Maciek and the Mermen

Maciek Siudut lives in Warsaw, and we connected through Facebook. When I asked him to write about himself for this post, he sent the following:

Maciek’s Biography 

My name is Maciek Siudut. I was born on October 13, 1977 in Gdynia. In Poland people born in Gdynia they call śledzie (herrings). Since I remember, I was a sensitive person. Always reacted emotionally to music and film. Probably that’s why they are the closest muses to me. Quite addicted to watching movies and always listening to music. This doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in other art directions. I also love architecture and graphics. My life never was complicated. Quite ordinary. I come from a military family. My dad is a sailor. My mother never worked. I spent part of my childhood in Dresden, Germany. This is where I started my schooling. There I experienced my first friendships, first raptures of love. Very happy period. After returning to Poland, I had problems with acclimatization to the new reality. It turned out that the Poles feed a huge dislike for the Germans. I unfortunately was in their opinion a German… After primary school I landed at Salesian High School. This was not my choice. I yielded to my mom. I was never a believer. Strange experience, I have to admit… The next step in my life, higher studies. This decision I made already by my own. I chose Architecture and Planning at the Technical University of Gdansk. I met many interesting and wonderful people there. At this stage of life I also began to explore my homosexuality more. I’m gay and I’ve always been. Since childhood. I’ve never had a problem with it. My orientation doesn’t define my lifestyle. I’m first and foremost a human being. At the moment I work as a copywriter in an advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi. A completely new experience. My passion is tattoos. I like to watch people. I like to travel. My life never was complicated. Quite ordinary.

Maciek and I are about to embark on a collaborative art project that will continue over an extended period. I’m to create an image based on a description by Maciek, and he’s then going to have it tattooed on his body. Maciek has suggested two mermen, facing each other from either side of his torso. He wants one to be Neptune and the other a young sailor. The sailor is the sea-god’s lover, and has been transformed into a merman in the process. I see the design as a sort of garland curving around Maciek’s belly and up onto the sides of his abdomen, though all of this will be open for discussion between us as the design evolves.

From the e-mails

  • Maciek: I’m really very happy and can’t wait to see first sketches.
  • Clive: I will try to clear some time. I’m not going to rush this, as I see it as an ‘art project’ and as such I’ll need to think my way into it and get it right. (I’m wondering whether I might get exhibitable material out of it.) I guess you know that I blog about my work. Are you happy for me to write about this project as it develops? And will it be OK for me to quote from our e-mails? This is definitely an art collaboration. The subject was one you decided on, and you’re to be the canvas. I think the process of  us working together will be interesting for people to read about. I’ll need a photograph of your torso that I can scale-up and print out so that I get the shapes fitting correctly. Can you do that for me?
  • Maciek: Sure! I’ve made a photo.
  • Clive: Got it. Thank you. The figures will have to be larger than in the example of a tattoo you sent to me earlier. Mermen are more complicated than the bluebirds in the image.
  • Maciek: Yes, I agree. Maybe you have another idea, where I should make this tattoo? Maybe it shouldn’t be at the pelvis area?
  • Clive: I think the pelvis is good. It’s one of my favourite parts of male anatomy and it figures quite a lot in my work. But we’ll keep discussing the possibilities as the design develops. If at some point we both agree that the tattoo would be better somewhere else on your body, we can rethink and adapt. While the overall shape will be symmetrical in feel, it cannot be a mirrored image because you want two different characters. This won’t be a problem for me to balance in a pleasing way, but just bear the fact in mind.
  • Maciek: I don’t want them to be similar. They should be like a younger and older brother, or like a father and son. Each should have his own attributes.
  • Clive: Agreed. I’ll draw out the image in a way that will allow for all the detail you’ve described. Then we can re-scale it to fit you. I think the likelihood is that the mer-tails will either have to curve back and up and wrap around your sides, or they might sweep down and to the the centre to intertwine at your pubis. Do you want the design to stay above a low belt-line, or are you happy for it to partially disappear beneath it?  I’m assuming you don’t want the mermen’s tails disappearing into your pubic hair.
  • Maciek: I like better the idea their tails are curved back and up. They can surely wrap around my sides. I also don’t have a problem to go with the tattoo beneath my belt line, but I’m not sure I want it to go into my pubic hair.
  • Clive: I agree. OK for men who shave down there, but otherwise I think it would just look messy. I recently made a painting of a bearded fisherman… the first in a planned series… with a design of a giant nautilus pursuing a sailboat tattooed on his forearm.

  • Maciek: That’s my favourite painting of yours. Maybe the sailor should be also ginger? What do you think?

  • Clive: I don’t want to lock too much into the idea of colour just yet. Let’s leave that area for later discussion. Right now I’m going to concentrate on form. A couple of years ago I made illustrations for a fold-out alphabet book that included both Neptune and a sailor. Neither looked the way you’ve described what you’d like, but I’m including them here as a bit of background detail to illustrate that I like your idea! (The drawings for your tattoo will be a lot more detailed, and the outlines of the figures will be designed to be more elaborate in decorative terms.)

  • Maciek: Your drawings and paintings are really well detailed and I could wear every each of them on my skin.
  • Clive: Well that’s very generous of you. I’m conscious that the tattooist will be working with a needle, which means I’ll be thinking carefully about making a design that will be right for that medium. Do you have someone in mind? You need to be sure that the design is going to be carefully transferred and executed. If you don’t have already have a tattoo artist, then you’ll need to start looking.
  • Maciek: I have already a tattooist, he is perfect for this job. He’s name is Marcin Surowiec. Here you can view his work.
  • Clive: I’ve just been to look. That’s very impressive work. He uses colour fantastically. Thinking about his beautiful use of blue, I wonder about using a vibrant blue and black, in the way the two are combined in this Hervé and the Wolf painting. The tonal values here would translate well to Surowiec’s technique.

The project continues

18 thoughts on “Maciek and the Mermen

  1. Pingback: skin/skóra | Clive Hicks-Jenkins' Artlog:

    • Leonard, I think that’s one of the elements that interests me. There is about this project the sense of the transgressive and voyeuristic. While I always think about paintings in terms of compositional form, tone, colour, narrative etc, with this there is the added responsibility of the image as a permanent ‘wrap’ that has to be fitted around a living body. It’s certainly a stimulus to me for getting it right! There is a weighty responsibility quite alien to my usual practice.

      I remember when it became apparent that The Virgin of the Goldfinches was going to hang permanently in the collection of Llandaff Cathedral, I thought to myself, “Well that’s it. Every part of this will be scrutinised on a daily basis. The painting is not mine any more, but will be owned by everyone who gazes at it. Moreover it’s going to be where regular worshippers will see it every week, and perhaps not just as a decoration of the building, but potentially as an expression of their faith. Children will grow up with it, and it may form the iconography of ‘divine mystery’ they carry with them throughout their lives.”

      When I worked in the theatre and had to design costumes that actors wore in order to create their characters, I felt the responsibilities of their creativities and performances. I had to get it right for them. This has something of the same charge, but infinitely more so. These are the images that the wearers will live with and in, shared with intimates whether friends, partners, lovers, children, or families. These are the images that will be seen by whoever may care for them in sickness, and those who will be entrusted with their bodies when life is done. It’s enough to bring up any artist short.

      I tell you what. It’s going to make me a very attentive listener when the images are discussed with those who will be assuming them.

      • I figured as much, your awareness of boundaries being crossed and opening new means of expression. I wasn’t being prudish (well perhaps a bit, I did blush at shaven netherworlds I have to admit) but the language of pelvic regions and such is language used most often intimately and for a more primal intention. I LOVE the concept, I love your beautiful swoon-worthy Kevins, and to have a living muse is enviable. I meant it, have fun, make make make. xolg

        • Just bodies, Len. Nothing should be out of reach of the artist’s gaze, as your own work demonstrates. As for shaving nether regions, it’s just an expression of how people see and present themselves. Men and women have been tattooing, shaving, plucking and modifying since time began.

          • Well I think you know from my own work that we agree. I am considered the penis king here in LA. Many dinner companions have squirmed just a bit , my mother most especially.

            I’m modified, so to speak, as well 🙂

            Looking forward to the progress, your muse is a pretty fellow

            • Speaking personally, I am thrilled to share the same blog comment space as the penis king of LA ! I think the intimate nature of this work actually makes it quite tender…the gentle imprint of creativity on flesh, albeit via the shocking intrusion of the tattooist’s implement. I find it all very exciting, strangely!

  2. Gosh, interesting stuff! Especially now that tattooing is a more elevated art form than it was. The colours will lend themselves to your illustrative style. The human body as a canvas, rather like the Veruschka body paintings of the late 70’s and 80’s. ( Although these were less permanent ). XL

  3. Yikes! What a wonderful collaboration this is going to be…living art in the fullest sense of the phrase! I don’t know much about tattooing – presumably it will take several sessions as it’s quite painful isn’t it? The Illustrated Man film with Rod Steiger is popping into my head…..

    • First of all, I owe you an e-mail. Apologies, Shellie. Life has been rather crowded since Peter started the new job. We end up spending loads of time catching up with each other. I guess it’ll get simpler eventually, as we become more accustomed to the situation.

      I believe tattooing can be painful, especially in more sensitive areas, such as where the bone is less padded. I guess by the end of this project I’m going to know more about such things than when I started on it! (-;

      • Dear Clive…I am totally committed to fighting off the tyranny of the email…they are useful and charming things but one shouldn’t feel pursued by them! You don’t owe me an email or an anything….we can be in touch as and when, with no time limits involved 🙂

  4. After painting and drawing so many beautiful tattoos, it’s only right and proper that a design of yours should be inked into real skin Clive. And what a stunning and unique tattoo this one will be, lucky Maciek!

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