At just 35, she has already produced a solid pictorial oeuvre that is almost exclusively female. Women, mothers, wives, daughters who often remind us of something, not because we know them or because they are our contemporaries (no Miley Cyrus, unfortunately, nor Greta Thunberg, fortunately), but because they’ve already been painted by others, in previous centuries. The enlightened viewer is thus “reunited” with them in Ewa Juszkiewicz’s work, but, in the intimacy of her Warsaw studio, she has teletransported them to today’s world by introducing a few minor but spectacular modifications.
There’s often “something not quite right” in Juszkiewicz’s paintings. A bit like the moustache that Marcel Duchamp added to a reproduction of the Mona Lisa in 1919 (L.H.O.O.Q.): obviously La Giocanda is still recognizable, but this unexpected facial hair pushes the portrait into another, perhaps temporal, dimension. Juszkiewicz doesn’t use readymade reproductions but paints pictures that are largely identical to the originals, with a preference for portraits of the 15th to 19th centuries, although not exclusively. While studying art in general and painting in particular at both the fine arts school in Dantzig (2004–09) and the academy of fine arts in Krakow (2010–13), she acquired sufficient technique to copy to perfection not just the great but also the lesser and mediocre masters – in other words to reproduce faithfully any picture she wishes. Which of course on its own would not make her an artist, simply a copyist. But her exceptional technique is merely an instrument serving a bigger project, a hybridization no doubt of an “appropriationist” approach (as practised by certain American artists in the late 1970s) and highly contemporary attitudes that derive from both instant access to all the images on the Internet and an evident desacralization of history, which touches just about everything today.