Whitehot Magazine

Interview with Christian Olejnik

Christian Olejnik, Gaugin's Hat. Courtesy of the artist.


By NOAH BECKER May 10, 2024

NOAH BECKER: Are you self taught or did you take art classes?

CHRISTIAN OLEJNIK: I always think of myself as a Cross-Breed! I left school at 15. My parents strongly discouraged me from pursuing further education in art. I worked in a Council office as a Trainee for a bit and unsurprisingly, this failed miserably! I then enrolled on a 2-year BTEC Art and Design course, with the intention of then going on to do a foundation in Fine Art. I found the laid-back teaching style of our college lecturers very hard. I’m all about structure and routine and there was none! I passed the course with a Distinction but I burnt out on the lifestyle. I applied and was accepted for a foundation course but by this time I was in debt and struggling, so I had to make the very hard decision to walk away from Art completely.

One gets the sense that your work is about very personal moments. It’s a voyeuristic feeling when looking at your work. Are you sharing personal moments?

I love the fact you feel this way about my drawings. When my wife read your question, she said ‘That’s exactly it! I feel like a voyeur looking at your drawings!’. It’s made me think a lot about this. Many of my drawings are taken from very personal moments to me. This is the reason why it’s taken me so long to gain the confidence to share them, even with my own family. I loved having my private Insta account – it was my secret sanctuary! I am the voyeur, the collector, the documenter and for this reason I feel a huge responsibility in making sure each drawing of mine is in a safe place.

Who is N.A.H.O? Is there a story behind why you have that in many of your titles?

N.A.H.O has become like a standard of approval to me. When I feel a drawing hold’s enough and gives enough, I give the it the N.A.H.O ‘stamp’ in the title, as I think he would have approved. N.A.H.O was someone very close to me that took his own life. This had a devastating effect on me and has throughout my life. I used to use him and ‘act out’ and pushed very hard to meet him but thankfully I met my wife and began my own life. Now I’m able to start looking back, I’m very glad that N.A.H.O happened to me – it makes me proud to bring him along for the journey. 

Are there any artists from current life or Art history that you find yourself influenced by?

I have always been influenced by American Artists. I live in the heart of the Cotswolds, England, so I live as British a life as can be possible! But I’ve always been drawn to Post War American Art – It captivated and entranced me! I have followed and engaged with Contemporary American art for a long time. Artists such as Jansson Stegner, Nathan Ritterspusch, Nicola Tyson (a Brit living in America), Duncan Hannah and Stacey Leigh are all favorites of mine. Thankfully they’ve all been very supportive of my art and that gave me the incentive to push and focus on my drawings. From Art History: Gorky, De Kooning, Pollock have always been Gods to me! One day I hope that my drawings will be seen publicly in New York – I think that N.A.H.O would approve!

Christian Olejnik, A Ghost. Courtesy of the artist.

You work through ideas and do many versions of one idea. Your art about dogs is for example, some of my favourite by you. What obsesses you about making art about dogs?

When N.A.H.O passed he left me one tangible thing. The Gordon Setter. They are a beautiful black and tan Scottish gun dog. Nowadays they’re classed as an endangered breed – which makes me sad. Yet for some reason, throughout life, I’ve always encountered them – in the most random of places! It is like they’re attracted to me. My own Gordon Setter sadly had to be rehomed and so I found that I couldn’t live with N.A.H.O made flesh. He had the last say. The drawings grew from that point onwards. Trying to get near to the Gordon Setter, near to N.A.H.O. I’m happy that I’m now in control and still encountering these beautiful black and tan creatures wherever I go! They’re not scarce to me…

If you make a drawing about or of people why are you making art about people?

My drawings of people unintentionally always become more than the sum of their parts. It’s the magick that happens when I’m trying to describe them that excites me. Knowing that they have become mine. How a very unsexy image can become overtly sexual, how a soft face can become monstrous. My drawings always become an extreme depiction and it’s an addiction!

Is your work for you or do you think about an audience

For almost half a century, my drawings have been for me only. One quirk that I’ve always had is of continually photographing each drawing as they develop. My iphone camera rolls have literally thousands of these images! It’s through these images, rather than the paper that I can decide when time is up on a drawing. With this obsessive desire to ‘frame’ the perfect image for presentation comes a realization that I would like others to see them ‘framed’ in the flesh. 

Christian Olejnik, A Ghost Calculating X. Courtesy of the artist.

What was your artistic influence as a kid?

Pollock and only Pollock! He was the only real artist that I knew of as a kid. I remember at the age of about 12 being sent away to my Grandmother’s. She let me have the most wonderful green and cream gloss house paints to use and I made my own Pollocks and thought them much better! 

What do you want to accomplish as an artist?

I love being able to share my world with collectors. Seeing and hearing them cherished makes me smile and makes it all worthwhile. If I ever have works in a ‘show’ setting, I won’t be there – or at least not when anyone is around. That would be too much for me. 

Do you have some plans for new drawings coming up?

I’m trying to work on some larger scale drawings currently. I have a very short attention span, so these drawings are proving much more difficult but I love a challenge! I’m currently working on studies of people but dogs (particularly Gordon’s) are always looming in the background – I’d like to do some of me interacting with Gordons – that would be fun. I have finally made my Instagram account public, so everyone can see how these plans progress. WM

To see more art by Christian Olejnik  - visit his Instagram 


Noah Becker

Noah Becker is an artist and the publisher and founding editor of Whitehot Magazine. He shows his paintings internationally at museums and galleries. Becker also plays jazz saxophone. Becker's writing has appeared in The Guardian, VICE, Garage, Art in America, Interview Magazine, Canadian Art and the Huffington Post. He has written texts for major artist monographs published by Rizzoli and Hatje Cantz. Becker directed the New York art documentary New York is Now (2010). Becker's new album of original music "Mode For Noah" was released in 2023. 


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