trees growing among unmown grass. In front of the house there was a park covering a few hectares, with pine trees, paths and a children’s playground. As soon as I figured out which end of a ballpen made a mark on paper, my grandmother, who looked after me, put a daily limit on how many pristine white sheets of paper I would be allowed to bedaub. However, my protests and hunger strikes often resulted in that limit being exceeded.

 

A fragment of a February 2016 interview with Nina Neuman.

 

  • What is your attitude to art, specifically painting?

  • I think it should touch the soul and stimulate the imagination. It should make one stop and think. It may also disturb, as long as it is grounded in human values and is not called art for nothing. Art, especially that of one’s own, is hard to describe in words. Those who write about art regularly know that best. Our vocabulary is inadequate, and the way art is perceived varies from person to person. Every now and then new phrases, incongruous in my opinion, appear. When someone stands enchanted in front of a picture and someone else tries to explain to them what the artist had in mind while creating, the effect is lost. One word can destroy it all. I regard painting as something mystical and ineffable. I submit without reservation to that which will tell me whether or not I have fully devoted myself to it.

  • How would you describe your painting?

  • I think I am constantly searching. I am a young painter – basically a painter who only a few years ago gave vent to all the questions and fantasies that have been with me since childhood. I put on canvas what captivates me and gives me food for thought. I do not write a diary. I may follow aesthetics, which is still allowed. Another time I indulge in humour, which the aphorist Peter Hilde calls the world’s best model maker. Yet another time it is as if I were still playing in my spacious garden.

In my picture Breakfast on the grass, aka the green one depending on the register we employ, I want to present a theme so often tackled by famous painters but from quite a different perspective.

I do not want to be pigeonholed in order to be recognizable., and I do not aim to develop an inimitable style of my own. However, who knows, perhaps some time I will. At present in my painting, as in life, holding doggedly on to previously learned dogmas and norms hampers development. I have to give something up in order to receive something new. I think it is only thanks to a considerable effort and certain sacrifices that one can make it in the world. Art, in my case painting, also opens the question of knowing oneself, a process which is not always comfortable.

  • The way to self-knowledge and the importance of the subconscious in life are being ever more talked about. In your opinion, is that a welcome thing?

  • Absolutely, although all that verbiage gives me a headache. Since Joseph Boys in Germany and Henryk Tomaszewski in Poland, both of whom encouraged their disciples to awaken their intellect through getting to know themselves and their “injuries”, not succumbing to routine, and overcoming stereotypes, the number of tutors who advocate that way to self-knowledge has been dwindling.

Perhaps then it will be easier for an artist to entrap the recipient. That is presumably the aim, isn’t it? To win the largest possible number of people for a good cause?

St. Augustine says, “People travel far to admire high mountains, great sea waves, the motions of glaciers and stars. Still, we can live our entire lives without giving them a thought.”

 

By travelling the length of that road we learn other values, which makes us have more respect for ourselves, nature, and other people, as well as more time to give free rein to imagination, which, as is well known, creates our reality.