Uncovered Artists: Magdalena Gluszak - Holeksa
Updated: Apr 21
Magdalena Gluszak - Holeksa is a contemporary artist based in the UK, who paints dream-like landscapes, containing subtle suggestions of form or being. Intentional areas of space invite the mind to wonder and gives plenty of room to breathe. Magdalena's works successfully blur the line between the physical and the abstract. Currently the artist is showing new works at 'The South Open Exhibition', by OHSH Projects (until 22nd April) and 'A Matter of Perspective' at Liliya Art Gallery (until 18th May).
Magdalena was also just recently Shortlisted for the Jackson's Painting Prize 2023, which is also no small accomplishment. So with all of that in mind, we thought now would be the perfect time to catch up... Just in case she wasn't busy enough!
Enjoy the Q&A!
👋 Hey Magdalena, thanks for taking the time. It's great to see that you’re exhibiting your work at South Open. Could you talk us through the exhibition, who is putting this on and how did it come about?
Thanks for asking! Of course. The South Open exhibition is curated by Henry Hussey and Sophia Olver, who are the co-founders and directors of OHSH Projects. Their exhibitions at the central space on New Oxford St. always looked really intriguing and it’s been great to see they’ve worked with artists I met at Wimbledon College of Arts. Recently OHSH Projects opened a new additional space at the Peckham Arches. I submitted my portfolio to the open call for the inaugurating exhibition that accepted proposals from artists that have links to South London. The show brings together international artists, who are mostly recent graduates from South London art institutions, so it was really lovely to connect with some of them during the opening. I also have really great memories from the time when I lived in Wimbledon and Crystal Palace, which makes it even more fun.
Had you worked with OHSH Projects before? They certainly have good taste! It looks like they've been putting on a variety of projects. 🤝
I haven’t! This is the first time, so I’m very grateful for the opportunity to get to know them, as well as the artists they work with.
So as you know, we've been following along with your practice since 2019 during your MFA. It’s clear that your work has been evolving quite rapidly, other than the act of painting, are there any significant checkpoints or events that have caused your work to grow in this way? 👀
So many unplanned and unpredicted things have happened since graduation and then after the pandemic. Surprisingly, the turbulent time of lockdown and an unwanted relocation from South London to a completely new place just outside of London, quickly led me to an exciting group exhibition at Broadway Gallery in Letchworth. Kris Day, the curator of the show, also invited me for a five-month residency, which was an incredibly productive and fruitful time, during which I met a lot of fantastic people. I was generously given the time and space to do whatever I wanted so it was an incredible relief to have the support of a gallery, that really motivated me towards a solo presentation (especially after the difficult time of lockdown). The opportunity also led me to my first studio, which is located at Digswell Arts in Welwyn, where I’ve been for a year now. I didn’t even know these studios were a 15 min bike ride from where I live and there are quick trains to London from there, so I feel very lucky! The studio is big enough to work on multiple canvases at once, which is what I really missed since graduation in 2019.
When we first met you were using quite a light colour palette, especially for backgrounds. Over the years there’s been a consistent shift to darker colours. We’ve been referring to this internally as your ‘day and night’ works. Was this a conscious decision of yours? 🌓
I really like the ‘day and night’ analogy! There is a lingering dialogue between opposites in my work, that feeds into how play with lights and shadows. In relation to the darker colour palettes, I admire the 17th-century Dutch floral still-life paintings and the moody landscapes of the Romantic period. Towards my degree show, the light paintings of 15th century Japan have been influential in the way I worked with compositions, specifically the negative spaces visible within the contrast between dark areas and the raw unpainted canvas. These works already held the idea of hideness, obscured vision and fluid memory landscapes. However, the recent series of works, which I started developing more in-depth during the residency at Broadway Gallery, are made of many more layers. The “day” paintings were much more expansive in terms of scale and perspective, directing the eye around them and outside of them, while the “night” paintings are becoming like caves, directing the eye inside of them. It was a gradual, organic evolution but not finished, so I might explore again the lighter works within this new series too.
For the painters reading, what brands of paint have you been using for these works and are you mixing them with anything in particular? 🎨
To be honest, at the moment my materials might seem quite limited but I am looking into how I can expand the way I work and incorporate mediums for other effects. I only use a few blue, green and purple oil colours from Michael Harding, Old Holland, Charvin and a Zest-it dilutant. Very recently I started underpainting with acrylics, which allows me to quickly see the failure of the initial composition, so I can start digging deeper. My process usually evolves very slowly from a planned digital collage, which then gets fragmented wherever it feels too concluded or obvious. Very often I feel like pushing the paint around, almost like sculpting, until new form emerges from what might seem familiar.
Can you tell us about the relationship between your painting and poetry? The titles and short texts you have on your website work well. Do you actively write or do these sorts of follow-on from the paintings themselves? 📝
I started writing poetry and short stories before I started painting when I was 13 years old. I think I was just trying to find ways to process the things that were happening but also to find my own language, as I was very introverted. I haven't been writing regularly since 2013 and last year, when I went home to Poland for the first time since the second lockdown, I went through my old sketchbooks and notebooks. I found those poems and a poetry book I made that included photography. I wrote these texts so long ago and I couldn't believe how current they felt. I noticed a significant link between the poems, my old photographs and my recent paintings, so I decided to explore it not only as something I did as a teenager but as a method to be incorporated within my practice now that feeds into the ideas for the new paintings. The page on my website, the Journal, includes these short poems alongside photography. It’s a starting point and in a way an organic page, to which I will keep adding things and taking away. I'm excited to see where it leads me.
There’s a consistent theme in your works that conveys physical and non-physical, where did your interest in these ideas begin? 🔮
As a child, I experienced long periods when I had very intense dreams that of course seemed very real at the time. Very early in my childhood, I started to feel like there is something behind the immediate physical reality of my surroundings, as well as outside of the perception of my conscious mind. I was very curious about the "why" and "how" and I still have a very questioning mind - my husband used to joke that I am interrogating him with all the “why” but I am really just curious about people's motives and what drives their behaviour from within. I guess I am more interested in what’s hidden than what's visible on the surface so I try to explore both what the layers are made of and what is the substance they are covering. In my work at the moment, it feels like I am trying to get to the bottom of things and peel the layers of memories and time, but I don't think I can ever really get to the bottom... or to the beginning? It is as if painting allows my mind to move in those different directions that are beyond the limits of the now and my physicality. I think at the core of what I am trying to explore is the subjective experience versus objective truth, control vs uncertainty and hope vs loss. When my Father died a completely new dimension opened up in my life and through grief I gained a new awareness and perspective on what impermanence really means and what it feels like. The dried flowers piled up on the industrial bin of the cemetery became the visual stand-ins for the body that is no longer visible and present, so symbolism became part of my visual language.
Do you have any advice for emerging artists who are looking to grow their audience? 📈
I think there are different answers to this question depending on where the artist is based and whether they want to reach people online, locally or in other countries. To me having a mentor really helped me being honest with myself in relation to what’s the best way for me connect with others and why. I think being able to get feedback from someone experienced and who you feel you have a connection with is invaluable in defining ways of working that are unique to you and your practice. Sometimes it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel the pressure to do everything that we think is required of us but that’s not what is always most effective.
Thanks again, lovely to catch-up! Before we go, is there anything people should check out? 📢
The ‘South Open’ exhibition by OHSH Projects at Peckham Arches, that's on until Saturday 22nd April. It’s a really lovely space and the show is curated beautifully, so I recommend a visit. (Get Directions)
I also currently have three works exhibited as part of ‘A Matter of Perspective’ group exhibition at Liliya Art Gallery, in Putney which is on until 18th May. (Get Directions).
One of my most recent and larger works made it to the Jackson’s Painting Prize 2023 Shortlist and will be exhibited at Bankside Gallery in late July. The dates are not confirmed yet so stay tuned for updates!
Other than that, I will be working away in my studio and preparing for our annual Open Studio day on the 1st and 2nd of July.
Thanks Magdalena, we wish you all the best! See you at the next show.
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