Ewa Juszkiewicz paints, draws, and creates collages and animations. She was born in Gdańsk on 3rd September, 1984. She lives and works in Kraków.
She holds a master's degree in painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk followed by a PhD earned at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków. She is a member of the VJ collective AAA Tanie Wizualki. In the autumn of 2014, the publishing house Thames & Hudson released the album One Hundred Painters of Tomorrow, which lists Ewa Juszkiewicz as one of the painters mentioned in the title.
As an artist, she chiefly deals with portraits of women. She creates paintings that refer to well-known early modern works, especially Flemish ones. The only difference lies in the way of presenting the portrayed persons’ faces. Juszkiewicz imaginatively distorts these faces or substitutes them with large polypores, the bodies of insects, bouquets of flowers, tribal masks, or draped fabrics. Surrealistic, disturbing paintings loosely based on the originals are created as a result. These works by Juszkiewicz sometimes are copies with a single, subtle alteration.
At a certain point, I became tired of repeating the motif of the human face, I began to look for forms, phenomena existing in nature, which could substitute faces. I began to transform the traditionally understood portrait and research the effects of such devices as substituting a face with a mask, integrating a face with that face’s surroundings, completely erasing a face – said Juszkiewicz in a conversation with Agnieszka Rayzacher, published in the catalogue to the artist’s exhibition Pukle, which was held at local-30.
The artist is interested in analysing the ways of portraying women in painting throughout history. She analyses for instance the superficial, objectifying ways in which female beauty was shown in accordance to prevailing ideals of beauty. In her works she researches the phenomena of transgressing aesthetic norms and canons of depiction. She interweaves formal presentations with seemingly mismatched elements and asks questions about the boundaries of beauty and ugliness.
(…) I’m trying to find out whether art that looks noncontemporary, traditional or even archaic can engage today’s viewers and provoke discussions about current issues.
She is one of those artists who are highly concerned with technique. Juszkiewicz’s works can be admired for their textures, weight and the qualities of the matter presented. In this respect the paintings by the Polish artist are similar to the works of the old masters. The choice of technique and the way of painting are always linked to the concept of borrowing.
When my work is based on reproduction, I deconstruct certain fragments of the painting, trying at the same time to recreate the other fragments faithfully. In this process the following of the strokes of the original author’s paintbrush is an important element, which enables me to meet, metaphorically, the original author – said Juszkiewicz in the aforementioned conversation with Agnieszka Rayzacher.
In 2013 she was awarded the Grand Prix of the 41th Polish Painting Biennial 'Bielska Jesień'. Her works are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Zachęta of Contemporary Art in Szczecin and Bielska Gallery BWA, Poland.
Ewa Juszkiewicz's individual exhibition entitled UpadekKusi/ The Descent Beckons (2015) which opened at Galeria Bielska BWA, presented two series of paintings created by the artist in recent years. Two works from the first series – Girl in Blue and Bez tytułu: Według Rogiera van der Weydena/ Untitled: After Rogier van der Weyden– won her the main prize during the 41stBielskaJesieńBiennale of Painting in 2013.
The second series of paintings was created especially for the The Descent Beckons exhibition. The paintings were based on lost artworks, pieces that werestolen or destroyed during wars or in fires. According to the exhibition’s curator, Agnieszka Rayzacher:
As in the case of her previous paintings, while working Ewa Juszkiewicz relies solely on photographs, which in this series happen to be mostly black and white, poor quality and found in archival materials that are often several dozen years old. This presented the artist with freedom while choosing colours and turned these modernised versions of the lost works into casual interpretations and, as in the case of the series of portraits, they become the leaven, the material on the basis of which she develops her search.
The title of the exhibition, The Descent Beckons – a quote from American poet William Carlos Williams– links both series with a shared interpretative thread. Juszkiewicz questions the purpose of reconstructing either damaged or lost works of art. The artist created an archive of paintings that emerged from her personal commemoration process; she revived works from both distant and recent history and even brought to life those lost in tragic circumstances. Thanks to nostalgic memories, emotional choices and personal associations, Juszkiewicz included herself in the course of recreating history and establishing a new context. What is more, Juszkiewicz's project included scenography within the gallery's space, which referred to the Merzbau installation by Kurt Schwitters– astrange cave built inside of an apartment from the ‘discards of everyday life’. This commentary refers to new values arising from the ruins of old ways. The set design accompanying the exhibition is a metaphor for the temporary nature of material things and art objects in a world of overproduction.
During her work, the artist wasn't only inspired by paintings and photos: For one of her pieces a 13 cm porcelain figurine made by German artist Johann Joachim Kändler in 1754, entitled Kobieta z Wachlarzem i Maską/ Woman With a Fan and a Mask. The figurine remained in Dr Ernst Gallink's private collection in Baden-Baden, and after his death it was sold to the museum in Karlsruhe; however, it never reached its destination and disappeared in mysterious circumstances.
The Syndrom Gauguina/ Gauguin Syndrome, which opened in 2016 in the lokal_30 gallery was a combination of three individual exhibitions –by EwaJuszkiewicz, Filip Brendt and Katya Szadkovska–brought together with common themes: Anthropology and transformation– the need for it, its requirements, impossibilities and the process itself. Gauguin Syndrome also features three stories. Juszkiewicz – similarly to the The Descent Beckons exhibition – based most of her pieces on archival photographs of lost artworks. The story she quoted relates to the history of one of her paintings:
As the Nazi regime rose to power the life of the Hesses, a family of entrepreneurs was dramatically changed. Thekla, widowed after the death of her husband Alfred, remained with her son Hans, who was to take the reigns over management of the family’s art collection. When in 1933 he lost his job at the Ullstein publishing house, he was forced to emigrate. He moved to Paris, then London. His mother remained in Germany to look after the collection. She was able to save a large part of the collection by sending a number of works to the Kunsthalle Basel in 1933. Kunsthaus Zurich took them over in 1934 for their own exhibition and then stored them in its warehouse when it was over for safekeeping. Customs restrictions meant that Thekla could send the collection abroad for only short periods of time on the basis of a ‘freipass’. In 1939 the Gestapo threatened her with punitive action because the collection had still not returned to the Reich. Thekla was wary and asked the director of the Cologne Art Union to hold the works and immigrated to London. When she contacted the Union in 1947 to have the collection returned, she was told that the works had been removed after the bombing of the storage facility and were probably lost. Over the next few years, she managed to recuperate several of the paintings, but she never managed to track down her favourite – a tapestry by the expressionist artist Max Pechstein, titled ‘Grape Gathering’.
Ewa Juszkiewicz participated in an exhibition entitled Od Sztucznej Rzeczywistości do Selfie: Autoportret w Polskiej Sztuce Współczesnej/ From Artificial Reality to a Selfie: Self-Portrait in the Art of Contemporary Polish Artists, which opened at the BWA Awangarda Gallery in Wrocław in the autumn of 2017. The exposition captured the identity of Polish contemporary artists from different generations. The self-portrait compilation is an attempt to show their artistic strategy and their attitude towards tradition as well as an effort to depict technological change and different methods of preserving the image throughout the decades. Over the years, subsequent inventions have made it easier for us to picture ourselves and bring us closer to our own image, at the same time destabilising our identity and a sense of belonging. In the era of smartphones, everyone can create a self-portrait without putting in any effort; we don't actually need manual skills, but is showing yourselfequivalent toself-representation?
Selected solo exhibitions:
- 2016 – SyndromGauguina/ Gauguin Syndrome with F. BerendtandK. Szadkovska
- 2015 – The Descent Beckons, Present Future Section, Artissima, Contemporart Art Fair, Torino, Italy; The Descent Beckons, Galeria Bielska BWA, Poland
- 2013 – Curls, lokal_30, Warsaw, Poland; Damage has been done, Juszkiewicz/Kokosiński, EL Gallery, Elbląg, Poland; Up to my head, Juszkiewicz/Kokosiński, Zona Sztuki Aktualnej, Szczecin, Poland; What you don't talk about, Baltic Gallery, Słupsk, Poland
- 2012 – Rosamunde, the Princess of Cyprus, Centrum Kultury Katowice, Poland
- 2011 – How It Is, Asks Agnisia, That We See a Teddy Bear in the Painting, Otwarta Pracownia, Kraków, Poland; Wild in dreams, Garbary 48 Gallery, Poznań, Poland
- 2010 – Ewa Juszkiewicz – painting, Sławek Jaskułke – piano, PiTiPa Gallery, Poland
- 2009 – Young Artists' Presentation, Ewa Juszkiewicz, Sfinks, Sopot, Poland
Selected group exhibitions:
- 2019 – Masochistki/ Masochists, ZonaSztukiAktualnej, Szczecin
- 2018 – DzikośćSerca:PortretiAutoportret w PolscePo 1989 Roku/ Wild At Heart: Portrait and Self-Portrait in Poland After 1989,Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Warszawa; KościotrupyMusząWstawać / Skeletons Must Wake, Gdańsk Municipal Gallery
- 2017 – Syrena Herbem Twym Zwodnicza/ The Beguiling Siren is Thy Crest, Museum of Contemporary Art on The Vistula, Warsaw; Sztuka w Sztuce/ Art in Art, MOCAK, Kraków; Od SztucznejRzeczywistości do Selfie:Autoportret wPolskiejSztuceWspółczesnej (From Artificial Reality to a Selfie: Self-Portrait in the Art of Contemporary Polish Artists, BWA Gallery Awangarda, Wrocław
Author: Agnieszka Sural, 16.09.2014, transl. MK. Updated: HSz August, 2019.
Selected quotes are originally from the lokal_30 gallery website and have been translated by HSz.