Paradise on Earth

Raj na ziemi

Paradise on Earth is a project dedicated to a homeless couple, Artur and Iwona, who invited Cecylia Malik to their wedding in June 2013.

A two-year period of getting to know each other resulted in a cycle of paintings presenting flower beds layed out by Iwona, a series of photographs and the 45-minute documentary film Paradise on Earth.

Artur and Iwona are my neighbours. I first met them in 2013 when I walked into a derelict property just 50 metres from my home. I found a strange garden and two people about my own age.

During our first conversation, they told me that they loved going to the cinema and that they were due to get married in a week's time. I said I would come to their wedding and bring them cinema tickets as a present. And that's how our friendship began.

I was captivated. There was the wedding and the strength of their love – in spite of such difficult circumstances – and of course the gardens.

I decided to paint pictures of Iwona's flower beds. I started to film random things, like Artur and Iwona dancing on the way to the pawnshop, or declarations of love at my doorstep. Artur started to come over to my flat every morning for a coffee and to charge his phone as they live in a wooden shed with no electricity, running water or any form of heating. In exchange, they brought me pirate copies of new movies, and sometimes bizarre pieces of clothing that had been found somewhere. We got to like each other, although it wasn't an easy friendship. Artur and Iwona are alcoholics who have broken ties with their families, making use of the social benefit system. They had lost practically everything. But in spite of all this, they have something enviable. There is the powerful bond that unites them, a carefree, child-like spirit, and the certainty that they are the best-suited couple on our street.

Sometimes I was able to organise part-time work for them, and one summer, I proposed that we go together to an art festival that I had been invited too. It was supposed to be a belated honeymoon. In the end, only Iwona and I made it to the seaside. We had to leave Artur by the roadside 100 km from Kraków, because by 10 in the morning he was completely drunk. The adventure exceeded my expectations and everything turned out completely differently than I had imagined. I had had enough of them, and they of me. After a while, Artur stopped coming round for his morning coffee. I wanted to give up and not finish the project.

Autumn came. Apples ripened on the trees. My thoughts started to turn to the Garden of Paradise. I began to think of Artur and Iwona as the Adam and Eve of my street. Although like all of us, they were thrown out of Paradise, in spite of everything they don't give up and they try to take delight in life. They love going to the cinema. When they get their monthly dole money, which is no easy matter, they go to a hotel where they create a two-day Paradise just for themselves. They save just 5 PLN [1 EURO] for the hangover and the return to brutal reality.

I completed the film Paradise on Earth about their love and our shared journey. I painted pictures – gardens of paradise with windmills, wilting flowers and old toys. But whole project plagued by problems. Our artistic journey didn't work out. Gucio, an orange plastic bee, lost its head in a domestic row. A flower bed in the shape of the word LOVE, which Iwona and I had sowed, became choked with unforgiving weeds. Little pink flowers are not visible in a photogragh that was supposed to be one of my works. Artur and Iwona were not granted the social housing that they had dreamed of. The owner of the property that they had taken over started to put forward worrying plans for its sale or renovation. In a such a way our earthly Paradises are often unfulfilled. Thankfully, sometimes there is a flicker of love, between Adam and Eve, God and the animals, the heavens and the plants, under the green trees.

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Photography and Paintings

Photos from exhibitions