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Social issues, sense of humor, and observations of everyday life – meet the female talents of contemporary Polish illustration and design.

“Drawing from rich traditions of the 60s and 70s of the last century, the contemporary Polish design and illustration shows the accuracy of observation, a sense of humor, irony, clarity and, at the same time, simplicity of the form. Yet, seen through the eyes of Polish women, it not only provides us with the moment of reflection, or admiration of the esthetics, but sometimes even though seemingly trivial, simple topics, touches upon important issues, such as the position of the women in the world. For centuries women were in a subordinate position in terms of their rights, voice, independence, their social and familial status. They had limited choices and little freedom. The status of women may be different today – even though female rights are relatively new and fragile matter in this world. Yet, does it still require any special strength, power or determination to be a woman?
“POLKI Hidden Power” is the online exhibition that aims to take a closer look at Polish women, as well as the achievements of Polish illustrations and design today. We present both the work of Polish illustrators as well as designers, particularly ceramists, that allude to the subject of womanhood in their works and the objects that embody the feminine strength in different ways. We invite you for a journey with nine Polish artists and their hidden powers.”

Monika Brauntsch, Exhibition Curator
The Spirit of Poland Foundation

“Hidden Power is the title of a Polish women’s exhibition that I learned about while working at Women’s Studio Workshop, an artist residency in Rosendale, NY, in the fall of 2017. One of the artists from the group was in residence working on a series of prints that simplified female forms, and we began a dialogue about women and art. The dialogue was a natural outgrowth of our environment, a residency founded in 1974 that envisioned a society where women’s art is integral to the cultural mainstream and permanently recorded. This contemporary group of Polish women artists comprises savvy illustrators and ceramic artists who portray womanhood using humor, beauty, irony, strength and meditation via masterfully crafted color, whimsical texture and exaggerated proportion. The collective’s work links directly to WSW’s mission and legacy. As I viewed their illustrations and leafed through their prints, questions about sexual harassment, human rights and reproductive rights currently playing out on the news bounced around in my head and gained speed: the 2017 global Women’s Marches, Nasty Women art exhibitions and the 2017 social media #Metoo movement. My mind replayed images of silent pink pussy hats bobbing up and down the street, credit cards swiping in pop-up art gallery fundraisers held on behalf of sexual violence survivors, and Times Up pins worn at annual entertainment galas. As I continued to view the artwork of the Polish women, the current news coverage faded from my mind and I found myself engrossed in the intimacy of small, everyday individual conditions: body hair, weight gain, meditation, child rearing and house plants. These quotidian concerns are elevated as experiences worthy of unapologetic expression. I am reminded of the courage it takes to recognize the overlooked. This is hidden power.”

Carol Flueckiger, MFA, Associate Professor Art
School of Art Texas Tech University

Curated by: Monika Brauntsch
Substantive cooperation: Ewelina Skowrońska, Carol Flueckiger
Visual identification: Kaja Kusztra
Film editing: Rafał Malko
Produced by: The Spirit of Poland spiritofpoland.pl
Financed from the funds of the Multi-annual Program INDEPENDENT 2017-2022, as part of the “Cultural bridges” subsidy program of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute www.culture.pl
Organized in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute New York.

Aleksandra Morawiak

A photography graduate from the Łódź Film School, she is also an illustrator specializing in collage. She has shown her work at exhibitions in Berlin, Copenhagen and Wroclaw. The main sphere of her interests​i​s man and his relationship with space and himself, and the collage technique is an ideal medium for establishing new worlds. In the illustration, she is particularly passionate about topics devoted to psychology, literature and cinematography. For two years, she has been creating illustrations for magazines.

Th​e series “Play with shapes” is a project dedicated to the awareness of female strength and its connection with nature. It was created from a fusion of related fields – photography and illustration, creating geometric compositions – collages. This mini-series follows woman’s intuition, which is my best adviser. I listen to her uncompromisingly and give her leadership in the creative process. Strength is manifested in strong colors and shapes, and fragments of landscapes and plants emphasize a oneness with nature, of which we have always been a part.

More about the designer  – @liquidmemorycollages

Basia Grzybowska Flores

Graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice, she currently lives and creates in Kraków. Beagle owner and bagel lover. During her two-year stay in Brazil, her works, along with the work of twenty leading artists from the Amazon, have appeared in “Galerie Kandinsky” in Vienna, and at the exhibition “Amazonien in Farben, Formen und Töne”. Her illustrations were also exhibited, amongst others, at the Contínua Exhibition at the Clube de Criação Festival in São Paulo, 2016, the Instituto Amazônia in Manaus, 2016 and the London Illustration Fair, 2015. Basia has also illustrated for such magazines as Forbes.

A​s Virginia Woolf used to say, every woman should have her room. Your private space. It can be a time space, a moment of inner peace. The moment of stopping, thinking, celebrating your own company (Self portrait).

Illustration inspired by the #freethenipple campaign. Every human being deserves equal treatment and freedom. The woman depicted in the figure manifests corporeality, emphasizing the individuality​​of the female body and its sexuality. Today, unfortunately, subjected to environmental and cultural factors (Free the nipple, Read me a book).

It’s beautiful to be a woman. An emotionally intelligent being. Positive, variously beautiful (Illustration of Women).

More about the designer – @basiaflores

Ewelina Skowronska

Visual artist and printmaker, born in Poland, and living and working between London and Tokyo. Ewelina specialised in visual arts at the University of the Arts London where she graduated with distinction in 2015. She shares her time making illustration, print-making and ceramics work. Her work has been exhibited in London, Ireland, Poland and Tokyo. In 2017, she was awarded with the Print Prize by the St Bridge Foundation. Her prints are in the collection of the VA Museum London, she was shortlisted for the RA summer show 2017, and for the Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize 2018.

Th​e female body is very often seen by women as imperfect; easier to reject than to accept. But rejecting is like denying our very essence, as our body is a whole. This work takes a closer look at the carnality of the female body, focusing on the ephemeral and unspoken aspects… and its strength.

Taking inspirations from Shaving Girls – funny ceramic figures that talk about everyday women’s rituals – it concentrates more on the feeling and emotions rather than narrative.

More about the designer – @ewelello

Izabela Kaczmarek – Szurek

Il​lustrator and director at formallina.com, the author of a series of posters inspired by yoga. On a daily basis, she designs illustrations, creates posters, and occasionally prints on fabrics. Her posters, created for the brand and creative studio Sunday is Monday, refer to an active lifestyle and feminine strength.

S​unday is Monday’s illustrations, dedicated primarily to women, arose from a passion for yoga, a balanced lifestyle, building internal strength and adopting good habits. The drawings compel us to act, to assert, take matters into our own hands as well as to be mindful and reflect on real values. They express the SIM motto: take care of yourself! It can be yoga, walk, or crossfit. Good food. Bah! Lying is also an exercise. Projects, work, home. Yet health is a treasure!

More about the designer – @sundayismondayhome

Kaja Kusztra

St​udied philosophy, but graduated from Industrial Design at Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. She is a part of many collectives (some being long-term like the Disturbed Dasein Bureau she runs together with fellow artist Witek Orski, while some are provisional, like a 2-week design studio run at Van Eyck Academy, curated by Matylda Krzykowski, with fellow artists Christophe Clarijs, Kasper Pyndt and Timo Demollin). Her work was featured at the London Design Biennale, Art Basel, Brno Biennale, Salone del Mobile Milano, Code Art Fair and Miss Read Berlin. Together with Jakub Jezierski, Kaja worked on the program for the Visual Communication Lab at the Academy of Fine Arts, where she later taught. She identifies herself as a feminist.

The “Great Inventors” collection for Kristoff examines the topics of domination, exclusion and feminism. Illustration and short texts on a classic porcelain set​​are combined into a narrative about famous rebels – those who didn’t assimilate to the typical scientific or artistic career dynamics, and were often recognised as geniuses after their lives ended. Most of them were female, like ada Lovelace and Lou Salome. Kaja Kusztra, together with Jarek Nowotka, a coder, designed the website that promotes her collection and other collections designed by fellow artists and designers – including Maria Jeglinska.

Manufactured by www. kristoffdesignline.pl

More about the designer – @kajakusztra

Magdalena Pankiewicz

A graduate of painting, but for many years associated mostly with illustration. She has published in many well-known magazines, both Polish and foreign, including: Commons & Sense, Dash, Zwierciadło and Pani. She also cooperated with large brands in the creation of campaigns, designed murals and prints for clothing companies. Her illustrations focus mainly on women’s subjects. She is fascinated by the duality of female nature and her strong role in the modern world.

Th​e entire „Summer” series was created out of a longing for freedom and solitude. These two concepts are now completely abstract in the era of social media and the rat race, where one becomes a prisoner of their own life. Women especially are under a lot of pressure to be perfect and responsible for everyone. We forgot how precious it is to be alone from time to time, to be close to nature. This allows us to look inside ourselves, and to disconnect from the hectic world around us.

More about the designer – @pankiewicz_illustration

Malwina Konopacka

Malwina Konopacka is an illustrator, graphic and product designer. She lives and works in Warsaw. She approaches reality through the prism of illustration, but does not limit it to two dimensions – she transforms​​a drawing into a three-dimensional world of everyday objects. Her works – regardless​​of the material of which they are made (glass, wood, paper, ceramics) combine a distinctive and recognizable line.

S​he studied at the faculty of Design of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, history of art at the University of Warsaw and illustration at the Universität der Künste in Berlin. She collaborated with leading Polish magazines for which she created illustrations. Currently, she focuses mainly on ceramics and the idea of the OKO vase, which is evolving, changing into an abstract sculptural form.

OKO is a limited series of ceramic, hand-painted vases made by Malwina Konopacka, a form referring to the Polish industrial design of the 1950s and 1960s. The title eye (oko) appears on each of them in the form of graphically highlighted circular recesses. Wazon Oko premiered as part of the Designers Week in Tokyo (2014), later it was shown at the Design Festival in New York, London, Expo in Milan, or at the individual Konopacka exhibition at Cité Radieuse Le Corbusier in Marseille (2017). The designer for painting uses both precious metals (gold, platinum), classic cobalt and a palette of under-glaze paints. Playing with form, emphasizing or diminishing it, illustration – symbolic and figurative, color – from cobalt to multi-color – gives life to a whole series of multidimensional illustrations.

More about the designer – @malwinakonopacka

Maria Jeglińska

Maria was born in Fontainebleau in 1983. In 2010 she established her Office for Design & Research in London. She graduated from ECAL’s industrial design course in 2007 and was awarded a scholarship from​t​he IKEA foundation that led her to work for Galerie Kreo in Paris, Konstantin Grcic in Munich and Alexander Taylor in London. Her clients include amongst others: Ligne Roset, Kvadrat, Vitra, 1882ltd, the St Etienne Design Biennale and the Museum of Modern Art​i​n Warsaw. Her work is regularly exhibited internationally and was shown at: the Villa Noailles, the Aram Gallery, Barbican Art Gallery, Centre Pompidou Metz and the Triennale di Milano. In October 2012 she curated and designed: “Ways of Seeing/Sitting” at the Łódź Design Festival in Poland. She was also the co-curator and designer of the Polish Pavilion at the inaugural London Design Biennale in September 2016.

Th​e “Nathalie & George” collection is inspired by the postmodern designers Nathalie du Pasquier and George Sowden, who created in Italy in the 1980s. While working on finding the right graphic motif, they created many illustrations and sketches. The confrontation of the collected materials has brought out an interesting motif based on the combination of two different colors and patterns. This specific combination of differences, turned out to be much more interesting than repeating the same pattern on each element of the set.

Manufactured by kristoffdesignline.pl

More about the designer – @mariajeglinska

Sabina Samulska

“I see, therefore I draw, illustrate,​ I​post, I am an artist”. In her works she is known for her simple, geometric forms, she does not avoid exaggerated proportions, especially when she wants to emphasize the psychological characteristics of the characters. The truth of the moment is important for her – self-observation or social situations that carry multidimensional emotions. Her work enters into a dialogue with the viewer. She graduated from the Department of Arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice.

S​orrow is a struggle with being or non-being, it is an internal struggle that everyone takes inside of themselves. The inner self is a sad caricature, strong only within its body – an entity that attracts, surrenders to gravity, overwhelms, but at the same time protects. It makes you laugh, but it also makes you look deep into yourself. (Sorrow # 1)

Sorrow is the visualization of struggling with your inner self. When you understand loneliness, you begin to discover your strength, you start to love her. (Sorrow # 2)

Words can all have more strength than us. Without words, this woman, despite her size, would be unnoticeable / invisible. (So beautiful)

Everyday life, everyday worries only distract us from the most important things. We forget that what is most important is inside of us – a force that we will not consider, we will not measure (Weight).

More about the designer – @sabinasamulska