In response to Sistrum’s invitation, I would like to share a little about my life and work. For me, these two spheres are intertwined and joined together, like embracing lovers. My painting practice is a mixture of life and thoughts. I feel what I paint, I paint what I feel, it is a kind of a journal – “A Journal of Events, Feelings, and Gestures”, which was the title of my exhibition, taken from my 2016 MA thesis.
The year 2020 is not treating us kindly: COVID-19, isolation, struggles of the LGBTQ+ community, eternal quarrels over ideology, the death of several illustrious, valued people, including prof. Maria Janion, whose texts I struggled with during my studies. Only later did I find out that she is a non-heteronormative person. I honestly admit that I do not know her writing too well, my painting studies were practice- rather than theory-based, but I fell in love with Janion as a person with passions similar to mine. I’m interested in the subjects she researched – Slavic folklore and its influence on today’s culture and tradition.
For me, the beginnings of the current crisis were already noticeable at the end of 2019, when I returned from Mazury (the Polish lake district), where I lived for a year. Iwona Demko, an artist focusing on femininity and feminism, invited me to take part in the project “Życiorysy kobiet ASP” [Biographies of Women at the Academy of Fine Arts], and I happily agreed. For this occasion, I wrote a short bio:
For me, life after graduation was like hitting a wall. My ideas for creating further paintings became foggy and, as it were, evaporated after graduation. I tried to continue and look for other inspirations, but I was caught up in a crisis and overwhelming powerlessness. Something else was important: finding a job. I used EU funded programs and completed a computer graphic design course. Working as a graphic designer at an advertising agency can be monotonous and brutal. But still, it’s permanent employment. After graduating and moving from Kraków to Pomorze, I heard about the “scandal” that I caused a few months after leaving my first corporate job. My colleagues found an interview I gave Agnieszka Małgowska and Monika Rak as part of the “Lesbijska Inspira” project published online on the Feminoteka Foundation website. The conversation was about homosexual women and their role within society, there were some questions also about my personal life. It’s surprising that being a lesbian still shocks people in this day and age.
Being a lesbian in Poland is almost as difficult as making paintings about it, and it carries real psychological burdens. Personally, I actually don’t know any lesbian painters [Polish: lesmalarki]. I even asked my former professor, and now friend, Rafał Borcz, and he replied that neither did he. This made me think. It was easier for him to name homosexual and straight men who painted lesbian themes. I remember the 2010 Ars Homo Erotica exhibition, and Beata Sosnowska’s work shown there. It was an installation composed of small-format sketches. At the time, I liked it a lot.
The question that comes to mind is: what has happened to people over the past decade? Things seem to be getting worse, when they should be getting better with time. The exhibition took place at the National Museum in Warsaw, in a public institution… The thought of such event happening today would be dismissed or laughed at. But let’s leave politics aside, as my mentor said, “Don’t go into this karma.”
My creative work and interruptions in its supply
My creative work is not organised; it resembles a series of explosions.
In order to overcome the crisis that followed graduation, I began to explore my spirituality. I created the series entitled “Spiritual Portraits” depicting the chakras – the main energy centres. I began my adventure with hypnosis and chakras.
Later, I met a fascinating girl, and began painting her portraits as part of the series entitled “I like this cyclist”. In the meantime, I painted the symbolic “Feminine Flowers” series, and other paintings. Regardless of what I paint, it is important to me that, in my own way, I “record” reality in more or less detail. Sometimes I just sit with a sketchbook and draw the girl in front of me. The fascination with women and their bodies has stayed with me ever since coming out during my studies.
To me, my partners are a motivation for artistic activity; they inspire me to create. Love, eroticism, and carnality are constant motives in my work.
Recently, besides painting and drawing I began running a spiritual and artistic blog, where I describe my latest paintings and themes concerning the matters of body and spirits, as well as female erotica.
A significant disruption to my “creative energy” was isolation caused by COVID-19. A forced break from blogging and painting. If it weren’t for a certain cyclist, I wouldn’t have painted anything at all …
I like this cyclist
This is an expanding series, and at the moment it consists of four paintings. I started it during the pandemic and the forced separation from a lover I’ve just met. I poured the energy of that yearning onto the canvas. My simple style became more studio-like – I had to occupy my aching psyche with something else. Isolation, separation, strange things happening in the world, wearing facemasks and plastic gloves, social panic … I added details to my sketches, I added basic colours to my palette, I played around with shadow and detail. Still, my style retained the simplicity of form and the application of colour planes, with a slight touch of light and shade. Strong colours of sportswear, sometimes bright, sometimes black-and-white with small, vivid accents, bicycle frames, handlebars and all other equipment … all this was a real challenge, real fun to study, looking for the right shape and colour combination. Contrasting red and white from a well-known bicycle brand. Not necessarily national, but … archetypal. The red and white of our Slavic ancestors, so obvious in our Ukrainian brothers and sisters’ national costumes, embroidery, and patterns. Here and there one can glimpse a small part of the face, visible behind the sports glasses, covered with a scarf and a helmet. An agile figure, frozen in motion, slim, athletic. Never before has the subject of sports appeared in my painting, and since passion evokes passion, I started to ride a bike…
The stay in Mazury and Pomorze, which I described above as the beginning of my crisis, were a difficult life lesson. My positive words, contributed in the “Lesbian Inspira” interview, were quickly confronted with reality. Newly-met people were not always accommodating, and treated me distrustfully: “You studied in Kraków, what are you doing here?” I was asked daily in Mazury. After all, I wouldn’t tell them that I came with a partner, with whom it eventually did not work out – a stay in the hospital, depression, loneliness, breakups, returns, new relationships, a new job where I kept hearing I was inadequate, misunderstandings, a sense of alienation and not fitting in … and so on, and so forth. I abandoned painting in favour of graphic design. It was a crisis similar to a crisis of faith. In Mazury, I met the inspiring hypnotherapist Beata Stasiak, who turned out to be something like the sight of grass shoots after a fire. She showed me the path to spiritual and creative development, and thanks to her, I returned to where I came from. I channelled the newfound knowledge about human energy into my painting.
There are two streams that pass through the human body: one going up from the Earth, through the crown, into space, and the other from outer space, going down, towards Mother Earth. In this, two elements – male and female – merge together. I started to paint energetic portraits from the bottom, from the root with the Mother, and so on, until I reached the highest energy. After completing energetic portraits, I made “Self-Portrait as Hermes”. Nowadays, they would call it “genderism”, rather than a self-exploration and spiritual development. In a world where “a woman is meant to a woman and a man is meant to be a man”, there is not much room for imagination, creativity, or thinking outside the box. Perhaps a lesbian is a male self in a beautiful female body … Perhaps we have more than one self? What exactly is the self anyway? The Greek philosophers or Carl Gustav Jung might know the answer. You can always try to find your own answer. Except – when you create something and show it to people, you’ll crash into a wall of critique. They will tell you what you can and what you cannot draw. But the most important thing is that you can just take care of yourself, and do your own thing. This might be the most beautiful thing about art.
Wrocław, August 28.08.2020
Magdalena Tchórz (b. 1989) graduated from the painting department at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow with a diploma in painting. She is interested in the woman – as an area of artistic activities and theoretical research – along with her feelings, mind, identity, sexuality and corporeality. She works as a graphic designer. As a Slavic Neopagan, she is passionate about primal female powers, astrology, and nature. She describes herself as “a numerological five, zodiacal Gemini, an eternal, restless wanderer, a curious introvert, a taciturn woman.”