Tomasz Rut is regarded as one of the leading contemporary figurative painters alive and was named in 1999 by the Robb Report as one of five most collectible living artists (along with Chihuly, Clemente and others.) More recently, in October 2011 specifically, two of his paintings were blessed by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI before finding a permanent home in the Vatican Collection in Rome.
It is not uncommon to fall under a spell of the works of Tomasz Rut. Something of a song from the old century, a renaissance revived, Rut’s work transcends work I have seen created in my lifetime. In them, I found the great fires of Dante’s Hell danced upon by the biblical beauties of Milton’s Paradise… pain and anguish of passion and protection sprouting from a simple man and woman’s embrace. And at times, glimpses of Dali, others, of Michelangelo. Ruts work—classic and spiritual, creative and erotic—took me on a journey where I was no longer looking at paintings but reliving the life of history’s great myths.
For those of you who want credentials, he studied at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, and later, at the Academy of Fine arts at Warsaw where he earned a master’s degree in Art Conservation and excelled at art history, painting techniques and style.
I recently had an opportunity to discuss Rut’s recent accomplishments, gather some advice for emerging artists, and learn about his life as a successful painter.
World on a Fork: How many paintings have you created in your professional life? If you have lost count, which I imagine is probable, can you provide estimation?
Rut: I have been drawing and painting all my life. I had my first show at the age of 11, and I kept on painting—and selling—my artwork throughout high school and the Academy. In my early twenties, I did hundreds of commercial paintings for a gallery on Madison Avenue in New York, and in my late twenties, opened my own shop in West Palm Beach, FL, where I completed hundreds of additional projects, which included large murals and wall decorations. To narrow it down to the last two decades of my work and since I made my paintings available through galleries, I have done roughly one thousand originals, several sculptures and countless studies and sketches. In addition, my works have been released as posters and limited edition prints by various publishers, and I estimate that about 20-30 thousand of these works have been sold so far in total.
WOAF: Is there one component of constructing a painting—composition, color theory, subject, etc.—that is a driving force behind your paintings?
R: The driving force behind my paintings is always my insatiable desire to communicate a message. WHAT I communicate is senior to HOW I communicate. A message combines both: a subject matter and the technical rendition of it. These two factors are inextricable in any work of art if one desires to attain communication with one’s audience. What it is not always understood is that the technical rendition needs to be no more and no less, but just ADEQUATE to communicate and to create an emotional impact. Composition and color theory are elements of HOW the subject matter is rendered, although interestingly enough, it can be frequently challenging to see any subject matter at all in Modern art, in which case the communication is reduced to just a technical debate with scholars and critics or to an artist’s attempt to communicate with himself. In my case, the quality of technical rendition largely determines the viewer’s response to my paintings, so I make sure to never cut any technical corners. But frankly, I don’t think much about the technique – composition or color mixing or what brush to use anymore. I don’t end up my workdays covered in oil paint from head to toe, with paint-splattered clothes that many people like to associate with a “true artist”. Not that I didn’t splatter myself thoroughly in the old days, when I was still wrestling with the technique, but these days all my paint stays on canvas, not on me, and I’d be probably quite safe painting in a tuxedo! J
WOAF: When was the last time you gave away a painting?
Rut: Just recently, I’ve donated all proceeds from a sale of a painting to the Humane Society (I am a big animal lover!)
WOAF: Two of your paintings were recently hung in the Vatican in Rome. Were you nervous on the day of the unveiling? Excited? Inspired? Where would you like to see you work hang next?
Rut: I was nervous before my scheduled audience with the Pope because I was trying to confirm the timely delivery of the two huge and framed paintings I was presenting. Can’t say that the Roman commercial transportation is as reliable these days as it used to be a few hundred or two thousand years ago. In fact, sitting and sweating under the hot October sun at the St. Peter’s square, waiting to be greeted by His Holiness, I did not see the paintings arrive… just to find out from one of the cardinals at the last minute before my approach, that they were delivered by the side entrance to the St. Peter’s Cathedral where the Pontiff had already seen and blessed them before the ceremony.
Excited? Of course! The audience itself was brief, but the honor and my personal sense of accomplishment still lasting… The idea of having my work displayed at the Vatican – the sublime patron of the arts and such artistic giants as Michelangelo or Raphael who I consider my greatest teachers, is probably the most significant acknowledgment I could hope for. As for the inspiration and future plans, perhaps it’s time for me to go visit the Dalai Lama.
WOAF: Do you listen to music while you paint? If so, what genre?
Rut: I like all kinds of music, but when I paint I listen to Classical mostly. As a matter of fact, it would be hard for me to paint without refreshing my senses every once in a while with Beethoven’s Symphonies, Bach’s Concertos, Mozart’s Masses, Chopin’s Nocturnes or some of the beautiful Adagios – they keep me inspired. Pink Floyd, some New Age and Ethnic music will do the trick sometimes, too.
WOAF: The development of technology over the last two decades has influenced many 21st century artists… how has technology inspired (or remained pure of) influencing your work?
Rut: I am not sure what happened in the last two decades that I might have missed… The last time I checked, artists who can paint are still using brushes and traditional paints, even if it’s acrylics. Yes, I do use the newest technology in printmaking, I use the Internet extensively for research and marketing purposes, and I use new digital cameras to take artwork related pictures. To this extend it is a big convenience. But no, technology has not influenced my artwork in any way, in terms of what and how I paint. To the contrary, I go back as far as practical in adhering to the traditional ways, which I find vastly superior to any modern inventions. If you are referring to the digital age technology blending into the traditional – brush and palette – approach to painting, I can imagine that some artists, other than me, may find it amusing, especially if they don’t know how to use the brush and the palette. Sadly, if we take a good look strictly at the fine art of painting since the Industrial Revolution, all of the splendid technological advances of our culture, including the Information Age, have given us also an opportunity and excuse to promote lackluster talent, decadence, cynicism and complexities that our mankind might be better off without.
WOAF: What advice would you give emerging artists?
Rut: If you have real talent, don’t ask for advice. Don’t dilly-dally, and you’ll make it.
WOAF: What are you trying to convey in your work?”
As I said before, I believe that art is in essence a quality of communication and that the measure of any artist is the skill, or beauty, and the meaningfulness of his aesthetic creation, by which he can be judged. But this may seem to be an antiquated view when one is confronted by dots and squiggles, Campbell Soup cans, an upside down urinal or dead flies glued to broken condoms, all pretending to be fine art, while the work itself communicates repudiation of quality, self-denial or lacks talent, merit or dignity. Staying faithful to high standards has never been an easy proposition, but whether antiquated or not – liked or disliked by critics and high-brow art galleries – I have dedicated myself to presenting a good old alternative to the epidemic modern art apathy and mediocrity, of revisiting the real Classics, which as sure as the sun rising again tomorrow, and the Renaissance following the Antiquity, will swing the pendulum back and away from the current Dark Age. And, above all, I am honored and grateful for the appreciation and support of my fans and collectors, who enable me to continue cultivating the message of hope, love and understanding that humbly helps to maintain our best ideals and qualities.
Thank you for the interesting interview and all the best to your readers.
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