The Shape Of Things To Come, a 1933 novel by science fiction writer H. G. Wells, predicted future events. Like all Wells books, it was ahead of its time. The Island Of Dr. Moreau, was another Wells novel that was futuristic and sinister in its outlook. It predicted the decay of morals among scientists who have wholly rejected God, leading to the creation of hybrid animals and beasts who, devoid of a sense of ethics, turn on one another. It’s a horrific, bleak, nihilistic view of the future. In a lot of ways, Daniel Maczynski’s paintings are saying that the horror has now arrived, and it’s an existential horror shaped by our obsession with robotics, computers, and technology. Humanity has become the sideshow, with man trapped in his own skin, pleading for mercy, whilst the machines take over.
When you first glance at a Daniel Maczynski painting, from afar, you might be struck by a feeling of vague similarity. There is very something very Francis Bacon-esque in the way he manhandles his portraits, deforming them, stripping faces of their essence, replacing human skin with meaty, distended pieces of collage. Living Room in particular seems to have all the Bacon hallmarks; a descending strip of nude colour dominating the centre of the painting; an impossibly swirling figure so caught up in the process of movement that it resembles a human tornado with all its innards falling out; a simple but sinister interior, flat with muted colour, void of context or meaning.
This is not to say that Maczynski is indebted entirely to Bacon. There are also cues from Surrealism in his work, not least echoes of the great master, Salvador Dali. In ‘Figure on the Beach,’ there is a merging of influences, from Bacon’s disfigurements, to Picasso’s collage, to Dali’s classical take on Surrealism and his exotic, Catalan setting. The result is a 21st century realisation of this hotchpotch of influence – and it’s a true 21st century nightmare. A sort of, ‘what have we done, messing so with much with robotics and technology?’ It’s like an updated version of Frankenstein’s Monster. It is Gulliver in bionic form, grappling with reality on a velvet beach, wondering what on earth he is doing here.
The artist himself admits to dabbling with bionic forms, with the concept of robots, presenting figures who are ‘devoid of feeling.’ In this way, his work is presented as an inversion of Francis Bacon, who sought to capture the subjective moment in objective reality. His paintings depicted the horror of suffering. Maczynski’s works show this too, but in a world where science fiction has become pretty much a reality, where technology is on the verge of completely subsuming us, his work seems even more harrowing, more pointed. It’s 21st century Gothic art, monstrous but laden with truth and perception. It’s the sum of experience collapsing in the face of modernity and all its confusion.
Few artists had ever been as bold as Francis Bacon by the time he plummeted the murky depths of subject matter, and if truth be told, few have been willing to take on his mantle ever since. Although Maczynski no doubt wears his influence on his sleeve a little too much sometimes, he is always looking for some new method, some new pathway to expression. Art, after all, is in the public domain. Bacon left a legacy that somebody was always meant to pick up on and expand upon. It was never meant to be left alone, left to rot like the pieces of meat he painted. It would be unfair to say that Daniel Maczynski is merely showing us what a Francis Bacon painting would look like were it painted today. He’s an artist in his own right. But he’s certainly giving us a glimpse of what the great Bacon would make of 21st century life.