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Katarzyna Swinarska

InterviewKatarzyna Swinarska

Interview by Małgorzata Czyńska

Lost In The Mirror Reflection

So, do you see a cool photo in ‘Vogue’ and think: Wow! That would make a good painting? Your girls are like models from fashion magazines, and the guys look as if they have been taken from movie posters.

It may seem so, especially for those who know I paint from photographs, but each painting has its origins inside me, not in a photo or a magazine. First, there is an idea, or maybe not even an idea, but something much less clear and much less well-defined – a feeling. It may be grievance, compassion, amazement, longing, love.

Katarzyna Swinarska Katarzyna Swinarska

Picture by Helmut Newton

Noble feelings...

Not always. I am not that perfect after all. Sometimes it all starts with my indignation, rebellion, anger, a feeling of retaliation or even murder. So I begin to look for a proper form to express it, which may be a face, a situation, a gesture. From time to time I search in my own photo album, browsing through the memories of past feelings and emotions. It’s a truly surprising confrontation because reality bites me all the time and yet in those old photos, even the ones from the darkest periods in my life, I am almost always smiling. Most often, however, I look through hundreds of photos online. And that means choosing, altering, enlarging, changing colours and contrast. I look those strangers deep in their eyes… And now and then a completely random and casual face has exactly what I have been looking for. I can see the reflection of my own rebellion or longing.

One photo is enough to illustrate emotions?

Working on a photograph is a bit like having a dialogue. Let’s say I am looking for letter ‘A’. Once I’ve found it, it tells me there is still ‘B’ and ‘C’ somewhere. It’s mutual communication...

I put the photos or images I have chosen into files. After some time I come back to select the best, the most accurate and moving ones, but I do not start painting yet. I wait till I really want a painting so badly that, once I have finally touched the canvas for the first time, I finish the painting in almost no time. It’s like working in a frenzy, but that’s the best way to do it for me. I cannot paint without passion. Professor Kiejstut Bereźnicki recommended painting on a regular basis– three hours a day, every day, but I just can’t do it.

Katarzyna SwinarskaKatarzyna Swinarska

Can you trace your reflection in those real people you meet in streets, cafes?

Well, sometimes I fall in love with a figure I know… And obviously it’s a woman. I have to meet her and take a good look. I ask her for photos or I just draw from memory. I may be bewitched by female beauty, but I also seek something more there – a synthesis of femininity, a symbol of female fate.

It sounds like feminism. Do you treat men more instrumentally?

The same way they usually treat women. I am touched by very young and beautiful lads though.

Rebels with or without a cause? Just like James Dean?

I haven’t painted James Dean yet... But I am responsible for a Dean-like portrait of Marek Hłasko with a cigarette. I didn’t paint it because I fancied him as a guy. I did it because at that time I felt like or I wanted to feel like him – a man with a cigarette... a scorching afternoon... Can you feel any better?

Your females are not sweet dolls, birthday girls? These are aesthetic.

I’m sorry, but does a woman have any choice? She’s got to be beautiful and ruthless. And that’s what I want to express. She shouldn’t be submissive, ashamed and humiliated. I do not want her first reaction to be serving everyone around only because it’s how she’s been brought up.

My girls are like Tarantino’s actresses. I do hate Tarantino, because he is ugly, cocky and boring, but he’s got good actresses. They are rough. Pretty, sexy and sweet, but each and every one of them has a gun or a knife in her pocket.

You think I am schizophrenic? Nope… Apparently they call it ‘borderline syndrome’. The line between you and the world is blurred and you are lost in the mirror reflection. But it’s positive since it sharpens the picture.

Katarzyna Swinarska