Create! Magazine is pleased to share an exclusive interview with painter and copper engraver Henryk Fantazos. This feature is part of our new recurring series of in-depth conversations with contemporary artists generously sponsored by Altamira.
Henryk Fantazos was born in Poland. He attended the Fine Arts Academy in Kraków, where he earned a Master of Art degree in painting. In 1975, Fantazos moved to America and he currently lives and works in Hillsborough, North Carolina.
You've had a long career in the arts. How has your work evolved over the years?
There has been a tortuous, self-didactic development in how I paint. The content, being a fragile vision in my case, has not been tampered with by any rational or pragmatic changes.
What advice can you give regarding maintaining a creative practice in the long run?
In a novel by J.P. Sartre a character named Gomez says "If painting is not everything to you than is nothing". So, my best advice is to open a deep mine of Meaning in your painting and work there at the labyrinth of treasures.
How would you characterize your work now? What are the themes and subjects you are currently most interested in?
I am interested continuously in giving an indelible reaction to the Land of Dixie. It is a long love letter.
You work in both painting and engraving. Do you approach each medium differently?
These two disciplines are very different. Paintings express quite naturally certain subtleties, elusive variations that metal technique cannot. Therefore, one has to switch over to see something consisting of tiny dots and fluent lines. I don't mix the two: I either paint for a part of a year or work solely on engraving.
How does each piece you create begin? When do you know it's finished?
It begins each time with an uninvited, unbidden visitation of a vision. Then I work and work to flesh it out, to build into it its own strength to justify its belonging to Art. How long? Years!
How long have you been a part of Altamira? What has your experience using the platform been like thus far?
Just two months or so. At first, I wanted to quit immediately because my art seems to belong to another civilization. Later, I started to see that the stark confrontations of styles may be actually reminding some participants that if it takes only 15 minutes to paint something and put it for sale, it probably is not art yet.
What critics are saying on Altamira:
Henryk M Fantazos’ "Legend of Hackberry Tree" is as thematically complex as the twisted and constricting branches that wind their way across its surface. There is an inherent contradiction to the visual impact of the work. The emphasis on unrestrained natural growth is indicative of life. However, the painting's subject can readily be described as death and decay. The skeleton of an abandoned and deteriorating house subtly intrudes from the left-hand side of the canvas (this subtly resides in the structure's chromatic similarity to its environment).
Furthermore, the mass of gnarled branches dominating the canvas are not leafless and lifeless because of seasonal cycles (note the greenness of the grass), but instead the victims of murderous life. The sinisterly beautiful vines that wrap around the barren trees are not friendly neighbors but violent intruders. They strangle the proud and venerable trunks in a visually inviting death grip. "Legend of Hackberry Tree" explores death through the illusion of life.
-Written by John Crowther
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Alicia Puig has been a contributing writer for Create! Magazine since 2017. Find more of her work: www.aliciapuig.com