Transitions and Translations: Ewelina Skowronska in the Studio

December 8, 2017 by

After years of working in commercial illustration, Art-in-Ed Workspace Resident Ewelina Skowronska is putting commission work on the back burner.

Still, her professional experience as an illustrator always plays a role in her personal work. “They are connected and not connected,” she explains. Illustration is where her artistic practice began, but these two parts of her work still feel distinct. In spite of the material differences between digital and handmade, she hopes these sides of her practice will merge more naturally in the future.

Primarily a silkscreen printmaker, Ewelina prefers “working fast and seeing results fast.” She used etching a few times as an art student, but only recently began incorporating it into her practice. The surprises inherent to intaglio conflict with the control she prefers to maintain over her prints, but Ewelina now sees potential in combining the two media.

Her work is currently in a period of transition, in part because of a recent move to Tokyo, Japan. At first, she says, she felt lost. “I hadn’t really found my routine and places.” However, she feels like she needs to be there right now. In addition to working alongside a master printer at her newly-found printmaking studio, Ewelina was inspired by the prevalence of pottery in Japan to begin making ceramic work.

When she started, her approach was to treat the clay surface as a piece of paper, molding plates as canvases for drawings. Her first 3D objects were actually a hybrid of 2D and sculptural work, a bridge over which to exit her comfort zone.

These pieces were inspired by a personal experience, when Ewelina recalls nearly falling in the shower once while routinely shaving her legs. Thinking about this often uncomfortable practice for women all over the world, she’s been sculpting a collection of “shaving girls.” Each of whom is formed in an awkward (but familiar) shaving pose.

Ewelina says they’re “funny figures,” referencing both the humor in their appearance and the playful quality of their shape. Abstract figures are becoming more prevalent throughout her work because of the constant influence of material translation–starting with sketches, moving into ceramics, then drafting new imagery from a finished sculpture. The impact of each transformation is visible in her newest prints.

It’s the last week of her residency. Upstairs in our silkscreen studio, Ewelina begins each print with a backdrop of bold, matte colors and abstract shapes. Some of these shapes suggest body parts, but this comes into full clarity only after she’s added the final layer.

Once she’s carefully measured her paper, accounted for stretching, and soaked each sheet in water, she pulls out a freshly-inked copper plate. Knowing that this plate has taken hours of detailed sugar-lifting and diligent etching, what comes together at this stage is more than mere addition. Ewelina’s layering process is synergistic.

She cranks the plate and silkscreen duo through an etching press, guiding the bed’s contents with one free hand. When it emerges on the other side she pulls back the blankets and gently peels away the paper, revealing a pair of pastel forms that now suggest legs. The layer of etched black lines produces a depth and definition that accentuates the print’s bodily appearance. Though it remains only loosely defined, the resulting figure feels human.

Exploring feminine imagery is relatively new practice for Ewelina, who explains that her work is not born from politics but curiosity. Instead of making a statement with her shaving girls or the pieces they inspire, she asks viewers to consider whether our choices are a “conscious decision or something that is given… something the culture tells us?”

Following this open-interpretation approach, Ewelina is interested in print and art-making as a democratic practice. One day she dreams of making murals and creating art meant to exist in public spaces. For now, she’s preparing to install her prints in two upcoming shows: one in the Nidy Gallery in Tokyo this February, and another in Hong Kong this May. To see her in action and hear more about her work, watch our exclusive interview with her below.