Polish artist Karolina Jabłońska is fascinated by human nature. But not by the softness or candidness we can find in prairies houses or fantasy worlds full of unicorns and rainbows. Instead, she’s interested in the dark sides of our personalities, unfiltered and without sweetened emotions, representing the complexity of tortured minds through dark colours and painful expressions.
She thinks simple things are, in general, boring, and that’s why she prefers to work with uneasy emotions. “Life isn’t as simple and colourful as we see on social media. It also consists of pain and struggling with different kinds of difficulties. As an artist, I observe the world in a critical way and I draw from that place. The most fascinating things for me are hard feelings, uneasy things,” she explains.

Graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow (Poland) five years ago, the artist confesses she has loved art since she can remember, something we recognize in her encyclopedic knowledge full of references ranging from the great masters of the 18th century like Tiziano to contemporary artists such as Maria Lassnig or Victor Man. She doesn’t forget either about the female artists that have been undervalued for years, revindicating somehow the brilliant work that women artists have developed throughout history.

Jablonska lives and works in Krakow, where she’s cofounded Potencja Gallery collective, a platform where she’s developing different projects and activities that gives her the opportunity to express herself in other disciplines. She also runs an independent space in Krakow that invites young artists to promote and showcase their work.
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You focus on the human figure, which appears in its magnificence. Its relation with the space is somehow monumental. Why are you interested in this representation?
I am interested in people, in their relationships with each other, and with the space around as well. You exist in a context. This could be your background, friends, family, beliefs or your surrounding environment; it could be everything. In my art, I focus on people with all these details, which links them to reality.
When we go through your work, we can see some reminiscences of Surrealism and also from the Picassian dark period or classics like Goya’s dark paintings. Where do you find inspiration?
The source of my inspiration is huge and it involves artists such as Caravaggio, Tiziano, and Renaissance Netherlands masters but also others from the 20th century like Picasso, painters from the New Objectivity wave, or more contemporary ones like Maria Lassning, Victor Man, or Alexander Tinei.
What fascinates me the most in old masters work is their sensibility and perfection when showing human emotions. These are often representations of saints or mythological figures but their feelings are depicted in such a brilliant way that you can find the fears and worries of the people, not only from old times but from today as well. I don’t think about inspirations daily as everything around me is inspiring: the books that I read, pop culture, the music I listen to in my car, Instagram, everyday life… These things make up my imaginary.
Sometimes you introduce vegetal decorative details and also animals… How has your work evolved from your first series in 2013 until now?
Nature and animals have appeared in my paintings from the beginning of my career. Animals were personified, they represented a certain type of human personality. I come from the countryside, so this kind of surrounding full of bright colours and light was the easiest and most natural way of expression for me. These paintings were full of energy and positive little naive scene. Then, when I developed my style, I started to refer to art history and more complicated subjects. Now, my paintings are darker in colours but also in message.
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Why are you interested in dark messages? We can see some kind of violence, tortuosity or darkness in colours and expressions.
Simple things are, in general, boring, so I prefer to work on the dark side of human nature. Uneasy emotions are at the heart of my interests. Life isn’t as simple and colourful as we see on social media. It also consists of pain and struggling with different kind of difficulties. As an artist, I observe the world in a critical way and I draw from this emotional place. The things I am most interested in are hard feelings, uneasy things.
A few months ago, we were in a completely new situation of lockdown caused by Covid-19. We are still in suspension because nobody knows how the virus will develop. This has exposed how many fears we have and how easily our sense of security can disappear. It also affects me and my work.
As we’re talking about Covid-19, how do you think this situation will impact art galleries and artists?
Moving around the world is an important part of the art environment. Till this moment, fairs were something prestigious for galleries and exhibited artists. It happens the same with artist residencies, which are invaluable for artists. Nowadays, everything is uncertain. Many people in the cultural area have lost their jobs and very often their only source of income. The feeling of insecurity is constantly present, and I hate it. I don’t have any idea how it will impact us in a long-term perspective but I hope it won’t be as dramatic as I imagine.
Different kinds of women appear in your work. In which way are you interested in the female role?
I have always been interested in the female figure in art history. In the 19th century, artists depicted women as femme fatales quite often before that female role turned into a charming and admirable object, even before paintings were full of crying, suffering saints. In history, women were represented in the context of a man or for his pleasure. Today, everything has changed, but still, an image of a woman in the media is full of stereotypes: beautiful, happy, healthy idealized, untrue…
I am playing with this stereotypical picture. My women are emotionally unstable. Sometimes, they are fighting with each other; sometimes, they are depressed, crying, lying on the ground. In some of my paintings, they are attracting us with their pink luminous body but in others, they are screaming to terrified viewers.
In the history of art, you can't find many female artists because women had no rights or voice. Times have changed, and slowly artists are taking their voices back. Nowadays in Poland, there are many brilliant female artists. Last year, there was a big exhibition of female paintings titled Paint, also known as blood. Women, affect, and desire in the contemporary painting at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, curated by Natalia Sielewicz. This exhibition showcased a big potential of women’s artwork that had been undervalued for years. The exhibition presented the work of young and established Polish artists in the broader context of international female painting. It was the most popular exhibition of the year. In my opinion, it was caused by the extraordinary strength of the women’s painting expression.
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You’ve worked on a series of drawings (mainly in black and white), installations and different events. Is there any other discipline you’d like to explore as an artist?
Unfortunately, I have to say that it is hard for me to go beyond painting. I like working on canvas. When I feel I need some refreshing, I’m doing my stencils/spray works on paper. They are black and white, more quiet than paintings. I need a different way of concentration to create them, and sometimes this kind of change is very useful for me.
I have also made some animations – maybe I can develop this technique in the future. With Potencja Gallery collective, we are making short movies inspired by B films. I think the collective activity gives me more opportunities to express myself in other disciplines.
What is the concept of this gallery you cofounded with Tomasz Kręcicki and Cyryl Polaczek?
This collaboration is based on our friendship. We met each other in the beginning of our studies in 2011 and started to have fun together. That’s how it last till this moment. All of us are painters. We are trying to exhibit together in Poland and abroad as well. Besides, we run an independent space in Krakow where we invite young artists that we appreciate. It is also based on a good relationship between people. These artists are our friends quite often. We don’t have any outside funding, so sometimes it’s hard to bring an artist from abroad, but it’s happened sometimes.
Your work has been featured in different exhibitions. Are you working on any new project at the moment?
I am working on a duo show with a great photographer based in Vienna, Sophie Thun. I am very excited because I love her work. It is also my first close collaboration with a female artist. We will open it on the first weekend of October at Raster Gallery in Warsaw. It will be part of the Warsaw Gallery Weekend 2020.
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