A Modern Day Marilyn Monroe
Glamorous on the outside, hidden and vulnerable on the inside, a true artist that wears her heart on her sleeve, cries when appropriate, laughs when needed. For Ewa Wilczynski the journey to stardom has only just begun.
It's a rainy day in South Kensington, breezy cold winds, wet floors, -its gloom at its worst. None of this seems to bother Eva Wilczynski she's wearing Inbar Spector couture, dazzling from head to toe, fresh face, with bright eyes that light up a darkened room.
This is just a regular night for the 24-year-old painter.
Between kissing cheeks, drinking champagne and powdering her nose, Ewa plays host to the Shortz launch party at La Maison des Artistes.
The event is on a weekday, with many people dressed-down coming straight from work Ewa is of course slightly overdressed. “I’m always in couture. This is my version of ready to wear darling”.
She tells me a story of a young girl that had seen her on the train on the way to the venue and burst out in tears. “She either cried because she thought I was beautiful or perhaps my green lipstick scared the shit out of the poor thing.”
Ewa exhales poise and elegance, with her Hollywood smile and model looks. It seems almost impossible that you would find her a few hours after the event crouched down by the bus stop pissing in her gifted couture.“I’m still a diva” she reassures me as she walks away from the yellow puddle.
Ewa grew up in the Surrey suburbs. She moved to London to attend the prestigious Central Saint Martins and later she relocated to Paris to study at Academie des Beaux-Arts.
“Guildford is a small suburban place and I always struggled to fit in there” she reminisces. ”The people can be quite narrow minded, so moving to London opened up a whole new way of thinking and was a definite pivotal moment for my artistic development."
Is London really an artists’ paradise?
“London is so diverse and full of so much creativity it's inspiring to see! It can be difficult to filter through all of it and decipher what is good art and bad art and sometimes the corporate aspect of things can dominate the quality of work being shown. However, wherever you look there are opportunities for artists, and if you can't find them you can make them happen. Everything is possible in London.”
Ewa has worked with a variety of London based charities. One of which includes, Art Against Knives. “It’s a charity close to my heart. Oliver Hemsley and Katy Dawne have taken something so tragic and transformed it into something positive through art.”
Her passion for the arts is vivid however; art seems like an unlikely career choice for the Guildford-born artist. Both her parents and her only sister are dentists. Although this doesn’t explain her routes into art it definitely explains her icy white teeth.
“I have always been artistic as a child. It's how I engaged with and learnt about the world I was growing up in. I showed an aptitude towards drawing from an early age and would always win the art prize at school, get 100% for my art exams and I got a scholarship. Now, painting and expressing myself through art is how I live and if I were unable to do that I would be numb. I think my parents recognized this, which is why they have been so supportive of my art career. I'm also completely useless and incompetent at most things, so art seemed the only career choice for me.”
Ewa has exhibited her intriguing surrealistic portraits in London, Paris, Amsterdam and currently Berlin. She has shown at a variety of art fairs such as The Other Art Fair, which runs at the same time as Frieze. With such obvious talent its rather startling to find out Ewa is not being represented. “I don’t have an agency. I’m unemployed for life.” She laughs.
Ewa will agree that her most notable exhibition was her collaboration with arts organization Art Below.
“I've worked with Art below for a while now, and I owe them a lot really as it was through them that my piece 'Throes' went viral and received a lot of attention.”
The young artist originally met Ben Moore (the creative director of Art Below) while she was interning for him. “I was the worst intern ever! I was literally there for an afternoon and spent most of the time getting Ben to make me tea while I just chilled”
Art Below exhibited Ewa’s artworks on the underground stations such as Regents Park, Liverpool Street and Holborn.
“Ben and I became good friends, he is such a character and we just get each other. Subsequently I've exhibited with Art below many more times, and have had a few crazy nights out with Ben in the process.”
The next day after the Shortz launch event, Ewa and I will meet and continue our interview at The British Art Fair. The private view is packed and of course Ewa is dressed to impress. While I am feeling the effects of a boozy late night, she looks like she just returned back from a sunny Miami vacation. Dressed in a long-sleeved vintage gown, It’s different and of course only she can wear it so remarkably. “Its amazing what you can find on eBay” she tells a curious art collector who stares at Ewa in the flowing gown with a puzzled look on his face. “Well you look divine,” he replies.
It is interesting to see Ewa’s take on other works of art. “What is this?” She asks. “Don’t you just find it annoying when an artist gets a name for themselves and suddenly becomes lazy with their art?” Of course I nod, but I haven’t a clue what she’s complaining about. She leads us to the bar, where we grab our fourth glass of champagne. “This is what art fairs are for”
Ewa’s artwork is quite alluring. Her latest piece is called ‘Panopticon’ a reference to Jeremy Bentham’s design of circular prison where the guards would be placed in the middle, constantly watching you at all times. It is clear her work is emotionally driven, its dark and void, a complete contrast to the bubbly beauty you see in person.
“At the time I was painting it I felt suffocated, and angry. Like I would never be able to escape the situation I was in at that time, trapped. I'm a very different person inside my studio compared to how people know me out of the studio. When I'm painting its a very vulnerable and volatile process, and its a way for me to express all the things I can't say or don't know how to say. So I can't be around people and I need to cut myself off.”
In this particular artwork, a collage of bony hands are stretching and reaching out in what looks like agony and dismay. Looking at the work you would never imagine it belongs to the charismatic artist that she is.
On her love for fashion: “For me fine art and fashion go hand in hand. I've always enjoyed having fun and being experimental with fashion as for me it's like an extension of painting a composition. Studying at St. Martins definitely had an impact on my views on fashion, and it's there I found a true appreciation of the craft and skill involved in creating a garment.”
There must be something going on in the underground art scene that us ‘regular people’ don’t know about. Staying ‘trendy’ is harder than you think, but somehow young Miss Wilczynski manages to stay way ahead of the trends. She worked the Dalston strip before it became so cool, she predicted that Peckham would soon become a hot spot for artists and hippies alike and now she is currently living in the latest art city, Berlin. How does she know about these things?
“Being part of an artistic community, you just hear from word of mouth really. I've been lucky and made friends on the tube, or met people randomly at cafes, or crazy art parties and learnt about places to go from them. I think the best thing to do is just go out, get lost and you will naturally gravitate towards places and people best suited to you. That's really what I've done by moving to Berlin.”
So what is it about Berlin that has become such a popular destination for young artists? “People keep asking me why have you moved here? And I say I don't know... yet. However, the contemporary art being produced here is really innovative. You can see people create art purely for art's sake, which makes a refreshing change to London.”
There is this never-ending debate about the importance of an art education. Having attended one of the best art schools in the world, Ewa took very minimal skills away with her. “The university debate is a biggie. I was very underwhelmed by my education there and most of my learning was done outside of the classroom. I think fine art is always a tricky course as its something you can't really teach, but I was shocked with some of the staff who manipulated that system to get away with not teaching you anything or taking any responsibility.”
At a private ArtReview magazine party, a few words from arts journalist JJ Charlesworth, prompted Ewa to confess “That’s the best piece of advice I’ve received from anyone including my three years at university.”
Ewa claims that the only thing she was directly taught at university was “how to fill in a health and safety form, of which it seemed imperative to fill out several just to wipe your own arse.”
She cherishes her time spent studying abroad at Des Beaux Arts Academie in Paris. “It was here I learnt about the craft and it changed the way I paint forever.”
The next and final time I meet Ewa, she invites me for tea on her roof-terrace on a sunny day. She is wearing what looks like a dead squirrel around her neck, fabulous nonetheless. Clearly she is not so fussy about wearing fur. “Darling you know I’m Cruella de Vil, I’m all fur coat no knickers.” She seems to be in a very cheerful mood. She wears the ‘everything goes, dance all night and drink pink champagne’ attitude with perfection.
On the subject of nudity, Ewa recently featured in a short film shown in Cannes. In the film directed by Dennis Da Silva, she played the oracle, stripped down from head to toe.
“He said I had an old soul and asked if I would be willing to act as the Oracle in his project. I was amazed to be involved in such an emotive and provocative piece.”
Ewa loves philosophy and enjoys reading about it.
“I'm so rubbish with technology it's really embarrassing. One time I just looked at my computer and it exploded. I prefer to read when I'm in the studio. Philosophy is a huge interest of mine and the things I learn definitely help form the compositions of my paintings. Right now I'm reading 'Perception, Hallucination, and Illusion' by William Fish; and I've just finished 'Neuroscience & Philosophy. Brain, Mind & Language' by Bennett, Dennett, Hacker, Searle.”
In an industry where you have to know someone that knows someone. Ewa is definitely an opportunist and proud of it, “ I have no hesitation in going for things no matter how last minute or crazy they are. I mean, a few hours just before I was due to move countries, I was laying butt naked, covered in paint, on a roof, doing this crazy shoot for Avenir. So when an opportunity arises I will definitely take it. You just have to think fuck it, what have I got to lose.”
With a solo exhibition on its way, what does the future hold for this promising young artist? “Who knows?,” She asks back.“I make everything up as I go along, I think that's all you can do in life. I hope to make work that has meaning. If my paintings can make someone think something or feel something, even for just a fraction of a second, I will have achieved more than I could wish for."
Interview first published in Avenir issue one, October 2013.