Chroma: Interview with Katarzyna Przezwanska

Katarzyna Przezwanska‘s work is both playful and serious: riotous colors precisely define spaces for objects on a desk or in a room, or grace the facade of a dour old concrete building. She is equally adept at using pop brights and cool, pensive tones to create moods or to reference a particular history or locale. Her installation in the most recent Frieze Art Fair elicited the comment, “Przezwanska’s work demonstrates a belief in the redemptive power of colour.” I had a chance to talk with her in Tarnow, Poland about her process, her identity as an artist, and her next projects.

Katarzyna Przezwanska, Ornament, 2010. Building decorations, emulsion, conservator

Bean Gilsdorf: Some of your projects respond to Modernism. How did that part of your work begin?

Katarzyna Przezwanska: I think it was natural because in Poland there are a lot of Modernist buildings, it’s our natural environment. It’s also disappearing and underrated.

BG: And for one of your projects, you worked with your own space, your own apartment.

KP: Yes, I designed it to be a space that is functional, by using visual divisions done with color. It’s an artwork, but it’s alive. It’s not fixed or finished, so when I need to change something, I do it. It’s an open project. In my work, the colors usually come from the surroundings of the project. In every project each color has a meaning or a story. It’s not always necessary that the viewer has to know why, but when I know it, it works better.

Katarzyna Przezwanska, Desk, 2010. Aluminum, blockboard, enamel, acrylic paint.

BG: You made a fountain for the exhibition Tarnow: 1000 years of modernity, now exhibited in the lobby of the Centrum Kultury in Moscice. Is that work site specific or could it go anywhere?

KP: No, I wouldn’t put it anywhere, I wanted it to be in a space that people use. Initially I wanted to put it outside, but it wouldn’t work because of the wind and other things. Before the [Centrum Kultury] building was renovated there were some nice pools outside, so I thought it would be good to bring water back to that space. The building has very big windows, so I used some of the ochre and green colors that you see in the surrounding area, a synthesis of the environment.

Katarzyna Przezwanska, Fountain, 2011. Concrete, polyurethane paint, water.

BG: Your projects involve color, design and function. In their initial conception, do you think only about the visual aspects, or do you think about the materials? Do you conceive of projects in terms of craft, or just in terms of their visual nature, or are those things together for you?

KP: I think about these things together, but it’s hard for me because I didn’t study these subjects in school. For example when I was designing the desk for myself I had to check and re-check every measurement, every dimension, to make sure it would be comfortable to use.

BG: And do you think of yourself as a Polish artist, as a global artist, or do you not think about it at all?

KP: I don’t think about it at all, but I do think only a Polish audience or people who know the specific aesthetic of Eastern Europe might pick up on some things in my work. It’s not of central importance that you get those things, but the understandings of my work might differ, other people will get other things from my work…not everything that I planned, but it’s always like that.

Katarzyna Przezwanska, Bench, 2009. Pallet, emulsion paint, garbage bags, hay.

BG: What’s in your future?

KP: In the future I would like to do more projects that are useful. For example I would like to work with architects to make things that are less pure artwork created for the gallery and more like creating a city landscape, or a building interior, or furniture or clothes. Things that are closer to use. I consider the art world to be a bit too hermetic.

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