Saturday, July 7, 2018

Ewelina Bochenska | Interview

Untitled, 2017, oil on linen 7 x 5 in

Moonrock, 2017, oil on linen 10 x 8 in

Ewelina Bochenska in her studio

∞ , 2017, foam, plaster, fabric, glitter, 10 x 15 x 5 in

Untitled, 2017, plaster & soap, 14 x 13 x 7 in

Na Skrzydlach Aniola, 2018, oil, yarn on rug, 10 x 7.5 in

Pole Rozowo Blekitne, 2018, oil, yarn on rug, 12 x 8 in

The work of Ewelina Bochenska is charged with feeling and purpose. Painting in a smaller format with oil on canvas, her works take on a devotional quality as they are clearly loaded with references to the lore of older, native cultures, along with nature and the elements. 

In her paintings, there's a masterful dichotomy between pastel and earth-tone color which sets up a sort of chromostereopsis with the background receding into depth to let the foreground marks stay in front and punchy. The subject matter, which often references the spiritual, is rendered in a manner reminiscent of native american glyph or mystical cypher, things felt yet unseen. Other pieces employ the addition of rope-like yarn around the perimeter of the canvas, an embellishment that seems to outline the work as a sacrosanct space.

Bochenska has also crossed into sculptural territory and has used a variety of material to get there. One of her more successful pieces, titled: , the symbol for infinity, has a blend of intuition in its execution as it appears to have been gathered and arranged in a makeshift manner, with genuine intention and meaning as it's basis. The strength of her art is found in her inclination to look back to and connect with other cultures in order to introduce a new vein of work that vibrates with possibility and relevance.

PB: What motivates you to make artwork?

Painting is a living phenomenon, just like color. Just like I am, life living itself out, so is painting. It is not a fixed entity, and perhaps that is why it is hard to talk about it. Trying to describe what motivates me to make work is like trying to describe the weather that is constantly changing. It is a question that cannot be easily answered. And if I try, there is no one answer to it. It is almost the same as ‘why am I alive?’ What motivates me to be alive?

I am really curious about the relationship between consciousness and matter, that which cannot be grasped and that which can, that which can be perceived and that which cannot. Exploring that threshold is what motivates me. But I am also open to the idea that this is not the case, that what motivates me is something else entirely. Hawaiian shamans believe that our reality is like a dream, which can be molded and changed according to our perspective, that it is very fluid and not as solid as we assume it to be, including space-time and our past and future, which can be bent and changed.

Painting is the most difficult thing there is, yet it is so magical and mysterious, almost miraculous. It is about liberation, freedom. Freedom from oneself and freedom from the known. It reminds me of a book by Jiddu Krishnamurti of the same title ‘Freedom from the Known’. Krishnamurti was a great thinker and philosopher. He talked a lot about the nature of mind and ‘the tyranny of the expected’. Such an important theme in life and painting.

Maybe painting for me is a way to explore those questions. Steiner said that color is the soul of the world. Working with color and materiality of paint, all those elements are the means to explore my curiosity about the world.

PB: How are things going in the studio and what’s informing or influencing your work lately?

I’m currently staying in Lodz, Poland, where I was born and grew up. My dad died a few months ago and I decided to move back to be with my family. I left Lodz in 2003 to live in Dublin, London and then New York. It has been fifteen years since I lived here, a lot has changed. 

I’m re-connecting with the place that I thought I would never come back to, and all the initial thoughts I had when I started painting. It makes me dive even deeper into the questions and existing in time-space as a physical being and what it entails, the whole emotional component and the things appearing and disappearing in your life, sometimes permanently. I’m revisiting my roots and my first inspirations such as fairy tales, folk music/art, Polish poetry, film and theater, my relationship to color, to nature.

PB: How about other artists? Whose work do you consider remarkable or challenging, and how far back into art history are you delving as you go about your personal study of art?

There are too many artists to mention. I have also noticed that sometimes I would be obsessed with one or two paintings by a particular artist, such as at ‘Don Quixote and Sancho Panza’ by Honore Daumier, at the National Gallery in London. But my inspiration goes as far back as the earliest cave paintings and petroglyphs. They are the purest form of art, they are timeless.

Recently I have been looking a lot at Frank Walter, an Antiguan painter and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, a German expressionist painter, one of the founders of the artist group Die Brücke.

PB: What's on your reading/looking/listening list lately?

The first book I came across when I got to Lodz that sparked my interest was 'Tomek Na Wojennej Sciezce' (Tomek On The War Path, 1959) by Alfred Szklarski. It is about a young man’s adventures in the South-West, and his great friendship with the Native Americans, in particular the Zuni tribe. The funny thing is that I just made a trip the South-West, and the Zuni pueblo was one of the last stops on my journey.

I’m also blown away by this book I found in my dad’s garage ‘Dar Rzeki Fly’ (The Gift of River Fly, 1957) by Maria Kruger. It is a collection of legends and fairy tales from different cultures around the world, African, Asian, Australian. Kruger was inspired by the stories collected by famous Polish travelers and ethnologists from the XIX and XX century, including her father.

I also found a bunch of vinyl records from my childhood that I used to listen to, such as Gypsy fairytales, ‘Mother Sun’, ‘Enchanted trunk’. The illustrations on the covers are so magical. It feels great to remember what you loved so much but totally forgot.

I also love reading poetry, I’m reconnecting with a lot of Polish poets such as Zbigniew Herbert, Wieslawa Szymborska, Stanislaw Baranczak, Julian Przybos.

PB: What’s coming up for your work in the near future?

I’m doing a residency in Salem, Germany which is part this artist exchange program run by Salem Art Works in Salem, NY. I’m also very honored to be part of the group show ‘X Marks the Spot: Women of the New York Studio School’, curated by Malado Baldwin and Maia Ibar, which opens July 25th at the New York Studio School, 8 West 8th Street, New York City.