Surreal Beauty: The Polish artist Agata Przyżycka takes us on an intimate journey towards the sublime

    Agata Przyżycka is a young Polish artist whose surreal and deeply sensual paintings employ the female body as an experimental landscape via which to explore the dynamic relationship between the human body, nature and language. There are obvious parallels to Georgia O’Keefe in her work, and she describes her practice as a process that seeks to uncover sublime intimacy, with the starting point of each painting often being a photographic session with close friends or family members. These sessions provide an emotional jump-off point for the artist, who then radically alters the forms caught in the eye of her lens into sumptuous abstractions that are both dreamlike and imbued with subtle eroticism – inviting you to deep dive into unfettered reverie. At the moment, you have the rare opportunity to see her work up-close at the newly installed Kravitz Contemporary gallery on Soho Square, alongside works by two other artists who focus upon feminine aesthetics, namely the fashion photographer Paulina Otlie Surys and artist Maja Krysiak. In this interview with Culture Collective, the increasingly recognised artist explains why the practice of art can have huge benefits for mental health, and tells us why we should all try harder to see the simple beauty in the everyday.

    Where did your interest in painting originally stem from?
    I took painting classes from early childhood, and it has been very important for me my whole life. It was immediately a form of expression that I liked and understood. I remember that the first exhibition we had from our painting lesson made me really nervous, though, and I still get nervous showing other people my work. I also find it quite difficult to talk about my work. I think I am quite a reclusive person, really – I don’t like to talk with other people so much, and I love the solitude of painting. It’s almost a form of meditation for me, and I can happily spend a lot of time in my workshop alone. I think the first thing that really drew me to art was probably album artwork, because my parents absolutely loved music. I can also remember my parents taking me to Barcelona very young, and the Gaudi Park was just amazing to me – there was this very organic feeling I got from the sculptures. I suppose, even from a very young age, I knew that I wanted to go the academy of fine art, and the first really important thing I became interested in when studying was realist paintings and realist art.

    What would you say you are seeking to communicate in your work?
    The first thing I wanted to do in my work was to show something that lies behind the everyday, and uncover a kind of erotic intimacy, but, lately, it hasn’t been so important to me. I think I have created my own aesthetic alphabet, and I use the female body as a sign. I perceive my work as a process to look at nature, language, the body and femininity, and the main topic of my work is to capture the dynamics between those components. Working on a painting is an important and emotional process for me. Before I start, I will usually take a photograph of people I know from close friends and family, to kind of explore that notion of intimacy and the body, and I’m always seeking to go deeper into intimacy by taking the realistic form into abstraction and geometric shapes. I think abstraction has more value for me now than realism, because the viewer can kind of imagine something, without any pressure from me about how the painting should be received, or how they should feel.

    How do you feel when you view your work?
    I paint a lot and always have a problem working out when to stop painting – it’s a long way for me to go conceptually and I am very much within the process.I actually think that the time I value most is that moment when I actually start the painting, and when I am thinking about it and am not sure what I will do. It’s good for me to have exhibition deadlines because it makes me stop painting when I need to. It also allows me to work on three or four paintings at once. I like doing that because it allows me to create the works as a series that correspond to each other.

    How does your work approach womanhood and femininity?
    It’s actually true that I’ve only been painting women’s bodies lately, but in the past I have painted men as well. I’m not sure why I was drawn to focus mainly on women but maybe it’s because the female body is more associated with biology, nature and the sense of a landscape to me. The palette that I use in my painting is generally inspired by the colours of sunsets, or flowers, which I know are pretty common topics. Femininity is just very important to me – I consider woman as the source of creation in a way, the bringer of life. All of my paintings are very close to my heart and play a big emotional part in my everyday life, but, ultimately, I can’t explain why I always come back to the female figure.

    Does your art act as a kind of therapy for you?
    Well, in a way, yoga and painting are very similar practices for me, and art has always been very important therapeutically for me. I can’t ever imagine stopping painting. I can find it difficult to go to work in the day-to-today, and I spend all of my free-time painting because it makes me feel better. I had therapy when I was younger, but my daily routine of painting is really the thing that makes me feel okay and calm, and makes me feel free. I don’t feel anxious or nervous when I paint; I feel that I can become anything on the canvas. I can’t really express why beauty is really so important for me, but I have always really been drawn to beauty, and I look for it every day in nature. Beauty is always there, every day in our lives, but we don’t look for it enough. I need that contact with nature, and my art is my connection to it. I like to spend time with other people, but I can’t ever predict what that will be like, but when I am alone, I am comfortable and I know that I can express myself freely.

    You can find out more about Agata Przyżycka here
    The works in the article are currently installed at Kravitz Contemporary in the group show A World Beneath The Heels. You can find out more here

    Images (top to bottom): portrait of the artist at Kravitz Contemporary by Grzegorz Podsiadlik; Untitled, oil on canvas, 2021, Agata Przyżycka, courtesy of the artist; Trzymam świat Niepojęty, oil on canvas, 2021, Agata Przyżycka, courtesy of the artist; Untitled, oil on canvas, 2021, Agata Przyżycka, courtesy of the artist.

    Interview by John-Paul Pryor