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February 26th, 2020 | by Tom Harrow-Smith

South Bank in Focus: Oskar Krajewski on 'Mars & Beyond'

Oskar Krajewski was one of the selected international artists at the Canary Wharf Winter Lights last year and also had work featured at The Iris (the swanky bar on top of The Gherkin) for 6 months. Oskar, who has also won 1st prize at the international art competition ‘It’s Art Call’ with a solo show at the After Nyne Gallery in Holland Park, has now taken on the task of creating a new immersive exhibition at Bargehouse in Oxo Tower Wharf. Mars & Beyond looks at the future of our planet and features work from over 40 artists. Intrigued, we set about to find out more by asking him a few questions on what visitors can expect.

What Inspired you to become an artist?

I got my arty genes from my mum. No one ever told me to make art, but I always did it anyway, driven by an inner force. At school I was drawing in my notebooks and painting at home. In 2012 I started sculpting using rubbish and I carry on with it now. I studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Lodz, Poland where I come from. In 2010 I decided to take it to a professional level and started exhibiting in London.

What are the central themes behind ‘Mars & Beyond’?
We have merged two topics; 1.) sustainability and our world now; 2.) a sci-fi inspired, futuristic take on events which may happen in the not so distant future. The exhibition looks back in time from the late 21st century to the present day. Not all works are aligned with this particular theme, but some tell stories about what has happened or will happen to the Earth. We have a space race room with a flying sculpture, a flagship work called ‘The Colony on Mars 2071’ and one floor up there is a set design for a post-apocalyptic scenario. We ponder the question whether we should stay on Earth and cure it or start investing in colonising other planets like Mars.

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How different is ‘Mars & Beyond’ to your past projects and work?
The Mars & Beyond project is much bigger to what I’ve done in the past. Everything about it is more impressive. I’m also curating some 40 artists as the size of the building requires many talents to be filled. Bargehouse became a single, 4-storey tall giant artwork. We have stage performances and live gigs which makes it different to my previous shows.

In what way is this an ‘immersive’ exhibition?
When you go through the curated set up, you should definitely feel immersed in art, sometimes entering dim spaces with hidden ‘Easter eggs’. The exhibition has to offer many artworks set up with sound and light. There are stories and interactions incorporated in some of the installations about our potential future. There is a good amount of technology incorporated in some of the artworks.

We also have actors during the Friday and Saturday evening slots every week dressed up as aliens and post-apocalyptic people. On a more serious note, we have partnered up with Greenpeace who have brought tents with VR kits for the amazing experience of the Antarctic and underwater world.

How have you transformed Bargehouse for this exhibition? What did you like about the space itself?
In my eyes parts of the building has been transformed radically such as the Space Race and Post-apocalyptic rooms.

The Bargehouse building is like canvas to me and can be turned into (almost) anything. The space came to life with the soundscapes and light art. We have blacked out some windows to enhance the mood created by our own lighting. I really like that the space has 4 floors and it’s easy to get lost and surrounded by art.

Is this exhibition more related to art or science? Or is it a bit of both?
I’d say it is 60% art and 40% science. It also depends on the individual artist and the opinion of the visitor.

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Would you say this is an important exhibition to see considering the rapidly changing nature of the world we live in?  And how have you dealt with these topics in ‘Mars and Beyond?’
Yes, especially for the younger generation. There is so much inspiration and information about our planet and our future. We have many sculptures made of recycled materials showing how much waste we produce and what can be done with it. There are pictures of indigenous people from the Amazon and tyre animals highlighting the importance of the forest on our planet.

What were your inspirations behind this exhibition? Why is it important to you?
I love science, science fiction and nature. I really wanted to make a show with a meaning and purpose. We are living in troubled times and I would love to think that I can contribute somehow to the world’s betterment.

What would you say are the highlights to look out for to those visiting?
We have asked visitors about their favourite moments and got a variety of answers. Personally my favourites are Andy Lomas's and Laura Dekker's works; they are both very scientific and visually beautiful. There is so much more and surely everyone can pick something different for themselves.

What are you looking forward to in terms of being located in South Bank?
Location, location, location. I love central London, especially by the river Thames. There is so many amazing cultural things happening on South Bank and I’m very proud to be contributing to the buzz and quality of this area. 

Mars & Beyond is running at Bargehouse until 16 March 2020. Click here to find out more about the event, timings and how to get there.