After submitting work for Elephant Room Gallery’s BIG small Works Show, a 2016 group exhibition that featured 100 works of art under 30×30”, Kimberly Leja Atwood visited Beata Chrzanowska’s studio. Looking forward to working more with the artist, we followed up with an interview to get to know her and her work a little better…
When did you first start making art?
When I was 4, I used to make sculptures of farm animals out of clay with my grandma. I know, it’s cute.
What was your first encounter with art that wasn’t your own?
I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I moved to the United States, my parents had brought back pajamas that they bought in Poland. There are literally pictures of 5 year-old me wearing Bart Simpson pajamas and he’s green and his clothes are all these wacky colors. I had the coolest pajamas ever.
How has your work evolved into the abstract and figural work you do now? Or has it always been that?
My work really evolved in my last semester of college. I took a month off from making work and I just researched and absorbed images and read articles and books and that was the moment I realized what I was into. The work has tightened up a bit, become cleaner, and has become more realistic over time.
I Dream of Euphoria, 37.5 x 39 in, oil on canvas, 2013
Who and/or what has inspired you to get to where you are now in your work?
A piece from the past inspired me to do what I am currently doing. When I moved to Chicago from NY about a year ago, I went back to my childhood home and found all these old paintings and sculptures I did in college. I had a stiffened fabric piece that was just lying there and I decided to paint on top of it for the first time. I took that idea and made a 30-piece collection for a show in Milwaukee. Currently I’m working larger than I ever have with this concept and I want to start painting more elaborate imagery on these 3-dimensional pieces.
“30x30x30,” Var Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
What is your process when starting a new work?
For paintings, I start off with a drawing and then I project that drawing onto a canvas, trace it, and then I put layers of acrylic to get me started. Once I get enough color down, I switch over to oil, where the colors are more vibrant and romantic. I begin painting high-level definition imagery and I keep at it until a desired composition is formed.
With my fabric pieces, it’s really hard to plan everything out because it is a very intuitive process. I smother the fabric in glue and I arrange it on a stretcher bar. Let it cure, and then paint on top of it.
Sheets in Technicolor, 21.5 x 18 x 3.5 in, oil on scrunched canvas, 2016
I know you primarily do three mediums – paintings, drawings, and collage – how do you see them relating to each other…do they inform each other? and why these three techniques?
What it all comes down to is that I am assembling images of body parts, and geometry on one surface. All three mediums obey this process very well. There is also a surprise aspect to each medium, where I am not aware of the turnout until the turnout happens.
I noticed you use a lot of circular/spherical shapes in your work, including spherical studies – can you talk a bit about that aspect?
When I was in NY I started painting in a very minimal way. I painted a lot of circles, usually in pairs to represent breasts. Suddenly I was in Chicago, and I just went off and painted a ton of these “breasts”. I soon wanted to permanently incorporate the circle more as opposed to sharp and organic shapes which I did beforehand. I was hounding the circle and I was going to make it known. So, a lot of my work ending 2015 and entering 2017 is in favor of circles. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Left: Enlightenment, 29.75 x 24 in, oil on canvas, 2015
Right: Focal (Refurbished Edition), 43.75 x 30, oil on canvas, 2016
In each work, I am always intrigued by your use of color, texture, and pattern – how do you choose these elements in your work?
It’s not a choice but a reflection to the colors, textures, and patterns that I fancy in my spirit.
How do you title your works?
I usually have a list of titles that I write down for future works, but the best moments are when you’re in the process of creating something and the title just jumps out at you.
Left: Foil (from the “Bisou” series), 26.75 x 27.75 in, oil/acrylic on canvas, 2014
Right: Bisou (from the “Bisou” series), 25 x 25 in, oil on canvas, 2014
I also don’t know that I have seen an artist sign their works like you do. I was scrolling through your paintings and at least for me, it almost became a game of finding your name. Is that something you put thought into or is it kind of random?
It’s definitely very specific. I don’t want the signature over powering the work so it’s always hidden somewhere, but it’s also very digital! So, in real life, the signature does not exist, rather than a hand written signature, title, and year on the back of the painting.
What are you working on now? (I know you recently did a lot of molded canvas works, like the ones in the 30x30x30 Exhibition at Var Gallery – are you continuing to work on those or something different?)
After the 30x30x30 show I did another 2D piece just to give myself a break, but I am back to working with fabric. I am very excited about it, a little nervous, the work will be bigger, louder and more intricate. Wish me luck!
Finally, what do you like to do when you’re not making art?
I’m entertaining my friends, working out, wine and dining. I love the outdoors, and chocolate cake.