Born in 1946 in Kraków. She is a painter and essayist. Her writings are devoted primarily, though not exclusively, to art. She is also the author of a series of volumes of artistic prose.
Kuryluk completed her studies in art in 1970 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. She was among the initiators of the 'O poprawę' / 'For Improvement' movement, which brought together a group of peers, graduates of the Warsaw academy, and first gained a reputation through an exhibition organized at Warsaw's Studio Gallery in 1974. She was also a co-founder of the Śmietanka / Cream Group, which made its first public presentation in 1977. She exhibited extensively at this time with Andrzej Bielawski and Łukasz Korolkiewicz. Kuryluk also holds a degree in art history from Jagiellonian University, however, she was to a greater extent shaped by an earlier stay of many years in Vienna, where she completed middle school and learned a great deal about Austrian culture at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Kuryluk's first book titled Wiedeńska Apokalipsa / Vienna Apocalypse, published in 1974 (2nd expanded edition published in 1999) was one result of this Austrian period in her life. This first publication was followed two years later by a highly erudite work devoted to the art of Aubrey Beardsley (Salome albo o rozkoszy. O grotesce w twórczości Aubreya Beardsleya / Salome, or On Rapture. On the Grotesque in the Oeuvre of Aubrey Beardsley).
Since that time she has been both a visual artist, creating paintings and drawings, and a writer, publishing poetry, prose, essays and literary sketches on art. Her publications include the poetry volumes Kontur / Contour (1979) and Pani Anima / Miss Anima (1984), and a collection of short sketches on the condition of contemporary art titled Podróż do granic sztuki / Journey to the Outer Edge of Art (1982).
In her early works the subjects ("real life" motifs) and stylistic solutions (flatly laid, brilliant colors) were characteristic of New Figuration and Hyperrealism (Autoportret w 29. urodziny / Self-Portrait on My 29th Birthday, 1975), to which she devoted a book titled Hiperrealizm - nowy realizm / Hyperrealism - A New Realism (1979). She has remained faithful to figurative art throughout, saying that she has a "passion" for it. Since the beginning of her career she has far from hidden the autobiographical dimension of her art. The heroines of her paintings have her own facial features, their bodies share the contours of her own body. In this manner she underlines the importance of personal expression in art. She wrote, "My own artistic utopias derive from the irrational conviction that art should be a unique reflection of an individual's fate and experience. It is not so much about creating as it as about using highly sensitive materials [...] to record the grain of the epidermis, the gesture of a hand, a heart rhythm, and our own shadow as thrown by the bright sun." Towards the end of the 1970s she abandoned easel painting in favor of drawing highly precise, sharply outlined images (mostly male and female nudes) on pieces of white cotton or silk. Loose and soft, they are capable of being freely shaped in any gallery space (see the installation Trzy krzesła / Three Chairs, 1982) and in the open (Jesień w Princeton / Autumn in Princeton, 1984). These delicate textile "veils", "shrouds" or "skins", are as if themselves removed from human bodies. Laid out on chairs, hung along walls, arranged on floors or stretched between trees, arranged to highlight the intimacy between two people helpless in their nudity, they are exposed completely to the curiosity of viewer-voyeurs and often thrilling. This is especially true of instances where the sharp pencil seems to have wounded the thin layer of soft, semitransparent, ephemeral fabric. In these works the artist seems to refer to iconographic representations of the veil of St. Veronica and the related idea of ephemeral reflections of the human body on shrouds that cover it (Kuryluk also devoted a treatise to this topic titled Weronika i jej chusta / Veronica and Her Veil, Polish edition 1998). Kuryluk's "veils" and "shrouds," however, are a departure from Christian symbolism. Although they depict suffering, they primarily constitute a record of individual emotions, express a biological fascination with life. Although they arrange themselves into a spectacle of memory and love, they often strongly highlight sexuality (Zimowy mężczyzna / Winter Man and Zimowa kobieta / Winter Woman - fragments of the installation Zima w Północnej Karolinie / Winter in North Carolina, 1989). It is because of this aspect that they are often categorized as examples of "body art."
For years the painter has been supplementing her numerous compositions on fabric with hand-written notes (Szpilki / Pins from the Rysopisy / Drawn Descriptions series, 1989). It is in these works, simultaneously drawn and written (which the artist refers to as "rysopisy" - drawn descriptions), that her dual interests are realized in the most original manner, though simultaneously in the most literal. The artist's most recent installations have a previously never explored cheerful, happy mood. These works are made of cotton in various colors: pink, red, blue (Kim jest ten tajemniczy chłopczyk? / Who is That Mysterious Boy?, 1995).
Ewa Kuryluk's oeuvre seems crowned by her highly erudite, postmodern novels, Wiek XXI / The 21st Century (Polish edition 1996) and Grand Hotel Oriental (Polish edition 1997), Encyklopedierotyk / Encyclopaedia Erotica (2001).
The artist has been living outside of Poland since 1981, a decision largely determined by the imposition of Martial Law in Poland in that same year, while she was abroad. Her initial years in exile were spent in the United States, where she lectured at several universities (among them an institution in San Diego), however, in 1995 she began to divide her time between the USA and France. She has been returning to Poland each year to exhibit her new works in her home country since 1989 (e.g. in 1997 she showed a selection of new works at the "Manggha" Center for Japanese Art and Technology in Krakow). During Martial Law in Poland she made her works available solely for a handful of independent exhibitions held in small, intimate galleries (among them, the Gallery of the Visual Arts Stage of the Catholic University of Lublin, 1988). She remained very active abroad, presenting her work at numerous solo exhibitions, among other places, in the United States (Helen Shlien Gallery, Boston, 1982; Princeton, 1984, 1985; University of California at San Diego, 1992) and Argentina (Centro de Arte y Comunicatión, Buenos Aires, 1986). She also took part in important group exhibitions (including the Biennale of Art in Medellin, Columbia, 1981; Art in General, New York, 1988). In 1982 the Boston Globe named her installation shown at the Helen Shlien Gallery in Boston exhibition of the year. She did not, however, focus solely on her own work. She participated in creating such periodicals as the Paris-based "Zeszyty Literackie" / "Literary Notebook" (which went on to be published in Poland after 1989) and "Formations", published in Chicago. Kuryluk also contributed to popularizing the literary oeuvre of Bruno Schulz in the United States.
Although she claims to be ‘an apolitical animal’, she has frequently given evidence of her socio-political and above all humanitarian sensitivity: she has cooperated with Amnesty International (seminar-exhibition Year of the Political Prisoners, 1976), and initiated the creation of an association named 'Amici di Tworki' which supports a psychiatric hospital near Warsaw.
Kuryluk has published two volumes of family history. The title of the first autobiography is the name of her hamster, who she and her brother looked after. The main character of the novel Goldi is her father – Karol Kuryluk, the Minister of Culture, who later in his career became president of PWN (one of the major Polish Publishing Houses). The author adopts the perspective of a child to describe the most important historical and political events (like Molotov’s visit to Poland), as well as situations in family life (meeting with a writer whose works none of the relatives have read, but which were eagerly devoured by the hamster). The book was among the finalists of the Nike Award 2005. She continued to immortalize personal memories on the pages of Frascati, which is also the name of the street where the Kuryluk family lived in Warsaw. She began working on the second volume after the death of her mother and created a more complete portrayal of the family than in Goldi. In Frascati she tells the story of untimely deceased father, the mental illness of her mother and brother, her late discovery of her Jewish roots, and the trauma of the Holocaust, which has been impossible to work through. The book was also nominated for the Nike Award in 2010.
Her installations made of yellow silk and paper created after 2000 also reflect the strong ties between the artist and her family. Yellow Birds Fly (2001-2003) were inspired by her mother’s words, ‘our house of time’, to describe her closest relatives.
Yellow was my mum’s code. It signified the sun and nourishment, but heralded suffering and death. 'Our house of time' is made of yellow and white cotton 'walls' covered with somewhat blurred frescoes and scraps of silk. Mum’s relatives and us appear in a flock of canary birds. The yellow highlights our common features. In this installation the colour has a similar function as during the Holocaust: it distinguishes from others, marks off and exposes.
– explains the artist.
In 2005, Kuryluk made an installation entitled Taboo. On one hand, it referred to her brother, who fell mentally ill after their father's death and became disabled, on the other, to her mother’s hallucinations, and hinted at two journeys: to the West and to the East. A key part of the installation were collages made from paper and fabric showing two children: "one has a yellow jump-rope and the smiling face of [her brother] Piotruś, the other – a yellow hoop and my face. The children are the same age as my brother and I when we arrived in Vienna in January 1959," explained Kuryluk. The final part of the cycle was the Golden Ship (2006-2007) – a large silk cutout, which was shown, among others, on the Kamo River bank in Kyoto and in the Fusziminari Shrine.
The Golden Ship was also presented in Warsaw Królikarnia Gallery in 2009 along with photographic self-portraits depicting the artist's life. Always staged, often erotic (which caused her battles against the censors) were an act of conceptual art. The photographs have been published the same year in the album Kangór z kamerą 1959-2009. Autofotografia / A Kangaroo with a Camera 1959-2009: Autophotography. Kuryluk became a ‘kangór’ (misspelled kangaroo in Polish) at the age of four during a visit to the Warsaw Zoo – she has associated her surname with the name of the animal. Nine years later, she got a camera. Autophotography was shown again at the Ego Gallery in Poznań, in 2015.
Kuryluk received the Silver Medal for Merit to Culture Gloria Artis (2012).
Author: Małgorzata Kitowska-Łysiak, Art History Institute of the Catholic University of Lublin, December 2001, update: GS, July 2015
- Wiedeńska apokalipsa / The Viennese Apocalypse, Krakow: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1974
- Salome albo o rozkoszy / Salome, Or Delight, Krakow Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1976
- Hyperrealizm - Nowy realizm / Hyperrealism - the New Realism, Warszawa: WAiF, 1977
- Kontur / Contour, Krakow: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1979 (poetry)
- Podróż do granic sztuki / Journey to the Boundaries of Art, Krakow: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1981
- Pani Anima / Miss Anima, Krakow-Wrocław, Wroclaw: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1984 (poetry)
- Salome and Judas in the Cave of Sex, Evanston, IL.: Northwestern University Press, 1987
- Grand Hotel Oriental, Oxford: Basil Backwell, 1991 (prose)
- Veronika and Her Cloth: History, Symbolism and Structure of a 'True' Image, Oxford: Basil Backwell, 1991
- Century 21, Normal, IL.: Dalkey Archive Press, Cloth, 1992 (prose)
- Wiek XXI / Century 21, Gdańsk: Marabut, 1995 (translated from English)
- Grand Hotel Oriental, Warszawa: W.A.B., 1997 (translated from English)
- Weronika i jej chusta. Historia symbolizmu i struktura 'prawdziwego' obrazu / Veronica and Her Cloth: A History of the Symbolism and Structure of the 'True' Image, Krakow: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1998 (translated from English) ...about this book
- Encyklopedierotyk / Encyklopaedia erotica, Warszawa: Sic, 2001 (prose)
- Art mon amour. Szkice o sztuce, Warszawa: Sic!, 2002.
- Goldi, Waszawa: Twój Styl, 2004.
- Podróż do granic sztuki. Eseje z lat 1975-1979 i eseje z lat późniejszych na ten sam temat, Warszawa: Twój Styl, 2005.
- Wiek 21; Trio dla ukrytych, Warszawa: Twój Styl, 2005.
- Droga do Koryntu/On the Way to Corinth, Warszawa: Twój Styl, 2006.
- Frascati, Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2009.
- Kangór z kamerą: 1959-2009, Autofotografia /A Kangaroo with the Camera 1959-2009. Autophotography Artemis, Art+on, Wydawnictwo Literackie, Kraków and Warszawa, 2009.
Selected Solo Exhibitions:
- 1969 – Paintings and Drawings, PWSM Gallery, Warsaw
- 1970 – Painting and Graphic Works, Woodstock Gallery, London
- 1972 – Painting and Graphic Works, Richard Bradley Atelier, Billingford, UK
- 1973 – Painting - Drawing - Graphic Works, Christian M. Nebehay Galerie, Vienna;Człekopejzaże, Współczesna Gallery, Warsaw
- 1974 – Paintings, Galerie Lambert, Paris
- 1975 – Paintings and Drawings, Pryzmat Gallery, Kraków
- 1976 – Paintings and Drawings, Zapiecek Gallery, Warsaw; Malarstwo/Painting, Galerie Länderbank, Graz, Austria
- 1977 – Human Landscapes, Nowa Gallery, Poznań; Painting, National Museum, Wrocław; Painting, Ściana Wschodnia, Warsaw
- 1979 – Within Our Four Walls, installation, Ściana Wschodnia, Warsaw
- 1980 – Preserved, installation, Critics Gallery, Warsaw; Human Landescapes, , Art Gallery, Middlesbrough, UK
- 1982 – The Room of Memories, Journey, installation, Helen Shlien Gallery, Boston
- 1984 – Villa dei misteri, installation, Art in General, New York; Autumn in Princeton, installation, Princeton, NY; Skin, instllation, Princeton, NY
- 1985 – Seven Black Chairs in the Snow, installation, Princeton University, Princeton, NY
- 1986 – Membranes of Memory, installation, Centro de Arte y Communicación, Buenos Aires; Prints, installation, Justus-Liebig Universität, Giessen; Membranes, installation, Kunstation, Kleinsassen, Germany
- 1987 – The Theatre of Love, installation, Mobius, Boston
- 1988 – Drawings on Cotton, Galeria Sztuki, Lublin; September – Remember, installation, National Humanities Center, Research Triangle Park, NC
- 1989 – Shrouds, installation, Studio TM, Warsaw; Winter Erotic, installation, National Humanities Center, Research Triangle Park, NC
- 1990 – Skin/Sky– Red/Blue, Drawritings, installation, Art in General, New York
- 1992 – Sunset for Three Survivors, installation, University of California, San Diego
- 1994 – Drawings and Installations, Radziwiłłów Palace, Nieborów; Drawings and Installations, Galeria ZPAP, Warsaw
- 1995 – Whi's This Mysterious Boy, Manhattan Gallery, Łódź
- 1996 – Three chair and Shroud, installation, Gerlesborgsskolan, Hamburgsund, Sweden
- 1997 – Drawings on Paper (1974-1978), Artemis Gallery, Kraków; Installations (1977-1997), Manggha, Kraków
- 1998 – Secret Life of Clothings, installation, Artium Gallery, Fukuoka
- 2000 – Trio for the Hidden, installation, Self-Portrait in Photography, Artemis Gallery, Kraków; Self-Portraits on Paper, fabrics and Photographs, Iren Sagan Gallery, Essen
- 2001 – Cotton Skins, installations, Latitude 53, Edmonton, Canada
- 2002 – Woman and Art, Austran Cultural Forum, Bratislava
- 2003 – Retrospective, Zachęta Gallry, Warsaw
- 2004 – Good Morning, Rolo, performance and insatllation, part of Nova Polska, Château de la Petite Malmaison
- 2005 – Taboo, installation, Artemis Gallery, Kraków
- 2009 – A Kangaroo with the Camera 1959-2009. Autophotography, Golden Ship, installation, Artemis Gallery, Kraków; Paris in Warsaw, reconstruction of the exhibition of Kuryluk's painting at the Galerie Lambert in 1974; New Auto-Photographs, Art+on, Warsaw
- 2011 – Ponny in Gliwice, Czytelnia Sztuki, Gliwice; Outlining a Shadow, Design Gallery, Wrocław
- 2015 – A Kangaroo with the Camera in Poznań, Ego Gallery, Poznań