Joanna Gniady is an illustrator whose work has featured in numerous children’s books, on the pages of magazines such as Wysokie Obcasy, Charaktery and Glamour, and on the album covers of Czesław Śpiewa, HURT and Mademoiselle Karen.
Joanna Gniady is an illustrator whose work has featured in numerous children’s books, on the pages of magazines such as “Wysokie Obcasy”, “Charaktery” and “Glamour”, and on the album covers of Czesław Śpiewa, HURT and Mademoiselle Karen.
Born in Wrocław, Joanna Gniady is a literary historian by education. She completed her studies in Polish philology at Wrocław University and spent many years doing academic research into the image of femmes fatales in fin de siècle literature and art. She finally chose to abandon the written word in order to devote herself fully to illustration; however, she admits that her fascination for late nineteenth-century decadence, aestheticism, dandyism and femmes fatales has not dwindled and can be seen in much of her work. Indeed, Gniady’s most recent cycle of drawings — entitled Fleur du Mal — is inspired by the writings of Baudelaire.
Joanna Gniady’s illustrations generally feature women with large red lips, and men with moustaches. Her notebooks are full of sketches of moustachioed men — acquaintances and strangers she has encountered on her journeys. Gniady considers these journeys to be her greatest source of inspiration.
I love spending time in galleries and museums, stooped over the works of masters, discovering local artists. I’m most interested in French art and visit Paris obsessively. It is in Parisian bookstores, parks, cafés and backstreets that I find my greatest inspiration - Gniady tells culture.pl
One of the illustrator’s first major commissions was to design the album cover for Wakacje i prezenty (Holidays and Presents) by HURT, one of Gniady’s favourite bands from Wrocław.
I was overjoyed when Maciek Kurowicki offered it to me because I had been to many HURT concerts and knew all their songs. To be honest, Maciek was the first person who really believed in me, and it’s thanks to him that I believed in what I was doing - recalls Joanna Gniady.
For her next music commission Gniady provided illustrations for Attention, an album by Mademoiselle Karen, a saxophonist from the group Czesław Śpiewa. Gniady has also worked on stage designs for several of Mademoiselle Karen’s concerts and collaborated on one of her music videos. She is currently working on illustrations for Mademoiselle Karen’s second solo album, to be released in spring 2014, and graphic designs for Czesław Śpiewa’s forthcoming double album.
Joanna Gniady has collaborated with a number of cultural institutions, including French television channel ARTE, Alliance Française India (in Poona), and — in her native country — the Department of Culture at Wrocław City Hall. For the latter, she was commissioned to create all the graphic designs for the “Wrocław: European City of Culture 2016” campaign. Her graphic work accompanied the city’s most important cultural events, including: the T-Mobile New Horizons Festival, Dialog-Wrocław, Wratislavia Cantans, Survival, and the Wrocław Good Book Launches. Since 2009, she has also prepared illustrated kids’ programme brochures for Wrocław’s Museum Night.
She puts a couple looking at the sky with an omnipresent moon, squeezing its large belly in between the roofs at her poster for the museum night in Wroclaw. The one for the SHOPIQ gallery in Wroclaw promotes vinyl records, as the fantasmagoric long hands make the record spin on paper. In 2014 she created graphics for the winners of the Woclaw theater and music awards. Rendered in red, white and black they show intertwining faces, silhouettes of instruments and cats. A year later, Gniady yet again attacked this subject and prepared graphics for the next edition of the gala. This time she expanded the color palette, enriching it with nuanced shades of grey. Each illustration tells a different story: for the music award there is a man holding a guitar as if it were a gun, or a hilly landscape made of faces for the theater category. She used the same idea of intertwining silhouettes for her design of a programme for Verdi’s Il Trovatore for the Parisian Opera house.
Working also for a French client, Banque Privée 1818 she delivered a visual identity for their ad campaign. Her illustrations show a dancing couple in unusual, for Gnidy, colors: the couple bends in piruets and tosses on a pink or purple background. Their clothes blend into the background, creating delicate composition full of motion.
Gniady also drew for such prestigious magazines, as the Guardian or an Italian edition of ELLE. With the latter she is now working on regular basis, contributing illustrations to a life tyle clumn Prima Persona. Her task is to create a graphic that will deliver the main message of the accompanying text in the most clear and condensed way. Gniady is therefore forced into operating with an utterly minimal visual language and with an utterly reduced color palette. She can choose from six colors only: white, black, yellow, green, red and blue. For the Guardian on the other hand she illustrated the text treating about text therapy. Here she plays with a contrast between red and blue, adding a pop of contrast, as she renders the therapeutist head in yellow, as a smiley emoji.
Other than traditional graphic projects , Gniady also experiments with designing fabric patterns. For 71 prints she prepares a collection of patterns called Modern Retro, inspired by the flamboyant aesthetics of Pedro Almadovar’s movies and the sixties design. In this project she does not shy away from color, operating with blunt juxtapositions of purple and black, turquoise with magenta and saturated orange.
Joanna Gniady was also one of the artists who helped to create Ewa Solarz’s An illustrated primer of design: 100 objects drawn by 25 illustrators (published by Wytwórnia). She has collaborated with Scholastic and Pedagogical Publishers and Ossolineum.
Gniady says of her illustrations:
I like to play with shape and colour, but also to look for the semantic “hidden agenda”, to reach that point whereby illustration carries specific meaning, besides its aesthetic effect. I love distinct typography and use it wherever I can, even if that means a great deal more work for me.
Joanna Gniady’s blog: http://joannaphantasmagoria.blogspot.com/search/label/art)
Author: Katarzyna Zacharska, November 2013, transl. Garry Malloy. Update July 2016, by AM.
Mail Me Art: Short & Sweet, The Framers Gallery, London (group exhibition)
An illustrated primer of design, Museum of Art Books, Łódź (group exhibition)
Tam, czy tam – czytam!, Palace of Culture and Science, Warsaw (group exhibition)
The Illustrators’ Showroom, Zamek Cultural Centre, Poznań (group exhibition)
Wakacje i prezenty (Holidays and Presents), Kalaczakra, Wrocław (solo exhibition)
W świecie iluzji i baśni (In the world of illusion and fairytales), Migawka, Warsaw (solo exhibition)
Kobieta w czerni: obiekt, abiekt, seksapil, Galearnia The Two Of Us, Warsaw (group exhibition)