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Struggle and Surrender: Process and Material in Painting

by Elisabet Dijkstra


It comes as a surprise at first that visual artist, Claire Zakiewicz, does not make art. She prefers to label her creative work as a practice in listening, learning and observing.

Claire and her art reside in a world called spatialised time - a wonderful place where shapes of sound, dance and drawing are related back to the material world we live in. This world exists in the crossroad between two chief species of time. Intellectual time is a purposeful sequencing of parts or events and is, therefore, affiliated with ideas composition and product. Real time, familial to ideas of improvisation and process, is the experience of these sequenced parts.

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So in the land of spatialised time, Claire’s artistic house is located in a town called ‘perspectives in motion’ where the artistic system adopts a temporal focus attributable to Claire’s interest in the philosophy of the two species of time mentioned above.

In the course of one prickly affair, Claire found that the paintbrushes she was using were far to bristly and produced scanty lines - this effect was far from what she had envisaged. What does a relationship with failure look like? There are different shades of failure. Technical failure, like the brushes malfunctioning, and feeling of failure - a sense of dissatisfaction. Nonetheless, like all relationships, this one is creative. One create’s a space wherein to exist with the failure which, according to Murphy’s law, will inevitably happen.

What is worth mentioning is that failure has an important role in the element of duration. Claire resolved to refer to the whiskery brushstrokes - the technical failure - as a symbol of her emotions to the corporate shells of skyscrapers that characterised her first few weeks in New York.

Overthinking is dangerous. Claire’s approach to colour is spontaneous and usually involves picking quickly, or even asking friends to pick. Improvisation is a means of surrender, and energy is reserved for the act of becoming a character - becoming a paintbrush, for example.

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Performing brush strokes is a humanistic act - it is rooted in the body.

“Follow a set of patterns, rather than have expectations”, says Claire. She finds pleasure in the surprise outcome and this is reinforced by experiments such as painting in the dark with a cellist playing in the room, or painting blindfolded among dancers and improvising poets, or painting her bear feet and dancing on paper.

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Perhaps the wall between life and art crumbles when you don’t think too much. This involves a level of trust in the idea that the body knows more than the brain.

Maybe this is the big question of process : where is the end?

Then follows, when is it? What is it? Is there an end? Or must we accept the perpetual motion in life and art? Surely, we must all take note from Leonardo Di Vinci’s view that a work of art is never finished, it is abandoned.

Claire values the creative process rather than product; however, product - which connotes "finished” – is an essential part of the process. I think it is about realising the symbiosis between process and product - that the product is not the be all and end all, the process is not a smooth ride altogether.

Failure must become a friend if the artist wishes to make beauty alive and tangible in the moment.



Perspectives In Motion

Preview Reception & Performance
Friday September 14, 2018
6:00 - 9:00 pm

Performance by Assembly

Off-site Project, 16th International Architecture Biennale

September 15 - 27, 2018

San Marco
3209/A - 3160
Venice, Italy

an exhibition of drawing and painting by Claire Zakiewicz
and perormances by Assembly

Performances every day at 7pm




ARTism 3160 is pleased to present Perspectives in Motion by Claire Zakiewicz to be opened on September 15, 2018. The exhibition will re-address ideas of “failure” and the conceptions of “the imperfect” within the discipline of drawing.

“What is the balance between the unresolved and the perfected form? How do we know when a work is finished? In many ways, it’s a mediumistic act that must then be completed by the viewer. The finished paintings have space to somehow “finish themselves,” Zakiewicz says.

Often drawing with her eyes closed, Zakiewicz’s practice becomes a series of meditations in space. Employing gestural drawing in response to phenomena in the surrounding world such as atmosphere, color and sound, the drawings question the boundaries between abstraction and figuration, disruption and unity, and the ideology of “freedom” alongside self-imposed constraints.

Zakiewicz’s examines the phenomenology and architecture of drawing. In this particular series Perspectives in Motion, the works reveal a personal language of spontaneous mark making and simple structural motifs that examine historical referents from Surrealism’s automatic drawings and writings, action painting from the Abstract Expressionists and Japanese Calligraphy.




Mothership August Salon
Tuesday, August 14, 7:30 pm

Mothership NYC
252 Green Street
Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NYC

a collaborative live act organized by Claire Zakiewicz featuring the following artists:



Mariana Alviarez - Dance
Marcus Cummins - Saxophone
Aaron Moore - Percussion
Lenna M Pierce - Cello and Voice
Claire Zakiewicz - Live Drawing


Venezuelan artist, Mariana Alviarez is based between New York and Buenos Aires. She is a dancer, actress, performer, dance educator, choreographer and researcher. She has been working with several dance and drama companies, in both multimedia projects and films. With a BA in International Studies, she aims to create spaces for the development of the performing arts, facilitating exchanges between anthropology, folklore, international culture and social studies. She has performed her own projects in Venezuela, USA, Argentina, Chile, Perú, Ecuador, and Spain.

British saxophonist Marcus Cummins has been associated with the UK free and improvised music scene since the early 90's. He has worked extensively as a solo artist, in duo's and larger bands but is perhaps best known internationally for his involvement in Trevor Watts' 'Celebration Band'. Marcus then studied music at Leeds City College of Music and Dartington College of Arts. During this time studying primarily jazz and Indian music (with the council of many masters such as Bobby Wellins; Evan Parker; Paul Dunmall and Dharambir Singh) he developed a personal style unlike that of any of his contemporaries.

Aaron Moore is an Englishman residing in Brooklyn, New York and is a founding member of the English experimental group Volcano The Bear, formed in 1995. Primarily a drummer he generally considers any instrument or object playable in one way or another. Moore's current projects include Brooklyn-based group Gospel of Mars and a duo project with Norwegian Erik K Skodvin.

Lenna M Pierce (AKA Meaner Pencil) is a cellist, vocalist, memoirist, and music reviewer who has performed in the filthiest subway stations of New York City as well as at medieval French churches and turn of the century Swiss theaters, house shows in Paris, Barcelona and Berlin, and artist co-ops in Lincoln Nebraska. 

Claire Zakiewicz is a British born multi-media artist. Her ongoing research is focused towards examining the physical and metaphorical relationships between sound and drawing. This research has been a scientific and philosophical practice-based enquiry - thinking through making. Her animated films have been shown at Tate Tanks and Tate Modern (London) for the exhibitions Tweet Me Up and Label curated by Tracey Moberly. She has exhibited regularly throughout the UK, USA, Italy and Norway and has produced and performed in numerous productions and international institutions including, Resonance FM (UK), ARTIsm3160 (Venice, Italy), USF (Norway), Bill Young's Dance Studio (NYC), Mothership NYC, Last Frontier NYC, Itinerant Performance Arts Festival (NYC). Zakiewicz studied Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art, London and Anglia Polytechnic University, Cambridge, before completing a research-based MFA at Sir John Cass School of Art, London. This research examined how the body experiences the world through the study of our perceptions, and how we conceptualize objects, frames, repetition and embodied patterns.




Lenna Pierce

Dispatch: Art Out of the World

ISSUE 88 | MAGIC | JUL 2018

Let’s take a moment to remember that the symbols our brains use to communicate with us in our dreamstate are largely present to prevent us from receiving too much truth at once, and to keep us pleasantly restful. If you apply this understanding to the world of art it would make sense that the most beautiful performances might not be the most direct.

Attending the Itinerant Performance Art Festival at Last Frontier in Greenpoint, ancient meat hooks hang from the high ceilings, decorated with bells and flowers. Sungjae Lee is slathering himself with thin layers of green clay, gaining mass and wrinkles over several hours, a statement on aging I think. Cristina Silvio, dressed in unpleasant flesh colored spanks, is nailing her long brown hair to a board, a few locks at a time, until she is quite bound to it, evoking simultaneously Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ. The trend in performance art seems to be a return to the body, the opposite of modern life, a reaction to New York.

I have come to see Claire Zakiewicz who I know to be a great world traveler, as well as an accomplished painter. These two facts together explain how she has been moving farther and farther away from her own canvas through experiments in remote painting. First, blindfolded painting took her away from conscious control. Then she made a magical pair of sunglasses taped over with white medical tape to allow her to see back into herself. During one notable performance she laid a canvas on the floor and daubed paint on blindfolded dancers who danced to my live accompaniment. Her most recent collaboration with Siw Laurent takes her even farther from the canvas.

In a room where other artists are focused on the body, Claire stands behind her DJ table, creativing music for the purpose of moving her proxy painter, Siw, whose operatic voice echoes through the building. Siw holds small black charcoal bars that match her blindfold. She makes black skyscraper marks on the white paper and screeches in tongues. She holds charcoal between her toes, as if to free herself as much as possible from conscious control. Claire then alters the music, speeding it up to a scream. When this chaos clears there are voices in the noise, reading poetry by Danni Lucar “Salty salty salty/ salting wounds to heal/ crashing waves/ salty air cleansing the demons from my mind/ salting the soul.” Siw’s mouth has become black from charcoal. Some of her wild gestures mark the paper–others do not. Now she is on all fours making animal noises. Now she is pointing at nothing and speaking in tongues. Siw is singing over a Steve Reich sample. Siw is manipulating invisible marionettes. Siw is Claire’s marionette. She removes her blindfold and reenters the world. They bow. The crowd applauds.





Exhibition in Venice, Italy
Off-site project, 57th Venice Biennale

Out of the Mothership
Don’t invent, don’t create, don’t make Art...

July 8 - 25, 2017

Opening Reception: Saturday July 8, 6:00 - 9:00pm

Closing reception & performance: Saturday July 22, 6 - 8pm

Meaner Pencil - cello & voice

Claire Zakiewicz - live painting

"Find in yourself those human things which are universal." 

Sanford Meisner

Out of the Mothership is an exhibition that presents British born artist Claire Zakiewicz’s ongoing research into the physical and metaphorical relationships between sound and drawing. This research has been a scientific and philosophical practice based enquiry - thinking through making.

Zakiewicz is interested in the way we begin to perceive form and shapes when our comprehension is limited by a set of prescribed visual semiotics. She asks how “performing drawing,” affects the body and the intimacy of exchange. 

For this series, the artist collaborated with musician and Astrophysicist Gavin Starks who composed a hand written letter for the artist at the beginning of 2017. The letter, intimate yet philosophical in nature, discussed Starks ongoing research into combining sound and cosmology, as a new cultural language. 
Starks' interest in modes of perception and networked thinking alongside Zakiewicz‘s enquiry into the phenomenology of perception, dance, gesture and observation is the focus. Starks says: “For me, music, like mathematics, is a non-verbal language. It is experiential". He asks whether our current concerns in astrophysics - for dimensionality, curvature, gravitation, symmetry, spin and manifold mirror those in the arts - leading him to questions such as: "is there a musical equivalent to the CURVATURE of space-time?"

“We can draw interesting parallels between the macro-languages of music and painting over the centuries,” Zakiewicz writes.  “And the evolution of our understanding of the universe. Our physicality is our cosmic, home. Each line drawn with attention to the body and to the drawing itself and our interactions outside of ourselves whether verbal or experiential, moment to moment.”




Artist in residence at Mothership.NYC
April - July2018

Artist in residence at Mothership.NYC
September - December 2017

Artist in residence at Mothership.NYC
May 2017

Artist in residence at Bill Young’s dance studio in SoHo, New York.
Bill Young is a New York based dancer and choreographer who has danced with Douglas Dunn, Randy Warshaw, and Merce Cunningham (on video).

Sept 2016 - Jan 2017
Bill Young Dance
100 Grand St, SoHo, New York, USA




PointB Worklodge, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Nov 2013 - Dec 2014





Fat Battery Summer School,
USF, Bergen, Norway

August, 2008






Philosophy of Improvisation: The Aesthetics of Imperfection

Workshop, Newcastle Jazz Festival, 2018

In this two-day event, the idea of the aesthetics of imperfection is explored by jazz and improvising musicians in Western and non-Western music, plus practitioners from visual art, architecture, garden design and dance.

The contrast is between process and product, the unfinished and finished work, spontaneity and structure. We will explore the compositional aspects of improvisation, and the improvisatory aspects of composition.

The event will include some performances by participants. It highlights the energy and spontaneity of improvisation, with contributors drawing on their individual artistic visions to explore contrasts and continuities between spontaneous kinds of creativity and the search for perfection that guides composed forms of art.

With thanks to funding from Durham University.

The workshop is part of the Newcastle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music - full festival programme here.




One More Time: An Exhibition and Symposium on marking time in art, 2011
Curated by Anne Robinson
London Metropolitan University

Claire Zakiewicz presents her research into relationships between sound and drawing
Performances by Claire Zakiewicz on each day of exhibition

Exhibition of films by Claire Zakiewicz









Shortlisted for Celeste Contemporary Art Prize




William Kherbek, Me & Cherabino, Interview. with. the. artist. Claire. Zakiewicz

Jez Riley French, Vendure Engraved, 6 questions







Jez Riley French, Vendure Engraved, Zakiewicz's drawings featured in the spring edition












'Writing with your eyes closed'

The wind is so strong outside.
The sun is shining. The wind is blowing.
Three sheets of writing paper on the bench, held down by a phone, are blown away.

The phone hits the ground.
I make chase for the paper stapled together at the corners.

copyright 2011 Jason Shelley
image by Claire Zakiewicz





Alwynne Prichard, 'Don't Touch Me You Don't Know Where I've Been', commisioned illustrations





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