'Geography of Mind' - Beata Kozlowska Interview

by Javier Melian; Chrom-Art co-founder. Cover portrait by Emma Zarifi.

Beata Kozlowska was born in Poland. There she studied Polish Literature and Linguistics at University of Warsaw. But her dream was to study Arts, so she decided to give it a try in London. Short after she was admitted to the University of The Arts London, Camberwell College of Arts, where she studied Drawing and achieved Bachelor Degree (BA) (Hons) in 2008. Later she continued her studies and completed Master Degree in Fine Arts ( MFA) at Chelsea College of Art and Design in London in 2010. Since then she has been fully involved in her practice that spreads through many disciplines like drawing, painting, performance, installation and sculpture.

Beata Kozlowska's latest abstract works live between the realms of drawing and painting and retain from previous works the spontaneous force of gestural expressionism, the improvisational drive that, playfully, weaves a complex, well structured "drawscape".

This is indeed a genuine way of self observation and self definition. Opposite to the culture of search of the self in the external imaginary, Beata Kozlowska's latest abstract works look deep inside and build complex structures from within, authentic maps of her mind, or geographical representations of her playful and dynamic soul.

She has been exhibiting in many group exhibitions in London, and also internationally Warsaw and Bielefeld (Germany), Lithuania and Spain. She was shortlisted in 2010 for Clifford Chance Sculpture Commission Canary Wharf, London. She was also awarded for contemporary sculpture by UH Galleries in ‘Eastern Approaches’ in Hatfield 2009. In addition Kozlowska was selected to several national and international art residencies and projects, like Working title Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth, ‘Cortijada Los Gazques’, JOYA, Los Velez, Spain and most recently Arteles Creative Centre in Finland.

In addition she has been curating several shows and projects in London. Kozlowska was nominated for SAFTA in visual arts category as South London Women Artists group collaborator, and Finders, Keepers, Losers, Weepers, Conway Hall, London, SLWA collaborative Public Art Residency, supported by Arts Council. Currently based in art space in Studio Voltaire in South London. 


Your practice is evolving from a more structured to a flow narrative. What is the reason for this change?

"New El Dorado #1" (2011)
"New El Dorado #1" (2011)

 

My works, that have always tried to be a reflection  of my underlying unconscious mind processes, are indeed now more flowing, organic, curvilinear. 

 

I am a person in constant development and exploration of myself, but specially this time of my life right now is full of beauty and energy, and I guess my practice, as a genuine reflection of myself, shows this process. 

 

But the truth is that no matter whether the piece is more structural or organic, there is an underlying drive in my practice that can be described as an improvisational force, something that is in itself playful and not planned. This has always been the essence of my creative activity, and its source can only come from the depths of my soul.

How do you choose the themes of your works?

"New El Dorado #2" (2011)
"New El Dorado #2" (2011)

 

I don’t plan, I don’t choose. 

 

Every moment I start a blank canvas I am not aware of the result, I don’t think about the outcome of it. 

 

And here lies the beauty of my practice. I jump into the process without fear, I lose myself in every stroke and I enjoy immensely every moment of it, otherwise there is no point in being an artist. The nature of each work can’t come from the outside; it develops itself based on underlying forces inside me, of which mostly I am not aware of.

You are a visual artist but also a performer. What are your favourite media to express yourself?

"Ariadne saw - revisit" performative drawing, September 2015
"Ariadne saw - revisit" performative drawing, September 2015

 

I recently started performing and it’s been a way of putting myself out of my comfort zone and try different ways of expression. I must say this is an experience I truly enjoy. A performance is an evolving process.  And in this case, again, the whole performance is improvised, in harmony with the essence of my whole body of  work. The use of materials like red strings allows me to add a three-dimensional dimension and allow the drawing to be more alive. Also red string became, so to speak, a symbolic entity appearing across years of my artistic practice, starting in 2008 (graduate show at Camberwell College of Art).  I used red wool to wind the domestic chromed objects. Actually at that point, it was a therapeutic and compulsive process of building my new identity through abstract, dysfunctional objects, covered obsessively with red string and forming a site specific arrangement of the objects. It became an initiation towards my visual abstract language.

Is there a message in your art? What is it?

 

Does art need to have a message? Art doesn't serve any didactic purpose in my understanding, it is like a spiritual cleansing, to uplift your soul and access the Unknown.

 

It is an on-going process of investigation of the “now”, the present moment… a daily meditation, a moment to stop in excessive, fast- paced existence both in online and offline reality… 

 

Every work is created in a different dimension of time and space,  the one that signify liberation of mind and spirit and that helps create a cathartic experience between the artist and also a perceiver.

Could you please tell us about the creative process since initial thoughts to completion?

 

Normally I cut the regular piece of a roll of paper, later I start my painting with immediacy, pre-selecting two or three colours. I tend to use delicate, nearly monochromatic palette with some variation of colours. There is a certain ritual I have developed while creating. The process of painting is very gestural and direct. I apply dynamic strokes, wildly and spontaneously. A second level of improvisation, milder, happens right after. I draw thin organic lines and they seem to explore the chaotic colour strokes, outlining each of its singularities. Sometimes they could be compared to the hypsometric maps. The whole creative process is a play, and at the same time extremely calming. It is an experience comparable to meditation. I am always excited when my drawing is finished, it’s an indescribable feeling. 

What would be your dream collaboration?

"Mental Geography" series. Pen and acrylic on paper, 2015
"Mental Geography" series. Pen and acrylic on paper, 2015

 

The dream collaboration would be definitely a possibility to work across disciplines and involve other visual professionals like structural engineers, architects or programmers to actualise my 2D work in 3D and make this as a holistic experience for the viewer. 

Who has influenced you the most?

"Composition with yellow" (2013)
"Composition with yellow" (2013)

 

I have been influenced by many artists in Modernism, Bauhaus, postminimalism and Duchampian tradition. As my practice was evolving from painting, drawing, installation, sculpture to drawing and painting again, my influences were shifting. I have a huge variety of influences, also in architecture, modernist design, astronomy, and calligraphy. Being open to all different aspects of cultural heritage is quite important to bring fresh approach to the artistic practice. 

What other artists do you admire? What is your favourite piece of art?

 

I admire work of Eva Hesse, Eva Rotschild, Cornelia Parker. I have been also influenced by Alexander Calder, Anthony Caro and more recently Richard Deacon.  

 

How would you describe the current art scene in London and UK?

"Joya, poetic landscape #1" (2009)
"Joya, poetic landscape #1" (2009)

 

The current scene in London is a very diverse place where all range of art could be produced. They are plenty of really interesting galleries and artists led spaces. I feel that now is the time when people who are truly dedicated themselves to do art and who are open for experimentation, will be able to sustain their practice. The growing social media presence also in arts, helps the artistic collaboration flourish more than ever. Being able to mentor each other and support independent artists is very important for their further careers.

You are about to go to Finland for a residence this winter. Could you tell us a little bit more about this project? Any other ventures on the horizon?

 

I am going to Finland with my artistic collaborator, who actually happened to be my husband as well one of the greatest blessings in my life. The art residency will be held in Arteles Creative Centre, situated about 70 km away from Tampere. We, along with another 8 artists invited to the residency programme at that time, will be creating as a response to Nature and the mystic landscape in a completely remote space, with a limited access to internet and urban areas. We are looking forward to seeing Northern Lights. We will also possibly be able to open further collaborations with artists, and travel. After that, there are further exhibitions, artistic collaboration in London and also abroad still in process which I am very much looking forward to.

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