Artist Interview – Zuza

Lanzarote’s magic, has inspired, local artist Zuza Wisniewska. She won 1st Place in an Annual Art Competition for Artists Magazine. Zuza talked to Diane Lawton about her work.

Hello Zuza, I first saw your stunning paintings at an Exhibition in Haria with my good friend Susanna Fondon. I felt excited, it was so fresh, so new. Even my trip to Venice and seeing hundreds of contemporary art exhibitions, didn’t prepare me for your stunning collection. The curator had hung your exhibition beautifully and the lighting was perfect. I had never seen the technique you use, working on a board with oil paint. They looked almost three dimensional, and the texture you create is sensational. I had to know more about you and share your artistic endeavours for others to enjoy. So, let’s get to know you a bit more.

Q: How did you become interested in art?

A: I’ve loved art ever since I can remember, but I never considered myself an artist. I saw it as a world for a people with a special talent. My fascination with art became stronger when my son joined painting classes – I loved to watch him while he was creating. I was amused with his joy and unrestrained imagination. When we moved to Lanzarote, I opened myself to sculpture and painting and this was an unforgettable new feeling. When my son and I made a first painting together, I still remember every move of the brush. It was an important moment in my life, a moment of revaluation of the things that I believed in.

Q: That must have been a special bond that you had with your son to have had that revelatory moment. Where are you from and what brought you to Lanzarote.

A: I was born in Warsaw, the capital of Poland. I first came to Lanzarote for a holiday. It was December, and Poland was grey, windy, rainy and cold; the island felt like a paradise with its blue sky, smiling people and bright white houses. Two years later I was in Lanzarote again and I decided to stay. This wasn’t planned, I would say that it happened by accident… or maybe it was my destiny?

Q: Do you have formal art qualifications?

A: I have no formal artistic qualifications. I studied at two faculties: psychology and cultural studies. I think both subjects direct my interest in art, to search for a psychological context for my works. I consider art as a way of helping to get rid of tension. Whether they come from everyday stresses or from old suppressed fears.

Q: That is an interesting chemistry you bring to your work! I saw a notice in the Haria exhibition, that said you had won 1st place in the 37th Artist Magazine Annual Art Competition, in the category “Student Abstract / Experiment”. What year was that and did you submit the oils on board?

A: It was in 2020, the winning works were published in the December issue of the Artist Magazine. As I don’t have any formal preparation and don’t have much possibilities to discuss my art, I thought it would be a good way to ask how the professionals saw my works. I found an advertisement about the competition on one of the art blogs and I took part in it. I sent photos of some of my works and one of them – “Prayer” – was selected as a winner.

Q: How exciting to be chosen! How did you become involved in your current art?

A: My first paintings were very emotional, I had no technical background, so I used geometric figures or simple symbols. What was important for me, was the content that I saw during painting. This was during an intense moment in my life, lots of things had changed, I was suspended between two extreme poles – positive and negative emotional experiences. I painted my fears in such a way that they disappeared for me. Slowly, I also became interested in painting techniques and I started to search and discover new effects and try a variety of materials.

At first, I used acrylic paint on canvas. Then I tried to mix it with soft pastels, and then using soft pastels with different kinds of media. I had a moment that I was using oil pastel on paper – making simple black movements combined with a little use of colours – I liked the sensation of dynamism and volatility, but the paper was bending with more dynamic movement. Accidentally I painted over a board, it was during this experiment that I knew I had found the material I was looking for. I combine oil pastel and oil over a board, but I am slowly giving up pastels because they take longer to dry. Everything I have learnt so far, I have created by my own experimenting and experience. I see it as an adventure, although I make many mistakes and sometimes my work is “wasted”.

Q: Do you have any of your wonderful work exhibited or on sale on the island? Or can anyone can see your work on a website, Instagram etc?

A: At the moment the best way to see my paintings is to visit me in Orzola, at Calle Pena del Senor Dionisio 14 (please make an appointment first). I also have a profile on Facebook and Instagram: Zuza Wisniewska Art. I also share my works in online galleries, for example Saatchi.art https://saatchiart.com/zuzannawisniewska

Q: I am impressed how business like you are, with getting your work into online galleries, especially the prestigious Saatchi gallery. Are you working on any particular projects at the moment?

A: I’m preparing works to exhibit in my home city – Warsaw in Poland.

Q: Have you the name of the gallery that is interested? And a time frame for the expo?

A: I’m still discussing it with my Polish art dealer. At the moment it’s difficult to plan because the pandemic situation is not stable. It is important to have a possibility to organize an open-air event in case the inside galleries are shut down. If I have an exact date and place, I will publish it on my Facebook wall.

Q: How has the Spanish lockdown affected you and how you work?

A: Together with my partner, we run a guest house and this was my main activity. During lockdown all the apartments were empty, so I used one of them as a space to paint. I was able to paint more and had a place to put fresh works to dry. I wanted to use this time well, so I worked hard, painting several paintings a day. Thanks to that I prepared works for my first exhibition that took place in December 2020 in “Sala de Exposiciones el Aljibe”, in Haria. Finally, the apartment has become my studio and I still work there.

Q: That is a wonderful use of your time, to paint enough works for a solo exhibition! Is there a general theme to your work or what themes particularly interest you?

A: I paint my everyday impressions, so the dominant topics are related to motherhood, my love relationship with my partner, longing for the family that stayed in Poland… But also the short-lived and fleeting moments that I see every day, such as light reflected on fish scales, Pardela’s song at night, sadness or happiness in someone’s eyes … those are things that remain in me and that I give back while painting.

Q: How would you describe your art work?

A: I see it as painting “braids”. I crochet my works the way our grandmothers made us sweaters, hats and scarves for the winter or our grandfathers weaved wicker baskets. The technique effects remind me of that traditional activities and I feel some form of connections with my ancestors. I braid these emotions and fleeting everyday sensations into my images.

Q: Is your work contemporary or traditional?

A: It’s difficult for me to qualify my style. But in general, in light of today’s technologies, I see painting as a very traditional activity, but my take on the abstract is contemporary.

Q: What materials do you love to work with best?

A: Definitely oil paints. I love their smell, texture, the way they blend. And all the surprising effects they give you depending on the drying step. I see infinite potential in them.

Q: I can see you enjoy every minute of your work. Did you sell a painting to Haria Ayuntamiento recently or did you donate it as part of the rules of exhibiting? Who are your best customers?

A: I donated one of my paintings to Ayuntamiento de Haria. Anyone interested in my work is joyful for me, so every customer is my best customer.

Q: That’s a really good way to look at customers. Do you offer art related courses or workshops on the island or anywhere else?

A: I am still learning myself, so I don’t feel competent to give art courses. But I’m always happy to share my experience in this area with everyone who is interested in it.

Q: What’s your goal for your work?

A: “Keep on searching”. I wouldn’t like to fall into the trap of repetition.

Q: That is a great motto for an artist. Do you have a worst art moment?

A: When I shipped some paintings to Poland and it turned out that many of the works arrived broken and damaged. It was hard for me personally, and also difficult to explain to buyers who had been waiting for the paintings they had bought.

Q: That is very sad and distressing. How will you protect your paintings in future when you ship them?

A: They need a stronger wooden case. I hope, it wouldn’t happen again.

Q: What’s your favourite thing about Lanzarote? Do you use the island as inspiration?

A: The light here is wonderful; I also love the sincerity of the island’s people: also, the “dramatic” scenery, the contrasts, shapes of stones; the sounds of birds and sea, and all the wonderful traditional architecture… Yes, the island inspires me a lot.

Q: It is always warming to hear from the island’s artists and artisans that Lanzarote is such a source of inspiration. Where can people contact you or buy or see your work?

A: The easiest way is to contact me on Facebook @zuzawisniewskaart or Instagram zuza_wisniewska_art, also by e-mail: pauashell@gmail.com. Everyone’s welcome to visit me in Orzola to see my works.

Thank you, Zuza, it’s been a real pleasure getting to know you and learning about your processes and success.

Thank you too Diane, it’s been a pleasure for me!