Artist and designer Dorota Kuźniarska is a costumer of opera singers, actors, and even imaginary mythological figures. In her work, she imaginatively weaves the visual traditions of Persia, Turkey, and Poland to produce beautiful work that has a way of making you wonder…it is haptically luxurious, strangely narratival, and geometric.
Kuźniarska’s departure points begin with various fine art practices and models. Her way of working reflects extraordinary handiwork and mechanical skill, as well as her fine art foundational training, allowing an informed dialogue between stories of quests, the invented moments in modernist painting, and the clouds of Ebru.
The breath of a little boy in a yellow suit, during the discharge of paratroopers, 2015 (The Opera Singer’s Dress), Photographed by Witold Modrzejewski.
The title reflects Kuźniarska’s interest in the work of Belgian painter René Magritte. The discharge of paratroopers is a metaphor for the breath of an opera singer. “There is risk, there’s effort, precision and air. It is a vision of the feelings that the singer gives into during the performance.”
To create this luminous blue costume,Kuźniarska made the parachutes by hand, painted the figurines, and finished the hand dyed silk at the edging. While the work reflects the precision and effort of both operatic singing and the paratrooper’s mission, we see also the touch of the absurd in the piece.
Commenting on her connection to the culture of her native country she remarks: “There is a certain sense of humor peculiar to Polish culture, represented in the books of Witold Gombrowicz and Stanisław Lem, or Witkacy’s paintings. It is a humor full of absurd and ambiguity, and it resonates with me. In my artistic activity I always strive that it reflects the charm of Polish culture that I have internalized, without necessarily referring to it directly.”
Inspired by Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square, (1915)Kuźniarska’s piece Kwadrat (Square) was developed through experimentation with a basic shape, multiplied into different shapes, a system of eight and four cuts, the repeating elements making the project infinitely expandable.
RB: Can you tell us more about the two-part project The Art of Travel and your textile work?
DK: I’m glad you asked about that project. Textile is is the main building block of fashion; I like to experiment with fabrics, to transform them, to build anew. I design patterns on fabric (Shahmaran Textile, Karaluchy pod poduchy). It is like creating images inside images. The dress and the painting that you mentioned is the first half of the two-part project called The Art of Travel.
DK: “The pattern on the dress is my original collage, the basis the beautiful watercolors of Bartholomaus Schachman, a traveler from Gdańsk, who traveled to Turkey at the end of the sixteenth century, making pictures of the rulers, and life of the Ottoman Empire. You could say that I created an impression of the world in his paintings, seen through the eyes of a European.”
RB: Please tell me more about the Ebru painting series, how did you become interested in this genre? Cloud painting…..
DK: During the last year of my studies at the University of Art, Poznań I left for a six-month exchange to Marmara University, Istanbul. I learned ebru painting techniques in the studio of professor Seher Aşıcı. We started with making traditional tools and then tried to master the technique. The process was fascinating, when you create using this technique, you cannot entirely predict the final effect, because the picture is created on the surface of water, so it is in constant motion, shifting ever so slightly until it is finally transferred to paper, and you can only guess what the result will be.
RB: You come from a country that has a considerably rich visual and literary culture, how is your work connected if at all to this legacy?
DK: The Polish cities where I have lived all have wonderful architecture. My hometown, Hrubieszów has beautiful, traditional wooden Polish architecture, and there is also Zamość, the pearl of the Renaissance, and Poznań, where I graduated and now live. These are all magical places that truly continue to influence my imagination.