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Interview with Polish Artist: Martyna Borowiecka

Martyna Borowiecka in her studio. Photo by Adres Prywatny.
Martyna Borowiecka in her studio. Photo by Adres Prywatny. Courtesy of the artist.

Poland is a rich cultural country with many talented artists. In my attempt to help you discover artists worth investing in their careers, I introduce you to Martyna Borowiecka (b. 1989). Her paintings captivated me from the instant I saw them. Abundant with symbolism, her oil paintings depict exquisite dream-like scenes reflecting feminity and power.

Borowiecka graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow with distinction, studying Painting and Fashion Design. In 2019 she received her Ph.D. title. Borowiecka has participated in several individual and group exhibitions and has won many competitions, such as The National Painting Competition – VII Triennial with Still Life organized by BWA in Sieradz, as well as the Grand Prix of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, PL (2015). She lives and works in Cracow.

I invite you to learn more about her art practice, her influences, and much more in my interview with her. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Please tell us about your background and what inspired you to become an artist.

It all started very early. As a little girl, I was always fascinated by all things artistic. I drew a lot, loved to use crayons and sculpt in plasticine, and I meticulously archived everything that came out of my hand.

I remember the moment when, passing by the art school in the city where I grew up, I was captivated by the charm of this unique building. Around the school were scattered alleys covered with dense vegetation, and there was a huge monument opposite the main building with a secret pond beside it, a substitute for a romantic glade. Everything there looked amazing and unique, especially in the eyes of a little girl who remembered the charm of "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

I asked my parents, "what is this place?" They replied, "it is an art school for future artists to study at." As a five-year-old, I didn't really understand what the word "artist" meant, but it sounded very intriguing. It was at that time that I wanted to become an artist to gain the privilege of attending this school. An innocent dream gradually became a passion and a real opportunity to study at an art school. I meticulously trained my skills, obsessively filling my time with drawing, painting, and sculpting. It was pure joy for me. It is difficult to define the moment when I gave myself to art. I think this knack has always accompanied me and only gained strength.

Martyna Borowiecka
Image courtesy of the artist.

What does a day in your life as an artist look like?

Totally normal :), except that each day is different and depends on what I'm doing at the moment. Probably the most exciting thing about this job is that I can set tasks and goals I want to achieve. Thanks to this, I avoid falling into a routine and give myself space to refresh and find inspiration while performing various activities.

On the other hand, when it comes to a standard working day, I spend it primarily in the studio. I get up early because it's important to me to do my daily rituals properly. Now one of them is a morning walk with my dog Lazar. An essential start of each day is breakfast and mental preparation for the day in the studio. On the way to the studio, I devise a plan of action for the day, and I like to know why I'm going there. Making a plan makes it much easier because it eliminates aimless wandering.

I start my working day with organization, with the preparation of the necessary tools. Sometimes I supplement the wall of inspiration with new illustrations. This moment before I start working with paint, when I go through the studio, and put things back in their place, is very crucial. It allows me to distance myself, reject my expectations of the painting I'm working on, and pick up hints from the space surrounding me. I paint for a long time because my appetite grows as I go deeper into the painting. Because Lazar usually accompanies me at work, I take breaks, thanks to which I catch my breath again and take a fresh look. In the middle of the day, we go for a walk together. My studio is located in a tenement house next to a castle. It is lovely to walk near the old walls and the river.

Due to the nature of my work, I work on a few paintings at a time. In the second part of the day, I try to switch to another canvas. I like to feel the process and see progress. Sometimes, standing in front of the easel, I am at a dead end that the painting still needs so much, and I don't have the strength to follow it. Then I take a broader look at the unfolded images in the process. I like the moment when I gradually see that the painting is ready- it is a feeling that happens unconsciously. Then I understand that what I do is an independent creation/being, and I had the honor of carrying out this process, giving it a form. That is why I often make departures, short breaks so that such fleeting moments do not fly away. After finishing work, it is crucial for me to leave things tidy by washing the brushes and the palette. Cleaning my studio at the end of the day is another ritual that must be completed on time.

Martyna Borowiecka
Image courtesy of the artist.

What does your work aim to say? What are the major themes you pursue in your artwork?

I want to tell women's stories. My art is a mix of lived experiences, conversations, and perceptions of the world in which I live. Experiencing it as a young woman makes it easier for me to shift this particular point of view and look at the problems surrounding me. Although my art originates in me, I want to be the voice for many girls and women around the globe. Be universal enough to allow everyone to reflect on the surface of my paintings as in a mirror. Give meaning to everything related to femininity, and everything commonly considered a symptom of weakness, transform it into an asset and give it value. I also want things considered trivial, not worth our attention, to regain their dignity. This also applies to visual language. I consciously balance between kitsch and presenting reality according to past standards. Combine the old with the modern. In painting, I rely on contrasts. Thanks to such a simple technique, it is much easier to build clarity of expression.

Martyna Borowiecka
Image courtesy of the artist.

Which art movements inspire your current work?

Recently, the surrealists Leonora Fini, Leonora Carrington, Maria Anto, and Maruja Mallo aroused great emotion and painting curiosity in me. Primarily due to the color, their work is a determinant for me in building compositions. I am also fascinated by their look and how they record the imaginary reality. It's how lightly they present painting visions. I like to look at every face of art that is not in mine. I often feel that I pay attention to other artists' achievements, finding something missing in my painting. Simply put, I need a visual balance to complement my search with what I don't see in myself. Thanks to this, I feel how much remains to be discovered before me, which is why my love for art is constantly growing.

I want to surprise myself without ceasing to look for an aesthetic stimulus in both old and new art. I have always been looking for freedom and lightness in using a brush, and this is definitely my indicator of the workshop. Following this lead, I have admired the Rococo period for a long time. Frivolity, nonchalance, and flirtation - for this and much more, I love Rococo.

Martyna Borowiecka
Image courtesy of the artist.

You live in Krakow, one of my favorite cities in Poland. How would you define the contemporary art scene there? Is there a strong art ecosystem?

It is very strong and keeps getting stronger. It is undoubtedly related to the Krakow university, which I had or did not have the pleasure of graduating from. It is a place of reliable education and cares for the workshop in the classical sense. Thus, you receive a specific education, but through your conservatism, you do not acquire an awareness of the current art market as it turns out that it does not interfere with building artistic careers.

I am of the opinion that if someone has that something, that spark in them that pushes them forward, despite the environment and other adversities, they have a strong enough character to conquer the world of art. And Krakow is a perfect example of this. It is a breeding ground for talents and personalities. I can't say if it's an advantage of this place or if I mean a universal rule. However, people here respect their art and build a circle of mutual support. This is very unique because, to put it crudely, we are ultimately competitors, but despite this, the bonds created and the possibility of collective cooperation are the most important. It is noticeable above all else.

Martyna Borowiecka
Image courtesy of the artist.

How do you define success as an artist?

Very simple. Before you do anything professionally, it's best to start with the definition of success, and the vision and the ability to achieve it is the second step forward. Thanks to this, we know which direction to go and what should be avoided.

For me, the answer to this question consists of a simple analysis of happiness and a vision of myself in the future, which makes me define success in the art world as the possibility of realizing my creative desires unrestrictedly. The art I create requires to be successful for me to have the energy and means to continue the implementation of my visions.

Martyna Borowiecka
Image courtesy of the artist.

Who are the living artists that inspire you?

Nowadays, thanks to the availability of "SOME," it is much easier to follow many artistic personalities simultaneously. Distance has ceased to matter. Everything has become available at your fingertips, and obtaining information has never been easier - which may make it difficult for me to answer this question. Because so many people are being followed, clarity of vision can be lost. However, thanks to the availability of tools such as "SOME," I was able to meet many artists.

Liz Elton's ephemeral installations make a huge sensual impression on me. The delicacy of the plastics/materials fluttering freely in the wind constantly makes me shiver. First of all, I can talk about her painterly quality and sublime ability to combine subdued tones in one installation. It inspires me greatly to do activities beyond the painting discipline. On the other hand, I also find inspiration in the scale and monumental working out of space beyond the classically understood painting plane in the work of Katharina Grosse. Her scattering gesture allows you to catch a distance from what should be on the canvas. Thanks to her, I understood how vital the space between the works and the air the recipient breathes in contact with her creations is.

The atmosphere of intimacy and narration, which I love so much, I get from the works of the London artist of the young generation, Faye Wei Wei. It constantly moves me and surprises me with its succinctness of symbols or interpersonal relations. The artist summarizes the world of charms, lovers, and fanciful trinkets; everything is presented gently and freely. Her watercolor way of drawing the world remains in my memory for a long time.

It is impossible to omit the Polish scene, which is so close to me. In one breath, I can mention artists such as Katarzyna Kukuła, Paulina Stasik, Edyta Hul, Karolina Balcer, Aleksandra Liput, and Paulina Włostowska. In each of them, I see something that attracts me and influences the criticism of my own work. The privilege of friendship with other artists can be very inspiring in your work. Thanks to mutual support and the possibility of watching our workshop, ours becomes richer with new elements and solutions. Of course, I do not mean direct borrowing but reflections born in contact with another artistically prolific person.

Martyna Borowiecka
Image courtesy of the artist.

Final question, if you could acquire any piece of art (from a dead or living artist, could be off the market in a museum, etc.), what would it be and why?

A very unique question! Insanely inspiring. The answer to this question may be different each time and depends on the moment of life in which we find ourselves. As of today, it would be Georgia O'Keeffe's Pelvis Series, Red, and Yellow from 1945.

At first glance, we may think we are looking at a landscape, but not quite real. Maybe the artist immortalized the sunset over the dry sand of New Mexico? It's hard to guess what you see because her images have always been ambiguous. However, the rescue comes from the title of the painting, which completely changes the interpretation of the painting—giving it a new meaning, in my opinion. Suddenly we see a close frame of the pelvis, the skeleton seen in warm tones. For me, this painting and the whole series are about the intimacy of a woman's world. A lonely woman contemplating her life by observing her own body through and through. It is also an attempt to celebrate femininity for me. The pelvis is our base, and it is the place where other organs are carried. It is also the center from which new life is born. A place that can be responsible for creativity and broadly understood fertility. I would love to wake up with this painting by my side to look at it at different times of the day. Witness how it can change and retell its story. Communing with art is a huge gift worth celebrating.

Georgia O'Keeffe
Georgia O'Keeffe with her painting from the Pelvis Series, Red, and Yellow from 1945. Courtesy of Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.

Follow Martyna Borowiecka on Instagram here


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