Pablo Tomek is not an artist coming from graffiti, he is a graffiti writer and an artist. The two practices proceed in parallel, in osmotically interacting ways: his art affects his graffiti, questioning the form and aesthetic of his tags and pieces, while his experience of the streets fuels his studio work with concepts and approaches otherwise unthinkable. In his art practice, he borrows tools, materials and supports from street workers. Sponges — as the ones used by workers to cover up windows — take the place of brushes, glass substitutes canvases while stained protective plastic (the ones normally placed on floors when painting) and found objects take the place of sculptures.
It is not a simple switch in materials we are witnessing in Tomek’s work. It feels that this passage holds something more conceptual and complex than a stylistic idea. We find in this artistic endeavour a strong connection to a blue-collar’s approach, to humble but mastered skills and the effectiveness learned by endless repetition. It is not a coincidence then that in graffiti the achievements of a writer mostly come from reiterate exercise and practice, which is what allow to combine style, effectiveness and quickness together.
Elevating practical skills to art creates a turn in perspective, which brings down the theoretical substantiation of an artist’s practice while exalting the quality of art as a practice humbly rooted in hard work. Tomek’s art is able to bring not only this refreshing approach but also the actual street, with its workers’ tools and aesthetics, inside the elitist space of a gallery. He achieves this through artworks which are immediate and thoughtful at once, able to make us rediscover the poetry of gesture and its capacity to convey feelings and emotions.
The expressiveness of gestures is what the French artist pointed out in many occasions as striking him especially in the sponged windows you can see so often in French cities. In his opinion the stroke used to apply paint to cover windows involuntarily channels a feeling — or an energy — that comes from the person executing the work. It is no surprise then that Tomek’s paintings and works on paper have been often connected to abstract expressionism, as the rough force and powerful gesture behind their execution clearly speaks an intimate language through abstract communication.
In Mixed Messages the French artist brought for the first time his art to Sweden giving us the possibility to explore this complex practice. A new series of monotypes on paper convoyed his latest experiments, mixing his abstract works with hints of figuration which he describes as coming from the walls and his experience of the city. This show and the works in it allowed us to step inside Pablo Tomek’s artistic realm which extends from the studio space to the worksite landscapes of the ever-growing and over-gentrified French capital. An artistic landscape which is intimate, puzzling and attractive at once and that in Tomek’s hands has become the right lever to splendidly overthrow the rules of both worlds of graffiti and art.