Poised against ambient backgrounds, the impeccably dressed women in Ewa Juszkiewicz's paintings and works on paper are rendered in a style evocative of historical European portraits. Yet by substituting their faces with unexpected and even absurd objects, Juszkiewicz makes evident the constraints of representing women in art history and the modern world.Read More
Ewa Juszkiewicz deconstructs the historical portrait in her work, drawing attention to the convention in which the female figure serves as an allegory for idealised values rather than a depiction of an individual with character. Her observations are particularly salient in paintings such as Where the water is bright and the grass is green (2012): a woman, seated and donning an Empire dress, presumably gazes back at the viewer with her head composed of flowers, echoing the basket of flowers in her lap.
The artist often derives inspiration from old books and photo albums, as well as existing portraits by Old Masters including Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, Józef Simmler, Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, and Joseph Wright of Derby. Straw hat (2012), for example, is a take on Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun's Self-Portrait with Straw Hat (1872); Juszkiewicz covers the French painter's face with groomed hair, neatly parted in the middle.
A range of artificial and natural objects, or combinations of both, make up the new faces of Ewa Juszkiewicz's subjects. Delicate ribbons wrap around the head of a seated figure—possibly a painter, judging by the paintbrush and palette in her hands—in Untitled (After Alexander Roslin) (2017), while green leaves grow from the neck in Untitled (2016). Three figures turn to the viewer with insects instead of their faces in Sisters (2014); fungi replaced the heads in the black-and-white collages that were shown in Juszkiewicz's solo exhibition Pearl, Eye, Worm at Rome's Rolando Anselmi in 2017.
In some, such as the 2013 paintings Self-Portrait In Front of the Easel and Untitled, the face is hidden behind an actual mask. As the artist told Berlin Art Link in 2019, 'the mask allows us to say more, because it frees us from the conventions we have adhered to all our lives.'
By focusing on the past, Ewa Juszkiewicz also prompts the viewer to reflect on the present, in which predetermined ideas of female beauty and values continue to exert influence on women and their representations in media.
Ewa Juszkiewicz received her MA in Painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdansk (2009) and PhD from the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow (2013).
The Grass divides as with a Comb, Almine Rech, London (2020); Giacinto Cerone | Ewa Juszkiewicz, Cabinet, Milan; Gauguin Syndrom, lokal_30 gallery, Warsaw (2016); The Descent Beckons, Galeria Bielska BWA, Poland (2015).
Chorus, Almine Rech, Paris (2019); Domestic Horror, Gagosian, New York (2019); Paint, also known as Blood, Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Poland (2019); The state we are in. Collection of the Museum of Modern art in Warsaw, Galeria Labirynt, Lublin, Poland (2018); Art in Art, Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow, Poland (2017).
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2020
Ewa Juszkiewicz's work stems from a substantial failure in the history of art: the portrayal of women. Rather than the depiction of a person, portraits of women—especially in the Renaissance—were a