Today wee meet in the artist’s studio in Warsaw’s Stare Bielany neighbourhood. Despite the freezing December day, the large windows of the renovated 1930s building let in a beautiful afternoon light. “I need a clear environment to work. We don’t get a lot of natural light in the winter, but artificial lighting is actually clean. Mixed light is the worst kind, followed closely by reflected light, like that reflected off of leaves. Any kind of distraction in your lighting is undesirable,” Magda says. She works largely using egg tempera, a traditional and time-consuming technique popular before the advent of oil painting. Instead of using ready-made paint, the artist mixes egg yolks with pigment in a mortar.[blockquote quote="This technique best reflects my philosophy of colour. It lets me achieve a depth that I can’t get using ready-made paint,” she says, putting her canvases against the window."] [q-and-a person_1="SH" person_2="MK" question="Your work often features botanical motifs. Is this an influence of the place where you grew up?"]
I grew up in a house with a garden built by my great-grandfather in Warsaw’s Żoliborz neighbourhood. The house is surrounded by a park. Images from all the time spent in the park and the view from the house’s window were imprinted in my mind at a very early stage of my development and became encoded in my subconscious.
But I was directly influenced by a garden that surrounds a house about 40 km from Warsaw that has been in my family for generations. It was first meticulously designed in the French style (and partially English) and then all that was so neatly trimmed got taken over by nature. I spent a lot of time there in the years after graduating from university.
I was at the threshold of adulthood, in the process of developing my own identity and confronting the first losses of my life – my grandparents’ deaths. Observing the nature there, much of which is nearly primordial, during such a formative time for me, became a major inspiration. I felt a great need to be painting nature. And thus, in a very organic way my first series of paintings came to be. They weren’t just youthful experimentation, but a mature collection that I wanted to exhibit. I had my debut show in the now-defunct Galeria Czarna in 2011.[q-and-a person_1="SH" person_2="MK" question="Nature became a leading motif in most of your work."]
At a certain point I realised that through painting nature I can say the most. Nature is more powerful than us.That’s the way it’s always been and always will be. It’s a constant, which is why I think it’s a good conduit to talk about fear and anxiety. It has a soothing, calming effect, but it’s also terrifying how small we are in comparison. In the face of climate change, nature becomes a very meaningful motif to use in painting.[image filename="image_561.png" is_full_width="yes" caption="Photography: Jędrzej Sokołowski"] [q-and-a person_1="SH" person_2="MK" question="What advice would you give to artists looking for a creative path?"]
To trust yourself. It sounds so easy, but it’s very difficult to implement in practice. I think that every young artist deals with uncertainty, with other people’s opinions, with other obstacles. You have to find your truth, the answer to what you want to do on your own. Truth will always prevail, but you can’t accelerate the process. It comes sooner to some, later to others.
It’s definitely easier if we’re not alone in this difficult period. I am lucky to have been born to a family in which art was at the top of the hierarchy of everything that’s important. I remember when in a moment of doubt, my father read me a poem by Cav about how hard the creative path is in life. I am still moved when I think about it.