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Ewa Tarsia with her work, "Perhaps the discomfort is the fault of the modern eye."
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"Questions about unrequited love between two men"
Ewa Tarsia, "Questions about unrequited love between two men," 2006, acrylic and oil on board, 48" x 96".
EWA TARSIA, The Demarcation of the Image, Part I
Ken Segal Gallery, Winnipeg
May 11-29, 2006
By Kristen Pauch-Nolin
Printmaker Ewa Tarsia suggests that it is the fundamental elements of her process — the manipulation of materials and building of textural surfaces — that motivate her rather than the appearance of her finished pieces.
Tarsia’s position is not entirely unexpected. As a printmaker, she is part of a tradition of artists who acknowledge that their plates — the pieces of metal, plastic, wood and linoleum that they print from — are the true objects of their affection. Covered with marks, lines and subtle traces of colour, printing plates are often as interesting as the images pulled from them.
For her upcoming solo exhibition at Ken Segal Gallery in Winnipeg, Tarsia challenges standard printmaking practices by transforming hundreds of her Plexiglas plates into three-dimensional installations. Each plate is visually complex, offering a fully active and engaged surface that, once transformed into sculpture, reveals both the artist’s obsessive process and the beauty that motivates her to continue.
“The memories of every decision, choice and thought are inscribed on my printing plates, and I seek to share that dimension with my audience,” says Tarsia. “I will elevate creative activities to the rank of the finished work to open the energy of my procedures. Through this revelation, I seek to push my work beyond the product into a place where it can live.”
Remarkably, the vast number of plates included in the exhibition represent only a fraction of the thousands that the artist has produced since she began printmaking. Tied together like the blocks of a quilt and lit from behind, Tarsia’s sculptural creations resemble large-scale wall sconces and freestanding illuminated pillars. Fully installed in the gallery, she expects that their size and transparency will ensure that, “light will be everywhere.”
Tarsia describes herself not as a typical printmaker, but as an artist who uses her love of the techniques and processes involved in printmaking to share her interactions with the ever-changing environment with her audiences. As an environmentalist, she sees the irony of using plastic and paper to create images that celebrate the beauty of the natural world. “It reflects our society,” she says of the work. “Plastic is everywhere.”
Formally trained in painting and sculpture at the School of Fine Arts in Poland, she began printmaking when she arrived in Winnipeg in 1991. For the past 14 years, Tarsia has been working full time as a printmaker and painter. Her specific area of interest, monoprinting, involves the creation of a one-of-a-kind image on a smooth surface such as Plexiglas that is eventually transferred onto paper.
Tarsia’s monoprints are bold and colourful abstracts that some critics have compared to the work of famous modernist painters such as Wassily Kandinsky and Joan Miró. It is an association that the artist finds frustrating. “I hate questions about influences,” she says. “Each artist’s work comes from within. It is personal.”
She describes her work as an exploration of “the transience of time, the character of night and day, and memories of past seasons.” The resulting pieces combine elements of landscape, abstract textures and geometric forms. Her largest paintings and prints merge organic shapes, gestural lines and expansive fields of colour to form skillfully designed minimal compositions inspired by life, nature and human forms.
Tarsia has worked in a variety of media ranging from paint to textiles. She works intuitively, basking in the act of artistic creation. “I do what I find important at a given instant. I allow instinct to animate the direction of my work.”
There is rawness and unbridled energy that comes, regardless of medium, from her complete preoccupation with process. On her printing plates the energy is manifested in intensely manipulated surfaces. She describes building them up, scratching into their surfaces and then applying layers of colour. “It is a sickness,” she half-jokes, “an uncontrollable compulsion medicated only by the production of more art.”
Represented by: Ken Segal Gallery, Manitoba Printmakers Association, and Winnipeg Art Gallery Art Rental and Sales, Winnipeg; Iglinska Gallery, Krakow, Poland.