It is 2030. Damien Hirst has finally given up trying to paint and promptly shuffles off this mortal coil. Is this the end of Hirst as you know him? Not quite. As a last conceptual huzzah, he has arranged for his body to be preserved in formaldehyde and exhibited ad infinitum at Tate Britain.
It could happen, according to the Polish artist Mariusz Tarkawian, whose first solo exhibition in the UK opens today at the Mackintosh Museum at Glasgow School of Art. Probably Damien Hirst's Self Portrait In 2030 is just one in an ongoing series of more than a thousand postcard-sized drawings by Warsaw-based Tarkawian which anticipate the kind of work well-known contemporary artists might be making in the future.
Names such as Bill Viola, Vanessa Beecroft, Martin Creed, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Banksy, David Shrigley and Marina Abramovic crop up alongside less familiar artists in this series, which Tarkawian started at 7pm on November 14. He has even anticipated the direction his own career might take, with Probably Mariusz Tarkawian's Art In 2015 depicting a Greek forum with ARTIBVS inscribed on the portal, reflecting his interest in museums and galleries as forums where the debate about the relationship between history and art can take place.
According to Tarkawian, the process is "quite democratic - I even draw work I don't like. And some don't even exist," he adds mischievously, noting that he has included "art" by his two brothers – one of whom is a car mechanic, the other a law student. "I see this series never ending. There will always be artists coming through."
Born in Lublin in 1983, Tarkawian drew tirelessly as a child and his own history as an artist is charted here in a series that sees "rescued" early works – starting with squiggles and moving on through a boyhood fascination with rockets, the stars, planes, trains, automobiles and Batman, then on to complex drawings in his adolescence of buildings, botanical and life subjects.
Tarkawian has annotated these drawings, placing them in sequence on the walls, so viewers will be able to see the development of his own career. They provide a fascinating portrait of the artist as a young man moving into maturity.
Just as Pliny the Elder urged the aspiring writer to stick to the maxim "nulla dies sine linea" ("no day without a line"), rarely does a day go by when Tarkawian does not draw. He looks apologetic when we discuss this. "Well, I didn't produce a drawing yesterday... but, yes, it is easy to produce a drawing wherever you go, as there are always moments when you can fit it in, even if you are travelling."
In his defence, Tarkawian had just arrived in Glasgow the night before, his suitcase crammed with drawings and his mind filled with installing the exhibition in the hallowed Mackintosh Gallery of Glasgow School of Art in just four days. According to GSA exhibitions director Jenny Brownrigg, who first heard of his work through Polish curator colleague Stach Szablowski, Tarkawian's work suits the art school setting.
"I'm always interested in which artists other curators are watching, particularly in other countries," she explains, "and it stuck in my head what Stach said about Mariusz. As a curator in an art school setting, you are always thinking about how you can illuminate the process as students are always trying to work out their place in the art world.
"Mariusz's work resonates on many levels, as he is concerned with past, present and future. This is the first exhibition of a new year and it opens as the art school looks towards the future, with the building work carrying on apace opposite the Mackintosh building. His art really works in this context, and the good thing is that students will see it as they go about their business and it can also be enjoyed by the public."
How art students see themselves and their place in the wider world is another subject with which Tarkawian has engaged. The third series of drawings on display here is Potential Artists, which depicts, again in postcard-size form, art students from his former college in Lublin. At the top right-hand corner there is either a plus or a minus sign, which indicates whether or not the students see themselves as future artists.
A very high number of minus signs appeared, alongside a combination of plus and minus. When I ask about this, Tarkawian shrugs: "Well, it is very hard to be an artist -" On reflection, I'd give his exhibition a plus sign.
Mariusz Tarkawian: Anticipating The Future, until February 23 at Mackintosh Museum, Glasgow School of Art, 0141 353 4500. www.gsa.ac.uk/exhibitions
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