Slawek Wojtowicz is a Pole, a science fiction reader and an artist. I think it’s fair to say from this collection of his computerised paintings that he’s also a dreamer – aren’t all of us who enjoy a quaff at this particular genre chalice? There are spaceships, aliens, time-travel, future war, other planets, bright technology and dark decay here in this collection of his artwork; all whirled around in one man’s head, filled with Polish translations of all sorts of science fiction, and hence taken just a touch sidewise thanks to that little cultural difference.
Before talking about the pictures, I want to just mention the accompanying captions, each of which is, at times, positively Ballardian in brevity, with only the picture itself for background. The efficient business-like nature of these sentences seems filled with a naïve charm, a sort of wishful Cordwainer Smith-style outpouring of cavalier ideas that sometimes left me simply in open-mouthed bemusement. Here are just three examples of such moments:
‘What happens when you dress inappropriately for a time jump?’ (Time Traveller, p.25)
‘This poor guy was deprived of his favourite exercise for too long. Now he is ready to jump into a municipal drinking water supply. He knows that he will get caught and will be promptly punished.’ (Swimmer, p.18)
‘Almost every inhabited planet in our Galaxy has a fleet of starships hidden deep in its molten core. Many civilizations have forgotten that these ships can be used in case of emergency. All that’s needed is a signal that will awaken the ancient armadas down below.’ (The Awakening, p.44)
Now if reading just that small sample of the descriptions of these pictures doesn’t simultaneously cheer and intrigue you, I would suggest you’re not really an sf lover – not deep down in the bone where every new so-called episode of Enterprise hurts.
Wojtowicz’s work betrays the very obvious use (arguably over-use) of PC art programs (the surfaces of so many of the objects in his often bizarre worlds are flooded with colours, patterns and topology), garish in a way that those of a more conventional artist would not be. If I’m honest, Slawek is not to be ranked amongst the great artists of our day. His main weak points are his people: very few of the human characters in his story look very real or natural, despite his use of scans of actual people (such as his wife and very charming children). Most of his pictures would have probably been better off without the intrusion of humans, although there is the occasional one, such as Kiyama, which does show what he can do (that said, the case for the prosecution must point to Gaal Dornick’s disturbingly tight buttocks in Luxor Hotel!). A couple of these pictures also look very rough round the edges – are they slightly unfinished or is this just poor rendering on the page?
But, in the end, despite it not being a piece of Great Art, I actually rather liked Daydreaming. It reminds me in spirit of the Pulps: enthusiastic, human and just a little bit crazed – in a good way, as most of us are to some degree in sf.