Artist Janusz Obst working on the “Life Between Lives” tryptic at his studio in Brooklyn, NY.

Janusz Obst, “Mr. Three-Dimensional”

An introduction to the ongoing discussion of art in the 21st century.

I am a 72-year-old artist, producing pieces that have earned me the nickname “Mr. Three-Dimensional”. After countless experiences and adventures in the world of art, I have decided to begin compiling my observations and thoughts on the ongoing discussion of art, its definition, its place in the 21st century, and our interaction with it.

For as long as I can remember, I have been drawing, painting, and sculpting. My emphasis remains on skill, care, sincerity, and heart in a professional sense. And, despite a life full of escapades, no one has managed to distract me from this passion.

The simple truth is that my mind has always seen the world as a series of pictures; this is how I navigate my place in both life and the living world of art.

At first, I was motivated by the ego to compete with colleagues. I strove to develop my skills of singing, musical composition, literature, and poetry in the respected Renaissance style. But it was a lack of talent and subsequent laziness that barred me from these artforms — I struggled to hit the right notes and made too many mistakes spelling.

As a musical artist, only stubbornness served me.

During the Parisian Spring of 1968, I was sitting on a ladder at 16 Tatarska Street in my hometown of Zamość, Poland and sung to life a song that quickly caught on. The ballad, titled “I don’t have a penny and I won’t ever have a home”, earned the adoration of the crowd and the attention of government censors, who threw mud at me.

Needless to say, it was a great glory to the underground movements of the day, and the song can still be heard playing in a jazz club called Kosz in Zamość. For a while, I enjoyed life as a troubadour — but eventually the stubbornness that fueled my musical tendencies extinguished.

I was advised by friends, musicians, and editors, “Janusz, take care of what you can and don’t go where you don’t belong.” So, I left music, poetry, and literature behind… but the pictures had survived. My mind still saw the world as a series of images — revealing paintings and sculptures that did not yet exist.

Soon, the question was forced upon me: “Are you a painter or a sculptor?”

Language often forces us to assign all phenomena into separate categories — even art. But any explanation often becomes a lecture that spans the history of art and civilization, focusing on painting, or haut relief, or bas-relief. Most often, we focus on paradigms; on what was popular in art at one particular time in history.

But my work has never been one or the other — I create relief in color. More accurately, I combine painting with sculpture into one single artistic creation.

Since the Renaissance, these two art forms have been treated as separate methodologies. When ancient Greek and Roman reliefs were excavated during the Renaissance, they appeared colorless because of the conditions in which they were stored and the passing of centuries.

In lieu of ancient, classical style, Renaissance artists began to treat painting and sculpture as incompatible forms. While relief never disappeared, it was relegated to colorless form in accordance with contemporary taste and style of the time. It took up an inanimate place in architecture and decorative craftsmanship.

In reality, the reliefs from ancient Greek and Roman and Mesopotamian times were vibrant, masterfully painted with hues of all colors, rather than the monochromatic assertions from the Renaissance.

It has been my own journey to combine color and relief after centuries of separation — to create relief in color.

And now this is my journey to explain relief in color through writing, show the attractiveness of relief in color, as well as provide the range of possibilities it offers to the artists creating it.

The “Life Between Lives” (2019) triptych collection, made out of a plant fiber and acrylic composite and painted with oils.
The “Life Between Lives” (2019) triptych collection, made out of plant fiber and acrylic composite and painted with oils.

To start, I will draw from my years of experience to introduce its technical aspects — but it’s also important to being with the magical relationship between art and science. Just as impressionism is associated with the fission of white light and the birth of photography, relief in color is associated with lasers, 3D films, and the birth of the hologram.

Even from ancient times, humankind has been interested in exploring reality through the three-dimensions of space — we seek to create the illusion of three-dimensionality through painting or we seek to actively build and explore three-dimensionality through sculpture. Our own innate curiosity has been met with our senses and consciousness.

We painted on the walls of a cave; we carved into wood or sculpted from clay. Though countless trends have come and gone in the world of art, humanity’s curiosity and engagement with three-dimensionality has never faded.

Sculpture and painting address our need to engage with 3D viewing and how we perceive our own reality through color and space. Sculpture, in particular, allows us to further investigate the limits of the physical world and our perception of it.

This ancient idea of the three-dimensional image, abstract as it may sound, is supported today by science in the disciplines of biology, new-generation physics, psychotronics, and the transcendental science of universal consciousness.

It is from this ancient idea that my work continues today. Relief in color allows me to utilize both the illusion of 3D created in painting with the 3D nature of sculpture. In this way, my work contains dimensions within dimensions — I create illusions through color and space, through painting and sculpture.

It has been a long journey in the making, as classical relief poses many challenges. In the contemporary art world of relief, there are countless possibilities for working with both painting and sculpting.

I have spent the last dozen years investigating and perfecting the rebirth of relief in color and it is now my dream to share this journey with you. Photos are not able to fully reflect the possibilities offered by the techniques I have invented, so, in addition to inviting you to this virtual discussion to exchange views and skill with me, I also would like to invite you to my studio in Brooklyn, NY.

I look forward to engaging with you. And don’t forget to subscribe to be notified of any future articles.

To view my work or get in touch, please visit my website: www.obstart.com

Janusz’s art permeates the interaction between the history of civilization, individual fate, current social and community-based issues.

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