JOANNA PILARCZYK RADECKA - creating a neon world with her figurative pieces
London / United Kingdom
Joanna was born in 1980 in Gubin, a Polish town on the borders of Germany.
She started painting and drawing since the age of five and became very popular in school helping other children create. She was then sent to Art College in 1995 in Zielona Gora and after five years she gained a Diploma from the faculty of Painting as the best student in the class. In 2003, she went to study Visual Arts where she gained her MA degree in Fine Arts (specialising in oil painting)in 2008.
Arriving 10 years ago in London from her native Poland, a country she describes as "grey and non multicultural", Joanna fell in love with the city immediately. Amazed and entranced by many cultures and the vibrant life of the city, she took her sketchbook everywhere, indiscriminately and discreetly recording people on the streets, in parks and cafes. Fleeting moments, everyday lives were rapidly captured in her sketchbooks, as she made her first responses to "being hit by the exciting lifestyle and different, interesting people from all over the world."
As she grew more settled, in her new environment, Joanna began to paint oil portraits of new acquaintances and friends within the artist community of North London. In these paintings, the person is set within their surroundings, in a pub, a garden or at their place of work, and always with a vibrant palette of colours.
Joanna, we’ve done an interview together in the past. I’m so excited to learn even more about you. Let’s begin by introducing yourself and your work to our audience.
Hello, my name is Joanna Pilarczyk Radecka. I am a Polish artist based in London. I am a figurative painter who finds inspiration in people, their stories, and diverse cultures. I studied art at both College and University in Zielona Gora, Poland, where I gained my MA degree in Art Education and Visual Arts. I moved to London in 2012, and, since then, I have been a practising artist focused on portraiture and working mainly in oil on canvas. I also love to work in various techniques as acrylic, ink and watercolour. When I don't work on my personal projects, I run art classes and teach watercolour painting techniques in North London based Community Centre.
During the pandemic, you started focusing on self-portraiture. What was it like for you to paint the person you know the best but can’t see her unless looking in the mirror or at photos?
In the beginning, it was a difficult challenge to paint myself. I realized that when I am working on a self-portrait, I see some other woman emerging from the painting. I focus more on the atmosphere of the whole scene, the way how I capture the body against various fabrics or plants and flowers. I am looking for visually beautiful composition and, at the same time, this unique feeling of serenity, relaxation and positiveness found in one moment. I use my body for reference, but I think about other women while painting the scene.
It's different when I paint my partner with me and the cats or when I work on a portrait of Jarek only. In these sessions, all my thoughts are fully focused on our relationship and the way we communicate with each other, what we love and appreciate in our life. I learned so much about my husband, myself and our everyday life since I started working on the 'Intimate Times' series. This project affected both of us. I think that we understand each other more and appreciate the fact that we both are creatives who want to succeed as artists. We talk about it a lot.
Can you describe your art process?
Before I start working on the painting, I ask my partner to take a few photos of me in various positions. Sometimes, I use a tripod and take photos by myself. I usually wait for the right light in my flat. The sunlight is very important in my paintings. I live in London, so it is not often that I have a wonderful sunny day:). I set up some space to photoshoot with interesting fabrics and patterns of scarfs, pillows and blankets which I can find in my room. My flat studio is full of plants and flowers, and I like to capture them in my paintings too. I take photos of them at different times during the day to catch changing light and shades of green. I also collect photos of my two wonderful cats: Sumo and Mia. Later, I work on the digital sketch for the painting - a basic composition that may change later during the painting process. When the project is ready, I start with a pencil sketch on the canvas and then, I can apply the colours. I like to work with a bold and clean colour palette. I use mainly oil and add fluorescent acrylics and spray paint. They are an addition to my oils, and they give this unique summer vibe to my paintings. I don't paint in a very realistic way but prefer to simplify every object and work with blocks of colours. I start with light tones first and add contrast with darker colours, so I can always find the right balance of light and shadow in the whole composition.
The typical characteristic of your work is the use of vibrant colours. What do these colours mean to you?
I am inspired by the vibrant colours in big cities like London, where I am surrounded by people from all over the world with their rainbow styles and fashions. I also draw inspiration from street art, graffiti and animation and video.
When I was growing up, the world seemed quite grey, but I occasionally saw flashes of neon colour from American Television in the 90' and this vibrancy I craved to add in my childhood and teen years. I am a grown-up woman now and I realized that those clear, vibrant and fluorescent colours still make me happier. I often use complementary colours to animate the subject, which is about calm and intimacy. I like to use neon pink against the lime green of a leaf or a splash of turquoise.
We’ve seen your work across different platforms, exhibits and magazines this year. How do you divide your time between creating your work and promoting yourself as an artist?
I paint during the day as I prefer to work with natural light. In the evenings, I do my 'office' work: all the applications for new competitions, research regarding various opportunities for exhibitions or publications, updates on my website and social media. Sometimes I feel like painting till late night hours. I catch up with admin work on Mondays and Thursdays in the afternoon - days when I run and teach art classes. I am usually more tired and less creative after a few hours spent with a group of people who need my full attention and constructive advice. I drink another coffee, and I am ready to work on promoting myself. I like doing it. Finding new challenges makes me excited. My calendar is always full of notes and deadlines.
What does a typical day of Joanna Pilarczyk look like?
I am an owl who likes to be active till late hours. I usually wake up around 8.30 or later, on days when I don't have to rush to run art classes. I start my day with green tea and a light breakfast. I feed my cats and play with them, and then I am ready to have my coffee. I work in my flat studio so it's comfortable as I can start painting any time. My husband Jarek also works from home as a freelance motion graphic designer. My painting studio is set up in a different room, so we meet for lunch or later for dinner. I usually spend on painting around 6 hours during a typical day. As I mentioned before, I do my 'admin' job in the evenings, applying for competitions, writing for interviews, posting on Instagram or updating my website.
Mondays and Thursdays are a bit different as I leave home around 10 in the morning, and I go to the local-based Community Center - The Engine Room, where I run art classes for a few hours. I am back home around 3 PM, and after second coffee, I work on my publicity or next design for a new painting.
After dinner, I like to watch some good movies, and I always finish my day with a good book in my hand.
What are you dreams, plans and goals?
Like most artists, my dream is to be recognised among art galleries, curators and art collectors not only in London, but also in different countries. I always dreamed about having an exhibition in New York and this is my future goal. I would love to exhibit more and also be able to sell my paintings regularly. My plans for 2022 are to show my work in a few galleries in London and take part in the Art Fairs. I would like to make connections with other talented artists and the galleries in the city. The most recent plan is to exhibit in J/M Gallery based in Notting Hill, London, from January 24th to 30th. I will show my paintings alongside two other artists: Ted Wongt and Hannah Hnijsten.
In March, I will be a part of The Other Art Fair at the Old Truman Brewery based in Brixton, London.
What is the number one advice you’d give to artists who are trying to find their authentic voice and build a strong body of work?
Listen to yourself and trust your intuition. Believe in your skills, be honest with yourself, experiment and have fun while making art. When you discover this special subject or technique which will help you to express your feelings and emotions and make you feel happy, explore it even more. Be consistent in your language but also find ways to learn more and evolve. Don't compare your art to other established artists - everyone is different, and there is no mistake or wrong approach in the creative process.