Since graduating from the Goldsmiths MFA in 2003 Neil Zakiewicz has been known for his irreverent and unpredictable sculptural interventions. So, for anyone who has followed Zakiewicz over the years, his move into painting comes as a surprise. As in all Zakiewicz’s work, there is still a refusal to respect business as usual. His adoption of the mantle of painting resists a full identification with the norms and genres of the medium.
The MDF paintings of 2013-14 are made up of hinged panels. The panels are sprayed with one, two or three colours. When displayed on the wall they are unfolded, like the pages of a book held open and laid flat. What quickly becomes apparent is that the paintings are both visual end products and kits for their own making. The circular holes cut into one panel function as templates for the sprayed discs that appear on another. This also means that there is at least one painted surface hidden from view when a painting is displayed. Hence there is another version of each piece – the folded version – which we don’t see but can imagine. The folded version is how the piece is when sprayed. It is also a painting in some sense, though it’s not what Zakiewicz chooses to show.
The pared down vocabulary of discs with horizontals and verticals operates as a sort of zero degree image, as well as referring to signage, games and simple counting notations. The paintings pose questions about their making: Who receives the object as folded up kit? Who does the spraying? And where and when? If there is such a thing as Ikea modernism, then these painting make a good case for what flatpack paint-it-yourself abstraction might look like. They describe a moment in consumer capitalism where the precise point of production – the time and place where it actually happens – has become hard to pin down. We are still at the dawn of the 3D-printer revolution and don’t yet know what to expect of it, other than a profound alteration in the relationship between signs and materials. The MDF paintings suggest ways of thinking this alteration playfully. They imply that the painting – as the tool for its own making – is already equivalent to a set of instructions, though it contains and communicates those instructions materially rather than through symbols.
Perhaps the task of painting today (if there is one), is precisely to displace it own point of production. In an odd P-I-Y kind of way Zakiewicz seems to address that task.
Written by John Chilver, January 2014