The New Vanguard – Artist Profile 12
Joanna Szproch is a Polish photography artist with intuition to express ‘colour’. She works within the female character and tries to reach a balance between the innocent and the vulgar. While in the hunt for that magic moment she lets herself guide by the individuality of her subjects, following empathetically their urge to express their sensuality. The uninhibited environment to self-exploration is the central component of her work. This will encourage the viewer to indulge in doing the same.
Did you always know that you were going to be an artist?
Yes, I did. I can say that I was born that way. I also grew up in an artistic environment. My parents are both classical musicians and I was introduced to the traditional arts by my father from very early on. But I was always so curious kid, always felt different. Because I see/feel things differently I felt like I was unable to fit in anywhere. That dissonance between classical and unconventional shaped my interests. I feel that I do not belong to either the traditional nor queer, I’m somewhere in between and willing to feel that gap. Using traditional language of photography I’m trying to show my noncomforming habitat, something which I believe is still underrepresented.
Do you find the artworld cutthroat and competitive, or is it also supportive and community- minded, something in between?
In the art world there is so much speculation and only a few from the very top can really benefit from it. Art has supposedly noble goals, but at the same time its playground is full of hypocrisy. It is also for so privileged, elitist people who pretend that they want to make the world a better place but most of them actually care only about the fame and profits.
To be honest, I have a difficult time to observe the art world and to relate to it. On the one hand, being an artist feels to me like an inevitable passion beyond an ambition or a hobby. But I am very discontent with the reality of the art world and I am not sure if I am aiming to fully engage with it. I would rather like to find a niche of people with whom we could create a real symbiotic relationship.
At a certain age you do not have that naive enthusiasm anymore to work just for the exposure and it feels so frustrating that the competition and lack of loyalty between artists causes that others, better situated will always do it for free. For those who are less privileged it will never be a race to win. The question is if it has to be a race? Therefore we should really start calling it out to address the problem and try to find more democratic solutions divided to smaller alternative art communities.
What would you consider to be your biggest accomplishment so far?
“unto thine own self be true” – My biggest accomplishment is that I never betrayed myself with being authentic and honest, in both my personal and artistic life. Although in personal relationships I can compromise, in my art I need to be radical.
I realized that ambition is a vicious drive that is never fulfilled and after every achievement comes emptiness. The hardest work to be done is not to be afraid of the unknown and go with the flow. I’d rather enjoy the process and progress not perfection and be aware that having goals can kill the present.
But of course it’s also good to close something to start something new, to recalibrate.
My biggest accomplishment so far will be to publish my first photo book to close my longest ongoing project @smilefomedaddy, which was recently presented at several solo and group exhibitions.
I started it in 2010 and it is a strongly stimulating story on both visual and semantic levels about the search for one’s own female identity within a classical, symbiotic relationship between an auteur and her muse. It is a visual chronicle of both women’s inner transformation. Indulging ourselves in the synchronic fantasies we embraced our authentic and unconstrained power to discover something captivating, innocent yet erotic.
Does art always need to be relevant? Is there a place for aesthetic indulgence, or do politics come into play in your motivation? If not politics, then what are the key sources of inspiration for you?
I think the relevance of art is very ambiguous (transcendent) and subjective. What I love in art is its multilayered metaphor which may have several interpretations. What is the most interesting for me is that kind of mystical moment of interference between the body of art and the receiver, who is captivated by it and can indulge herself in contemplation which gives a kind of catharsis. It can be on many levels, aesthetic and spiritual. Art can trigger something beyond words where the surface and the meaning are both mutually relevant.
For me the main inspiration is my own perception and what I experience thanks to it because these are the most authentic and reliable resources for me. But nowadays everything becomes political, including identity so it is hard to neglect it. Although I try to stay beyond ideological statements, I believe that without representation you can’t make a change. I want to encourage people through my art to be more self-aware and open minded rather than attached to any particular conviction.
What topics have got you inspired at the moment?
I am a very curious person so there is always a flood of interests which are inspiring me. It is really hard to define specifically how, what I investigate now, will turn out to be at the final result, to where it will bring me because the best evaluator is time. I need first to get some perspective to give it a proper shape (context).
I was always interested in relationships between me and people I know so beside the @smilefomedaddy which I basically consider as finished, recently I got the idea that I couldn’t be just a voyeur in my muse- auteur constellation and I have to be a participant. Now I think I am more confident to be vulnerable and put myself in the body of my work to actually function in a relationship to a larger scale.
So recently I have been investigating myself within my relationships; with my loved one, my teenage daughter and the sentimental attachment to the landscape and collected objects with an intent to show the significance of an ordinary.
What is it like to live/work in Berlin city?
Berlin is a very specific place. It has a very interesting history with a long, decadent bohemian tradition, the time of wall and after the fall, its alternative movements and social politics supporting multiculturalism. And its nonconforming atmosphere made this a perfect ground to artists from all over the world. But that is also utopian, detached from the reality of an ordinary man. I also can observe a disconnection between nonconformist expats and the local, German community. I can still feel that there is a lot to do to break that glass ceiling. The effort has to come from both sides.
Still, Berlin’s freedom of expression encouraged me to be confident with being myself privately and publicly and it had a huge impact on my work.
What is next for you, an immediately upcoming project or chance to see your work?
The next thing that I plan will be a collaboration between a curator Agata Ciastoń and choreographer Mateusz Czyczerski from Wroclaw (Poland) based on our mutual interests and artistic practices. We would like to run workshops combined with the presentation of our work. The assumption is to reflect on corporeality and self-expression through art and on socially imposed norms (male, female); on shame as a defensive element (fear of evaluation, mismatch with norms). The aim is to inspire the search for new means of expression, to reject the scheme, to stimulate courage. It is scheduled for upcoming fall and will be placed in both cities, Berlin and Wroclaw.
To make my book eventually happen I am also planning a crowdfunding campaign so please stay tuned and follow my instagram @johana_pl. Every bit of support will be very appreciated!
Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time, where would you like to see your artwork and at what scale?
I know that to accomplish something it is good to imagine the future, but I am afraid that looking too forward makes me less present. I just turned 40 which for women is a big number. I expect a big shift in the next few years. Looking back, 10 years ago I would have never thought that I would be in Berlin now and how it would have changed me and my daughter’s life. That’s why I just wanna feel open for the new.
Although I am still a city animal, I hope in 10 years I will practice to be more wholesome and connected to nature, which I believe we all are a part of and resonate with. Apart from globalism, I wish we, as a society, will get back a bit more to the roots and will cultivate locality and support our small communities.
I also wish to be more mobile in the future. My daughter will become an adult soon, so I’ll have more independence. Professionally, I would really like to develop more collaborations with local artistic communities across Europe and in the further future perhaps also on the other continents.