I wish to tell a new tale and create my own language: ambiguous, dense, natural, and organic.
Ewa Juszkiewicz’s oil portraits of women turn genre conventions inside out. Beginning by producing a likeness of a historical European painting—her sources date from the Renaissance through the nineteenth century—she expertly imitates the original’s technique and style but replaces the subject’s face with a surreal or grotesque distortion. In some compositions, the Polish artist swathes her sitter’s head in folds of fabric or lush floral arrangements; in others, she redirects an elaborately plaited hairstyle to shield the woman’s face from view. The results of this process narrate a history of effacement and erasure that runs throughout the Western canon of female portraiture.
Born in Gdańsk, Poland, Juszkiewicz lives and works in Warsaw. She earned an MA in painting from the Akademia Sztuk Pięknych, Gdańsk, in 2009, and a PhD from the Akademia Sztuk Pięknych im. Jana Matejki, Krakow, in 2016. Juszkiewicz began her female portrait series in 2011 and continues to explore the unsettling possibilities it holds out, evoking the uncanny without compromising the aesthetic harmony of the images from which she works. Classical in method but subversive, eerie, even rebellious in content, her paintings deconstruct ideals of feminine beauty and the contexts in which they have arisen and persist.
In 2015, Juszkiewicz produced a series of paintings of artworks considered missing, or lost to theft, fire, or conflict. Using archival photographs, she re-created these originals, replacing missing colors and details with her own interpretations. Selecting subjects based on their nostalgic evocation of her own losses, she entwines the shared and the secret, underscoring the commonality of memory. In paintings from 2020, she treats the female body and head in a quasi-sculptural manner, assembling precise depictions of hair, leaves, and fabric into hybrid creatures in which the worlds of nature and the senses are interlaced with storied images and symbols. Interested in contrasts, contradictions, and seemingly incompatible juxtapositions, Juszkiewicz analyzes and transforms the past—in dialogue with the modern-day—broadening our interpretation of history through change and deconstruction.