Museum Stories

Mysterious Wise Woman in Paulina Ołowska’s Paintings

Piotr Policht 6 November 2023 min Read

Paulina Ołowska, a prominent Polish artist known primarily for her paintings, is not one to be confined by artistic conventions. A fervor for reviving underappreciated aesthetics drives Ołowska, but her endeavors transcend the mere pursuit of visual pleasure. She is celebrated as a significant figure in Polish art, notably for exploring feminist themes.

However, her approach to feminism takes on unique and captivating forms – from the embodiment of Slavic goddesses to the enigmatic world of crosswords and even the curious realm of mushrooms. To unravel the depths of her artistic expressions, a journey through her previous works is an adventure.

The Numismatist, 2016, oil and acrylic on canvas, 220 x 150 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
Paulina Ołowska, The Numismatist, 2016. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York, NY, USA.

After a long-time pursuit of forgotten leftovers of socialist modernism, after merging together old and modern faces of the post-communist state, Ołowska turned her eyes to the countryside. Not just any countryside, but the one he has lived and worked in for a couple of years. Rabka-Zdrój is a spa resort, a little town in the Polish mountains, whose golden age passed decades ago. It serves as a perfect background for her visual narrative.

The Painter, 2016, oil and acrylic on canvas, 220 x 170 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
Paulina Ołowska, The Painter, 2016. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York, NY, USA.

Most of the paintings portray women characterized by their occupations. If you read Michel Houellebecq’s novel The Map and the Territory, you may remember a series of paintings by its fictional protagonist Jed Martin. Those paintings of professions might seem similar. But Ołowska’s works have nothing to do with a frigid analysis of social roles.

The Mycologist, 2016, oil and acrylic on canvas, 220 x 180 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
Paulina Ołowska, The Mycologist, 2016. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York, NY, USA.

Visions of her heroines resemble stills from fashion magazines, elaborately posed and dressed. Ołowska is primarily concerned with a celebration of specialized fields of knowledge. Like mycology, a branch of biology studying fungi. She plays with that stylized, fashion magazine style, adding some attributes of the wise women. In here, the mycologist is for example accompanied by a crow.

Paulina Ołowska, "Mysteria", 2016, oil and acrylic on canvas, 260 x 124 cm (each panel), 260 x 372 cm (overall). Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
Paulina Ołowska, Mysteria, 2016. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

 

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