I recently had the opportunity to visit the studio of one of our artist members. Besides being introduced to possibly the friendliest studio cat in existence ('Kotek', Polish for ‘cat’), it was a chance to be introduced to the creative space of a sensitive, serious and generous local artist.
Grazyna Adamska-Jarecka is a figurative, abstract and landscape painter – often all at once. Her abstraction is expressive, her use of pattern linked to social and personal histories. Throughout all her work runs a vein of a deeply vulnerable self-exploration.
She was in the middle of painting when I arrived at her glass-doored garage studio. After I tapped gently on the glass and waved hello, she welcomed me inside with tea and toasted pecans. We talked about what she is working on, and how where she came from led to where she is now.
What’s this? (I pointed to the piece she was painting when I interrupted) I recognize it from the progress pictures you shared on Instagram recently - but I hadn’t realized it was on plastic film when I saw the photo. This is for an upcoming show at the Minarovich Gallery in Elora – Finding the Nest; Self-Identity and Otherness. It is about how I integrate into a culture while trying to find a nest and not to be marginalized.
This is a self-portrait – what are you holding on your arm? It is a cotton pad, from after a vaccine. It is like I have given myself a shot against isolation.
How does your personal background affect your work? I realize now the extent to which my Polish background has had an impact on my painting. I was raised in Szczecin, Poland, where my brother and I used to play in ruins and on postwar bunkers. I have always been emotionally attached to the city of my childhood, adolescence and of part of my adult life, although the prevailing colour of buildings, stores, and yards I remember is grey in its different tones.
I understand you didn’t come straight to Guelph from Poland. What happened in the years between? I came from Poland first to Columbia, Missouri in 1993, where I was working as a postdoctoral fellow in Animal Science. I moved to Canada in 1996 and I decided to discontinue my scientific career to pursue a profession as a painter. I did a BA in Studio Art at the University of Guelph before returning to the US to do my graduate studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Being separated from my family and facing multiple problems I developed depressive moods also greatly influencing my work.
What other ideas influence you and drive your work? One area of my research concerns looking at old context of melancholia in art through contemporary ideas about the aesthetics of disengagement. My art makes use of materials common to our modern life. For instance, I use transparent and lightweight qualities of plastic film to stress the way depressed people are withdrawn from a social background. You continue to focus on the figure, and self-examination in your newest work.
Can you tell me more about what you’re working on now? My recent works relate to changes in my identity as I integrate into a culture while trying to find a nest and not to be marginalized. The figures/self-portraits are placed in nearly comfortable positions which go on to reveal the adequacy of my placement. These fittings serve as a metaphor of adjustment, dualism and the evolution of my Polish-Canadian identity.
These works will be shown at the Elora Centre for the Arts. Another artist joins me in the exhibit, Norman Busse, who shares some similar experience of an artist working in new country.
Free to attend, the exhibition is called Finding the Nest; Self-Identity and Otherness and opens with a reception on Thursday, Apr. 5, 2018, from 7-9 p.m. The show will remain on view in the Minarovich Gallery at the Elora Centre for the Arts until May 13, 2018.
By Katie Wilde/Guelph Arts Council