ABOUT MARK SYMCZAK
The totality of Mark Symczak's paintings over 40 years show so many style changes and personal evolution, that it is almost impossible to categorize him within any one genre. To him, the painting revealed itself; he uncovered the thing that needed to come through. His work reflected his environment. He was prolific and was always already onto the next thing, as much as he was in the present. Symczak’s paintings have a simplistic purity, that come in the form of abstraction, surrealism, impressionism, color blobs, collage, photo realism, portraits, birds, animals, landscape, nature, cities, and people- in positions of all kinds, and in real and non locatable environments. In this way, it is the context rather than the content that reveals the most about this artist.
Born in Beaver Falls, a town outside of Pittsburgh, PA Symczak grew up in an environment where the industrial era was still proudly on display. The entrance into the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 1972 began his fascination with this city of metal and glass that continued throughout the 1970s. He painted space with flatness, but density. Objects were photo surrealistic, with areas of blur and areas of clarity. Impacted by his father’s profession as a chemist, frames were packed with equipment of science and labor, folding into many directions, yet still visceral, and with a sensation of cold metal. His implementation of colors however, is an acknowledgement of human touch. These machines were made and operated by real people, and we see this through the field of colors reflecting off their surfaces.
Symczak moved to the New York City area with his wife in 1982 prompting a major shift in subject matter and style. The high voltage of big city energy replaces the industrial scenes. The many directions of pipes and metal, holding tension and strength, became people packed into areas and vibrating in all directions. Throughout the mid 1980s and 1990s human subjects dominated the canvas. However, scenes of people living in a tight metropolis have moved to a theater or nightclub setting. Still a scene of many people doing many different things, there is now a sense of familiarity and ensemble amongst the people. This transition in human interaction reflects Symczak’s work as a set designer in the New York City theater world. The excited energy of the stage and the warmth of collaboration can be felt in these scenes, even as his style turns towards the flat and angular line, often associated with the work of Max Beckmann. He continues to reveal humanity while colors and lines become disconnected and seemingly non-related.
In the work of the 2000s we see the anti- gravity felt in his early work of industrial matter drift back onto the canvas. People still populate the scene, but are now independent and not relating to each other. The severe lines and angles of theater scenes have softened into curves, amorphous color blobs and geometric shapes, which appear in the background or as a part of the main scene. Surrealism continues to be present as well, but now as a tone more than a form. It is difficult to ignore the biggest change of scenery in Symczak’s life during this stretch of paintings; his diagnosis of cancer. The organic curved shapes that make up backgrounds to the water-like forms used to collage his “Birds” series may be exposing a new awareness of his body and illness. The collaborative energy of a theater ensemble has been replaced by the collective isolation felt in waiting rooms of hospitals, which we see in these paintings as people float in their own activities.
A subject that holds great focus for Symczak from 2010 on, are birds. The “Birds” series appears as the most spiritual collection of work by Symczak. Often seen to symbolize visitors from beyond, Symczak created these paintings through a contemplative method of inking paper and then waiting for the birds to reveal themselves through collage. Birds do appear throughout Symczak’s paintings since the beginning, possibly, because of the attention the artist’s mother gave to researching and caring for birds throughout her life. He continued to work on “Birds” and other collages until his death on June 19, 2015. His paintings remain. They are full with color stretching into every corner, showing warmth, a love of life, and all it’s humors.