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How a former police officer transformed into an original artist. Interview with Krzysiek Grabara

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

Krzysiek Grabara, a former Polish police officer who radically changed his life two years before retirement. He left the police to devote himself entirely to art. Now, Krzysiek is a multipart artist, who is not afraid to experiment and use different drawing and painting techniques. More than 230 of his works have already found their place in various collections of art lovers in several countries. Krzysiek Grabara received already several honorary mentions by Polish Masters of Art, as well as participated in Desa Unicum exhibitions and art fair.

Read this incredible story of an unusual artist. How did the artist put an end to the violence in his life and become a real ambassador of peace? In what way did he achieve the meditative state of mindfulness? Furthermore, you will know how he helps people to fight serious illnesses through charity auctions and inspires others to paint?

Yuliana Arles: Looking at all your achievements and merits, it is difficult to believe that you have been creating art in total since February 2019. It seems as if you were silent for a long time, and now you are in a hurry to share the accumulated information with the world, conveying it in the form of art. Can you tell us how it happened that you embarked on an artistic path? What inspired you to do art? What is the source of your courage, productivity and enthusiasm?

Krzysiek Grabara: Thank you, Yuliana, for saying so. In two years, I achieved quite a lot, although a part of me thinks it's still not much.

My relationship with art started a bit earlier, in 2015, when I started to become interested in photography. I quickly came to the conclusion that what interests me is an individual view, and artistic way in photography.

I started opening my mind to possibilities and other perspectives. Furthermore, I also felt the need to see a human being in front of myself, which is still very strong.

In mid-2018, I was lucky to qualify for group therapy at the Neuropsychiatric Hospital. Thanks to which in December 2018 I quit my job in the police, two years before retirement. I wanted to change my life dramatically and pursue a career as a photographer, but in the end I started to paint.

Before that, I did not paint or draw. I did not want to tell myself that there is something that I couldn't do, and I really just wanted to try.

My mentor at that time, Oliver Buhlig, did the same a year ago. He was and continues to be for me a model of a free soul. Photography also has numerous limitations and is only recording reality, which was not enough for him and me.

The painting has its own individuality, an aura, like an artist's fingerprint. Today I paint to fill peace that is missing in my life. It is hard to change your life if you lived under constant tension for 30 years, being a victim of domestic violence, and then objectification and animal abuse at work in the police. I was lost most of my life, unfortunately finding my way to peace is not easy with the baggage of negative experiences.

Yuliana Arles: It's amazing how your personality has gone through such a radical change. A former policeman, a person who, by the nature of his work, constantly faced violence. However, after so many years of serving as a guardian of order, you have chosen a different way to fight badness through the spread of peace and the replacement of darkness with light. Can you share how you found inner peace? In your opinion, is giving up fighting the best way to find harmony?

Krzysiek Grabara: Every day I fight with myself because the past won't let me go. I was a subordinate for 30 years of my life. First at home, and then in the police force, where I entered without knowing the possibility of another life.

Years later, I came to the conclusion that I was quite lost. I experienced violence at home and at work. Nobody talks about the fact that after a few years, something changes in your head.

A human being is only a social security number, and an officer is a service number and the face of the authorities on the streets. Objectification and animalization carry over throughout your life. Just because someone is "fighting" badness does not mean that they are good. For many, it was work and satisfaction of their inner complexities. As for me, it is also very bad.

But 30 years is a long time, over 80% of my present life. Initially, I found peace during walks with the camera around the city, then in therapy, learning about art and opening my mind, to finally find it in painting and the education around it. Is giving up the fight the best way to achieve harmony? Certainly so. Although, unless you fight directly, echoes of the past remain in the form of nightmares or thoughts.

K. Grabara - Medytacje
K. Grabara - Medytacje

Yuliana Arles: After everything you've experienced in life, you can definitely be called the ambassador of peace. Your watercolor landscapes immerse the viewer in a world of dreams and spirituality, their dark tones convey a deep serenity bordering on melancholy. In works such as Studium furyu.28, Japanese Landscape 17 or Meditations, you can trace the influence of Eastern culture on your artwork. Where did you get your interest in the mysterious nature of the East? What attracts you the most about Eastern philosophy? Are you doing any kind of spiritual practice?

Krzysiek Grabara: Let me start with the last question. I try! Although, it is very difficult for me. However, I am comforted that the meditative states of constant mindfulness can also be achieved in front of a painting with a brush in my hand, which prompts me to devote myself to painting rather than regular meditation.

I first encountered the culture of the East when I saw Hokusai's Big Wave in Kanagawa on the cover of polish magazine "Przekrój". Later this painting followed me, even if during the therapy the girl of one of the patients had a bag with this motif.

I started to learn about the philosophy of the East and the influence of Japanese culture on the works of Young Poland artists. From there it was close to Impressionism, which he drew from the East.

What attracts me the most are attitudes and directions in philosophy like Wabi-Sabi or Furyu. Seeing beauty in passing and accepting imperfections, surrendering to the current and not fighting it, the road itself is more important than the goal.

K. Grabara - Pejzaz Japonski 14
K. Grabara - Pejzaz Japonski 14

Yuliana Arles: Continuing the theme of your watercolor art, it has also an airy effect, while maintaining a rich color and a certain atmosphere. In your experience, is watercolor painting in high demand among collectors?

Krzysiek Grabara: I like watercolors, that's where I started. Currently, I am supplementing them with other techniques, such as inks. And while the watercolor is not very popular, it happens that the still wet artwork finds its new owner in a few moments. Another thing is when I'm combining watercolors with inks, here the interest is much bigger.

K.Grabara - Nihil Novi
K.Grabara - Nihil Novi

Yuliana Arles: Let's talk about surrealism. Your paintings from the Nihil Novi cycle depict people as birds in scenes of everyday life. In the cultures of many nations, as well as religions, the bird often symbolizes the freedom and immortality of the soul. What was your initial idea for this cycle of paintings?

Did you want to portray a fictional alternative world, or is there a figurative and symbolic connection between birds and human souls, enclosed in the framework of daily routine? Or maybe it was another intention?

Krzysiek Grabara: I started to paint this cycle during the pandemic, and the masks are to relate directly to the plague. In the Nihil Novi series I wanted to show with a metaphor that nothing will change in human relations, people will remain strangers to each other, some will look for the flame of a match as enlightenment and use old tricks to maintain power.

Yuliana Arles: Having traced your activity on the Internet, you will notice that you not only exhibit your artwork for a wide viewing, but also talk about other artists, techniques, and the history of art. How long have you been interested in art?

Krzysiek Grabara: Sharing in social media my experiences and inspirations for me, it is really important. I have been interested in art since February 2019, i.e. from the moment I started painting.

I get to know authors through books about art, biographies, albums, visit exhibitions to feel their aura, and read about their lives. Likewise, I have a lot to catch up on :) I believe that when we have the opportunity to get to know the life of the artists and what guided them in the creative process, such as with Kandinsky or Wyspiański, it is worth doing it. Then I can look at my own and someone else's art from a different perspective.

Yuliana Arles: So, How do you evaluate such a form of acquiring knowledge on the topic of art as a personal blog?

Krzysiek Grabara: By sharing my knowledge, I want to show the recipient that my art is not only paintings - it is mainly education, thoughts, experiences and experiments, and the painting is the result bof these elements. I also don't treat social media as a personal blog.

Yuliana Arles: In addition to the fact that art helps you understand yourself and comprehend the emerging emotions, you also participate in various charity auctions. The sale of your paintings helps people, especially children, to fight serious illnesses. How can people find information about the next charity auctions in which your artwork will be participating?

Krzysiek Grabara: As a rule, participation in charity auctions is spontaneous. I share information on social networks. I am glad that I can help someone by creating something. Perhaps someday I will need such help. Sadly, the Grand Orchestra of Christmas Charity is far more popular than individual help.

I am also sorry that rulers cannot help such people and do not take into account the lives of children or people struggling with cancer, dooming them to a slow death, which is annoying and very unfair in the context of spending public money.

Yuliana Arles: According to the information on your social media pages, several people have already started making art following your example. Where do you get inspiration for yourself and other people?

Krzysiek Grabara: I look for inspiration mainly in nature, in moments of silence, when my heart allows me to speak, pictures appear, which I then write on canvases or move on to the author or particular subject.

Krzysiek Grabara
Krzysiek Grabara

Yuliana Arles: As you state, over the past few years you have created more than 500 paintings. The prices of your artwork increased by as much as 200-300%. What moment in your career path was decisive?

Krzysiek Grabara: Such an event was the qualification of my work to participate in the prestigious auction of Fantastic Art in Desa Unicum, where at one exhibition before the auction my painting hung among such names as Zdzisław Beksiński, Rafał Olbiński, Jacek Yerka, Jerzy Duda-Gracz, Tomasz Sętowski and others. Two years were enough for me to hang for a moment among the painters who are my greatest inspiration today.

Yuliana Arles: And to end our conversation, what is the main advice you can give to aspiring artists?

Krzysiek Grabara: The hardest part is to start and understand that whatever we leave behind becomes immortal. It's like a piece of our soul left on a piece of paper or canvas.

I think it is worth leaving behind and not worrying about the opinions of people who are afraid to do this, because no one taught them this.

It is worth painting from the inside and not being afraid to show it.

It is worth getting out of your comfort zone and looking for yourself in various techniques.

And always remember that it was you who created this work of art, no one can take it away from you. Even a simple, minimalistic line drawn with emotion can make a great value.


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