Katarzyna Gajewska, Passion

74cm x 58cm / 29″ x 22″ unframed, 107cm x 81cm / 42″ x 32″ framed

Katarzyna Gajewska: Passion

Emma Van Der Putten

Katarzyna Gajewska was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1978. She graduated from the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts as a Master of Fine Arts in March 2005 and was subsequently awarded a Ministry of Culture Scholarship. Spending much of her time thereafter in Cill Rialaig Co. Kerry, she completed several residencies and has become a widely collected artist in many areas around the globe. She recently put on an exhibition in The Kenny Gallery in Galway alongside Bill Griffin, which was entitled ‘Between Dreams and Documentation.’

Much of Gajewska’s work is quite impressionistic and abstract, with the focus being on evoking a certain set of emotions or ideas. She makes great use of colour for particular effects; for example, in Passion, a painting created using mixed media on newspaper, the use of bold red and purple creates connotations of the intense, intimate emotions that the title suggests. The piece is a close-up portrait of a woman, with her neck extended in what appears to be yearning and desire. The impressionistic rough style to the painting also can be seen as expressing the destructive nature of such passion. She tries to ‘catch casual feelings, naked and defenseless in their realism, and then with understanding and patience [she] starts to build portraits.’ (http://www.katarinagajewska.com)

Gajewska doesn’t use any tools other than just her hands, which creates a more organic texture to the work. It gets her closer to the canvas, and so it could be said that the emotion she attempts to produce is more immediate, more visceral. She states that it allows her to ‘make close ups much deeper than they really are’. (http://www.katarinagajewska.com) The painting’s emotional intensity is heightened by the complex texture present.

It is particularly interesting to view the painting from the perspective of the ‘male gaze.’ Through the form of the piece, the viewer is expected to look at the subject through this gaze, and the strong presence of the colour red throughout suggests sexual connotations. Furthermore, the eyes are blacked out, and so the focus lies most dominantly on the lips. This sexualized image supports the voyeuristic gaze of the spectator. This male gaze expresses an unequal power relationship between the viewer and viewed, yet here is where Gajewska subverts this idea. The dominance of the figure in the frame, despite her seeming stance as being under this ‘male gaze’, is subversive despite the sexual undercurrent to the image. This figure is not just shown for the pleasure of men. The innate pleasure obviously being felt by the woman depicted reduces the power of this gaze. We may be viewing an intimate moment, but she is the power force behind the image.

Furthermore, she has stated that the ‘human impulse to beautify [also] compels her works of art’  (http://www.katarinagajewska.com), which is particularly interesting as Passion was also displayed recently in the windows of a fashion store. Connecting desire to this idea of beautification can also be seen as expressing the commodification of beauty and therefore the commodification of the self.


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