Richard Pawlak is a mature fine artist who ranks among the more prolific along the abstract expressionist spectrum in the past 50 years. He has a long art history of his own throughout eastern Massachusetts—from Boston, to the North Shore along the edges of Cape Ann, and south, into Cape Cod. His work shown here is his latest, as he continues to move through newer themes with unique techniques.
Artimusi: Richard, it’s been over seven years since Artimusi first featured your website in February 2014. Has your artwork changed since then? If so, how would you characterize it?
Pawlak: It’s changed somewhat. In 2014, my artwork was mainly landscapes, marshes, and birds; mostly done on paper. The content went to figurative work, starting with my Bus Stop series. Then I began the Women Studies series. The first four of this set were painted with acrylic on paper. I then began experimenting with a fresco-style painting using a similar textural approach, using shapes resembling my City Shapes series with abstract streets, alleys, and walls. After that, I began using MDF board with multiple layers of lime-based fresco plaster.
Artimusi: How would describe this fresco painting technique? Why did you switch?
Pawlak: Paper was too delicate for the aggressive application that I was doing. I use razor blades, palette knives, and stainless steel trowels to scrape and layer paint. I remove paint and build color, sometimes scraping into the substrate. That’s why I went to using MDF board. I usually apply two coats of primer, and four-to-five coats of colored plaster, usually blue, black, or grey. When using the tools to scratch and scrape the surface, the underlying layers of colors sometimes show through, depending on what I’m trying to communicate. Texture adds a measure of content on its own. For example, “The Jackhammer” (a guy working a jackhammer), has a more aggressive texture. Others, like ones in the Women’s Series, have a softer texture. Using the blade, knife, or trowel, I can press the color at a flat angle into the surface. Then I can remove color, to add transparency, depending on the angle of the blade. I sometimes use straight edges and brushes for details. I finish, using a stainless-steel trowel edge burnishing technique to “close” the surface.
Artimusi: Since 2014, you’ve exhibited over twenty-five times, averaging roughly three times a year. That’s pretty ambitious for a working man, husband, father, and at-home grandfather. What drives you to paint these images and connect with galleries?
Pawlak: I love women, a precious part of my life. I thought to myself “Why not do a series of studies of women?” That idea moved me to paint the Women Studies series. I later added men to my studies. I like to think of my work as sending up a “kite,” hopefully a message that might touch somebody in some way.
Artimusi: While your paintings are more figurative, you identify your work as “abstract-expressionist.” Would you say it is more abstract or expressionist? What percentage of both?
Pawlak: I think both qualities are there. I’d say, on average, a 50/50 percentage.
Artimusi: You won a few awards and have been published since 2014. Which are you most pleased with and why?
Pawlak: In 2021, I won 1st place in the painting category at Cape Cod Museum of Art. Curators say they see a social message in my work with an “honest” appeal. In summer 2021, I had a one-man show at Woodruff’s Art Center on Cape Cod and sold several pieces. That was exciting.
Artimusi: You showed exhibits through 2020–the Covid year. How did 2021 shape up?
Pawlak: 2020 was more productive because I was home more often due to the lockdown. In 2021 I was busy most of the year with architectural trade work.
Artimusi: Your commercial work is in Boston-Cambridge area these days. Have you had interest in making gallery contacts there?
Pawlak: Actually, in February 2022, I have a one-man show coming up at Honey Jones Gallery in Cambridge, near Harvard Square.
Artimusi: Your work has included, some would say, “socially-sensitive” subject matter. Is that a theme you plan to expand, or is it a limited series?
Pawlak: Curators have commented along those lines, though I haven’t claimed that I am trying to send a social message in my work. I’m not done yet with my current series. I plan to expand within that theme of People Studies, and continue to develop the frescos applications with figurative content.
Artimusi: Thank you for your interview, Richard. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Pawlak: If I were to be successful, my hope is that the work would speak for itself. My hope is that people see something of value in my work.
To see a more complete body of Richard’s work, visit his website at richardpawlak.com and his current work via Facebook at “Richard Pawlak, Artist.” Best contact medium: firstname.lastname@example.org.