Artist Interview: Anna Hryniewicz

May 14, 2019

Anna Hryniewicz - Studio Incubation Award
04 MAR – 20 APR 2019

"When I was 3 or 4 years old, my parents were in the kitchen, so I covered the furniture and walls in our living room with doodles. I had paper, but I needed something bigger ... "

Anna Hryniewicz is a Polish artist now living in Baldoyle. Her painting explores abstraction, form and colour and is strongly influenced by memories of childhood drawn from the natural world. Three recent series of works called 'Inner Child’s Play'; 'Parallel Worlds'; and 'Habitable Planets', all derive from childhood memories.

I remember my father told me that I should paint how I feel about the natural world rather than how I see it. So I started doing abstract landscapes where I could see the aura and atmosphere of my memory.

Anna is the recipient of the Draíocht Incubate Open Call for artists whose work is concerned with childhood. Her studio residency runs in tandem with MAKing Art: PAINTing (14 Mar – 18 May Ground Floor and First Floor Galleries) which focuses on contemporary painting and is especially aimed at children and young people. During her residency, Anna will initiate another in her ongoing series.

Anna graduated from Institute of Art Education in University of Czestochowa, Poland, where in 2004 she received Masters of Fine Arts in Painting and Teaching Art with distinction. She also holds a professional diploma in Piano Performance from Royal Irish Academy of Music. In 2015/2016 she was shortlisted for the Winner Prize Award in RUA RED Winter Open Show in Dublin, and her works can be found in private collections in Ireland, the UK, Poland, USA, as well as in OPW state collection in Ireland. Since 2000 Anna was an author of numerous solo and group exhibitions, as well as part of curated shows in Ireland and Poland. In 2018 she was an Artist in Residence in Cill Rialaig Artist Retreat;  since 2018 she is a member of Visual Artists Ireland.

Draíocht’s Marketing Department caught up with Anna to find out more about her and her work!

Q: Tell us a little about yourself, your background, where you’re from? How long have you been an artist and why choose an arty profession over a more conventional career?

My name is Anna Hryniewicz and I create abstract paintings.
I always wanted to be an artist. I can’t imagine doing anything else. At first, I started playing piano when I was 5 years old. I was in a musical boarding school. But as a child, I was also interested in all art-related activities. Mostly drawing, collaging and painting, as it was accessible for me at home and school. I was sketching a lot in my copybooks, diaries, journals … constantly collaging pieces of colourful magazines. My father always gave me tons of paper, glue and colouring pencils. But most of my time, a few hours a day after school, I practiced piano and music subjects.

I studied classical piano up until I was in my early twenties and graduated with a repertoire that I could perform. For a while I continued on with my piano studies but I wasn’t entirely happy. I struggled because I had small hands. This physical limitation kept me trying to reach for chords too big for me. I loved music, but I had always had a love affair with Fine Arts. So, at that point of my life, I decided to prepare a portfolio for Art College. During that time I did a Graphic Design course and I worked in a multimedia company doing 3D animation. That helped me a lot to support myself financially and prepare my art portfolio, attending courses etc, but I knew being a graphic designer, constantly looking at the computer screen was not something I was happy with. Instead of being creative, to me it was more about fulfilling clients’ needs. My work had to please them, not me; I didn’t feel good about that. I worked hard on my portfolio … and … I did it! But at first I was not taken seriously in Art Academy, which was painful. It just looked strange to them - someone like me, educated in music with a distinction, after 17 years of practicing piano, suddenly wanting to be a fine artist? I tried again and again. Eventually, I studied Art Education and Painting in Częstochowa University for 5 years. I felt as if I had started flying, it was so liberating. I could finally explore and I knew it was the right moment in my life to thrive. I completed my MA in Art Education and Painting with distinction. Later, after my family moved to Dublin, I came back to my beloved piano and I gained a Diploma from the Royal Irish Academy of Music, in Piano Performance.

Q: When you were small, what did you want to be when you grew up? Were there any clues in your childhood that you would follow an artistic path later?

I didn't feel particularly interested in working with numbers, or in an office. I felt there was something I wanted to express. I simply felt good in art.

As a child I enjoyed performing for others. When we had guests in our house, I would always sing, dance, show my drawings. I did things like that all the time. I would use every opportunity to express myself. I even remember when I was 3, I ran up onto the altar in the church during the sermon and started showing off my dance. I was quite shy among my peers though. Verbal communication was difficult for me. But when I drew portraits, faces, trees, animals, I immediately drew their attention. I think they remember me doing this constantly in my classes in school.

My Dad was always very encouraging, always gave me art supplies. He had a great sense of art and he played piano really well. Also my aunt and older brother were artsy and musical. So I had a good example to follow I guess. When I was little, my Dad brought me to the National Museum for an exhibition of Impressionists. I was enchanted by their paintings. I remember touches of thick paint, and this luminosity, and heavenly, celestial light. I even though the work was literally painted WITH light, not with paint.

Anna Hryniewicz, Parallel world 29052017, 80x80cm, acrylic on canvas 2017

Q: Perhaps you also have a conventional day job to supplement your income as an artist?

I’m a piano teacher.  I occasionally do art workshops for children, adults, including people with mental and physical disabilities. In many ways, I think of my years playing the piano as foundational not just for my painting, but everything I have done since. Practicing a musical instrument is a demanding and extremely intimate act. It helps me now with everything that I do.

Q: When did you create your first painting and what was your subject matter?

My first painting experience was when I was 3 or 4 years old. My parents were in the kitchen, so I covered the furniture and walls in our living room with doodles. I had paper, but I needed something bigger to paint on. Wax crayons all over wallpaper couldn’t be removed easily, so they remained there for a long time before my parents could eventually renovate the room. But they never really gave out to me for this.

Anna Hryniewicz, Inner child's play 3, 40x40cm, acrylic on canvas, 2017

Q: Has your style changed over the years and what might have influenced this change if yes? And what other artists or people have influenced or inspired you, and in what ways?

Has my style changed over the years? I committed to abstraction at some point of my life. Maybe it will change, but I don’t think so. I really feel there is nothing else that could top this experience of being totally free from representation, free from object. For me there is nothing more important than COLOUR itself. Relationships between colours and shapes have always thrilled me, they would tell every story you can imagine. This is enough for me, I don’t need anything else. All things that happen on the surface of the canvas during the art process are enough.

When I was a student, I played a lot of atonal, contemporary music. Post-romantic, modernist and of later composers, using twelve-tone scale, which was abstract in a way. There was some structure and order to it, but not in a traditional way. The tonal style was different to what has been before, for example Olivier Messiaen’s, Karol Szymanowski’s compositions. Instead there was a dissonance, atonality, gesture, sometimes not easy for perception. This influenced me a lot, as I started to perceive sound and colour as a value itself.

In fine arts I first fell in love with impressionists, post-impressionists, too many to name. Paul Cezanne was my favourite hero at first. Then fauvists, colourists - Pierre Bonnard, Mattisse, Derain, of course. I spent hours in our National Museum in Wrocław looking at Polish colourists Olga Boznańska, Jan and Hanna Cybis, then Piotr Potworowski, Stefan Gierowski (contemporary abstract movement). I love work by William Scott, William Crozier, but also I admire American and European abstract expressionism, especially Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Joann Mitchell, Antoni Tapies, and many more.

Q: Can you tell us what triggers you to start a new painting?

Basically I start every painting from totally random colours, lines, shapes. I need silence, so I don’t put on any music. I would often read poetry before I start. It really puts me in the right mode. Next, layers of colour are the response to the previous. After that I carefully decide in what direction the painting wants to go. Painting itself is a quick process, but it takes a long time to look at it and make decisions. I don’t have a plan. I think the best trigger is in ‘not knowing’ and being open to creation. If you can predict something it is not going to work that well. Sometimes, I pick small sketches or ‘accidental gestures’ that I consider interesting and I think ‘This has to go big’. I use them as a starting point, or literally paint them in larger scale. I would also manipulate some images, compositions or photographs on my computer first; then I paint (old habits of a graphic designer!).

Anna Hryniewicz, Parallel world 110418, acrylic on canvas, 20x20cm, 2018

Q: Can you tell us a little about the stories behind some of your paintings?

My paintings are mostly influenced by my childhood memories. ‘Exoplanet 2018’ (Habitable Planet) for example, is a universe-inspired work. This painting is evoking my vision of the world on another planet, it’s a kind of distant landscape which is beyond our reach. I can only imagine beautiful colours, lights and elements that govern that place.
I was inspired by my Dad’s storytelling about nature, the sky and planets. He didn’t know that he gave me the best lesson on abstract art I’ve ever had. He taught me to look at the sky as on the canvas, to look at the tree as a sculpture. Everything around seemed so colourful, so intense. I perceived it that way. As a child, I believed that if I painted it really well everyone will see and feel the beauty of the world around us. Now, as an adult, I paint for myself, my work is supposed to capture those memories and please me (and hopefully the viewer) with its colour and composition. I recently started a new series entitled ‘Parallel Worlds’, ‘Inner Child’s Play’ and ‘Habitable Planets’, and I am giving them numbers. This is how I imagine them. There is an endless amount of them in Space. Maybe we will reach them some day ...

Q: Have you ever tried other art forms like photography or sculpting for instance?

I tried many things in my life, and I enjoyed them, especially sculpting, songwriting, drama and many more. But there is not enough time for everything. I hope one day I will be able to sculpt, I loved sculpture in college. But you have to decide what is the most important for you, what you can do best. Life is short.

Q: What is the thing you most enjoy about your work?

In my work I enjoy my own freedom and the power of colour the most. This is something that keeps me alive. I work in complete silence, that way I can really listen to myself, find my own thoughts. Colour is strong enough and it will lead me forward throughout the painting. If the colour is not right, the work doesn’t fully resonate and has to be reworked. First and foremost, I seek colour, after that comes line, which is also important. It’s a gesture that reveals intention and feeling. It’s a little bit like personal handwriting. I love the fact that I do what I feel, I don’t have to do anything to fit in with anyone else’s taste. I do what I love. I follow my heart. The only criteria is if I like it or not, because I think if I’m happy with my work, there is a chance someone else may like it too. If I’m not happy with a painting, then it’s not a good work.

Anna Hryniewicz, Undiscovered Planet 09112018, 2018, acrylic on canvas 40x40cm

Q: How do you keep motivated if you’re having a bad day?

Motivation and inspiration come as I work. It’s not something that comes and goes, but more a matter of attitude and decision. If I have a bad day, I usually keep doing what I’m doing. It’s because I love it so much and it’s always so exciting to make new works and see them emerging. So I just continue unless I’m really sick. Other than that, I keep going. Of course, some days are better than others. It’s important to also have fun and rest and take good care of yourself.

Q: How have you handled the business side of being an artist, promoting yourself and getting exposure, selling your work etc? 

It was and still is, very hard. I came from Poland and moved to Ireland in 2007. Since then, we’ve had small children, so I started slowly getting back to art in 2012. I was in a foreign country, I knew literally no one, let alone artists and galleries. I made my own website, then set up a FB account, but for a few years, I was posting for no one. It was very difficult. Being a mother of 2, trying to also work part-time to make ends meet, spending a lot of money on art materials, no friends, family. Really very difficult, but I’m not one to give up! I just try to see opportunities and keep my eyes opened: submit my work to galleries, open calls, festivals, and expose on FB and Instagram. I’m not doing this all the time because my family is for me the most important thing in life and I want them to feel happy.

Q: Could you tell us a little more about your residency in Draíocht’s Artist Studio? How valuable is this time for you and are you working towards anything in particular?

This Residency in Draíocht is such a gift for me. I saw the open call on FB just in the last moment before the deadline. I read the description and I thought it fitted me perfectly!! Years ago, when I used to live in Blanchardstown, I knew about this place and lovely galleries here in Draíocht. I saw exhibitions in the Ground Floor Gallery and always thought it would be fantastic to have my works here. It kind of was a dream. Now, I’ve got this residency and a possibility to exhibit in the forthcoming PLATFORM 2019 exhibition, in June. I am really thrilled. Working here is such a pleasure - the Studio is very big and spacious. I can concentrate on making large canvases, which wouldn’t be possible in my little home studio. The director of Draíocht, Emer McGowan and the Curator, Sharon Murphy are really great in what they do. Draíocht is so active in different art forms - theatre, workshops, dance and so much more - there is so much going on. I feel lucky to work in this community for a few weeks. I am planning to do a series of large canvases based on themes from my childhood memories and show some of them in PLATFORM 2019 in June, and I will definitely show all of them soon in my upcoming solo show.

Q: Do you have any advice you could give to an artist just starting out? 

If someone wants my advice I would say: do the best you can do; keep doing what you are doing and be persistent. Create work that pleases you, not others.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I will be doing the same thing and I hope my work will be getting better and better.


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