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The vibrant expression of love, diversity, and intimacy
Hello, dear readers! In this new edition of the Arterald newsletter, I’m delighted to present a conversation with Joanna Pilarczyk, a Polish artist based in London known for her vivid portraits. She shares her thoughts on the creative forces that shape her distinctive style, the balance between skill and instinct in her art, and the captivating fusion of love, diversity, and intimacy in her work.
Can you share with us your artistic background and how you developed your unique style of portraying these intimate moments in such vibrant colors?
I am a London-based contemporary figurative painter and art educator. I was born in Poland and knew I wanted to be an artist from a very early age. I took every opportunity at school and during my free time to develop my skills and learn about various art techniques. I attended Art College and the Art University in Zielona Gora, earning an MA in Visual Arts and Art Education. After moving to London over a decade ago, I immediately fell in love with the city. Amazed and entranced by diverse cultures and the vibrant energy, I began to paint oil portraits of new acquaintances and friends within the artist community of North London.
Since the Pandemic, I have started working on my carrier as professional, full-time artist. The vibrant colour palette is a tool to show the positive atmosphere in my paintings. I always used striking and contrasting colours, but my work became even more vivid with neon tones over time.
Growing up in Poland in the early 90s, I occasionally saw flashes of neon colours on American television and loved them. These fancy neon pinks, lemon yellow or vivid greens weren't accessible to me when I was a child, and now I am fulfilling my desire to use these colours.
A big city like London, with its vibrant lights, where I am surrounded by people from all over the world wearing amazing outfits full of patterns, and exotic motives, is exciting and inspiring to me. I also draw inspiration for my colour palette from street art, graffiti, animation, and video.
I feel much happier when surrounded by vibrant, colourful patterns, and I want to transfer the positivity of this rich palette into my paintings.
What is a part of your creative process that you particularly enjoy?
I enjoy these moments when I come up with an idea for a painting. Usually, they are unexpected opportunities when I meet someone I want to paint. My models are my friends but often strangers who I met at the local cafe, pub or among creatives from my neighbourhood. I love to get to know new people and their life stories. It's about their exciting appearance and a positive vibe and good energy between us. Once I know who I will paint and have an idea for the composition, I can focus on materials and colour. I really enjoy working in oils and various media on canvas. Painting is a natural and very intuitive medium for me. I love oils, acrylics, watercolours and inks with their fluidity and multiple textures and smells. Most importantly, I am an artist who best describes the atmosphere of my painted subjects in colour. I love the vibrancy, contrasts and kaleidoscopic, clashing tones. The painting process is like a puzzle I must assemble to achieve the desired result. I enjoy the creative process, from the idea and sketch to building a specific composition on canvas. Painting is a therapy, a form of meditation, but also a reason I wake up daily with excitement for a new challenge.
Would you tell us about a piece or series you've created that you are particularly proud of, and why?
My proudest piece is my painting 'Family', a portrait of me, my husband and our two cats, Sumo and Mia. This painting was created during the Pandemic and is one of the 'Intimate Time' artworks. At that challenging time when I couldn't paint other people, I focused my work on my relationship and self-portrait. Despite the anxiety and insecurity about the future, I was happy to be with my husband and appreciated every moment of our everyday life.
While working on the 'Intimate times' series, I wanted people to remember that there are many simple reasons to be happy. Ordinary daily life situations can bring joy and gratitude. Like many people, I struggle with anxiety but prefer to find reasons to smile and focus on the breathtaking nature and people surrounding me. Simple things like sunlight coming through the windows and reflecting on my growing plants, the vibrant colours in nature and on the streets, the kindness of my husband who shares with me my passion for art, my love for animals, especially my two cats who bring so much laughter to my every day. Also, the acceptance of our bodies, sensuality and trust in the relationship with another person. I hope that the viewers of my work feel relaxed, easy and optimistic about their experiences.
In the new series 'My Paradise', I still explore relationships and love between people capturing the stories of others. I am excited to paint different people and have good conversations with them about their love and struggles often related to their race or sexuality.
Your recent work often uses mixed media, what drives you to explore new techniques?
I am a watercolour painting teacher, so naturally, I work in this medium occasionally. I love the fluidity of inks and acrylics, which I sometimes merge with oils on my canvases or enjoy using on big watercolour paper. While studying Art Education 15 years ago back in Poland, I learned about every possible art medium: traditional graphics like lino print or screen print, sculpture, photography, drawing and painting, but it's an oil painting I choose to use as the primary medium. Over time I had this growing need for a more vibrant colour palette. Admiring some of the artwork made by Jose Luis Cena, one of my favourite painters, I got to add some flushes of neon colours to my works. Then I experimented by mixing the neon acrylics with oils to achieve a more vivid palette, even for the flesh and skin tones. As a fan of street art, I wanted to add something extra by using kaleidoscopic spray paints and get more even coverage of the painting surface. At some point, I got addicted to very bright, almost clashing colours. I enjoy finding a balance within colour chaos in my paintings.
Can you share any projects you are working on now, or any upcoming exhibitions?
I just exhibited at The Other Art Fair at Truman Brewery in London, and after a few very intensive days, I feel like having a little break :) It was my third time showing with TOAF, and I loved the atmosphere of this event and all the inspiring artists and visitors who came to see my paintings in person. I will definitely return to the Truman Brewery in October.
I have a little show with Oink Gallery in a few days. Also, two London galleries at the art fair approached me with proposals to exhibit with them in the upcoming months, but I will have more details later. Now I want to return to the studio, work on new paintings, and enjoy the process. I will continue exploring relationships with people from different cultures, races and backgrounds. I found this subject inspiring as love and acceptance are essential to survive the modern world's escalating cruelty and hate towards everything different.
Thank you so much Joanna for sharing your art with us. If you want to see more of her work, you can find it at the following:
You can buy original artwork directly on Joanna Pilarczyk’s website.
Thanks for tuning in for this edition of Arterald!
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— Adrien @adriengonin
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