We’re thrilled to welcome artist Natalia Bagniewska to the gallery, whose irresistible works on paper include joyful, witty still lifes and exuberent vistas We spoke to her about Mexico, typography and the joy of breaking artistic boundaries.
What has been inspiring you recently?
I’ve spent past two years at home, so I’ve been looking for inspiration in the domestic sphere, hence a lot of still lifes and interiors. Nature is always a huge inspiration – I live in London so it’s hard to find nature, but we travel around the country and go to the big parks.
Can you tell us about your practice? How do you prefer to work?
I tend to set up still lifes and sketch at home, I’m not a plein air painter. I work from photography and trinkets from home, mixed with a healthy dose of imagination and artistic license. I love looking through Flickr as a source of inspiration and going on the creative commons section for their old photographs. I work with whatever is within my grasp.
Graphic design is a huge source of inspiration – I came to art through a love of posters, especially the Polish film poster scene from the mid-century, and that type of art continues to have a huge influence on my work.
I see typography as an object, as something beautiful, rather than something functional. I love how type can frame a picture and ground it. You can use typography to bring a painting down to earth.
Which recent developments in your work are you excited about?
I’ve worked from home for a long time, and recently I signed a lease on a studio in Shepherds Bush. I’m looking forward to immersing myself in an artistic community.
I’ve just started the Turps Banana course, which assigns you a mentor, who you never meet in person. But you write them a letter every 5 weeks over a semester, along with a batch of photos and they reply via email with their thoughts, ideas, people to look at, and lots of ways to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
I want to loosen up my style, to be more playful, maybe even moving towards the abstract. I prefer to work on paper, and I feel as though when I move from sketching to painting, I tighten up. It feels like the stakes are higher. I painted a potted plant recently, over and over again, and I felt that this really shows a freer brushstroke and a looser style.
I love working with acrylics and I feel safe with them, so I’m very interested right now in mixing texture and taking more risks.
I would love to design my own typeface – its on the list of a million things to do…
Earlier this year we went to Mexico and I could not have been more inspired. The ceramics were amazing, there’s a reason so many great painters come from Mexico. I did a lot of plein air painting which felt novel and inspiring for me.
I had a very limited colour palette which was very freeing, then when I came back home I created a series from that trip. Spicy is more in line with my illustrations with that block of text, so there were a few from that series which had text and then some still lifes and landscapes.
You also work in graphic design – art with function. Do you keep those aspects of your work separate, or do you find they influence each other?
Until very recently they informed each other hugely, and they still do to a lesser extent. I like to think I bring art to graphic design and structure to my art. But I think I’m beginning to tease them apart, of necessity and also because my painting is beginning to take on a life of its own. I love graphic design, but it comes with boundaries and restrictions, whereas with art you can take it anywhere.
You’ve done some amazing collaborations, including with Thomasina Miers and Birdsong Clothing, as well as working on selected private commissions. How does working collaboratively differ from your solo paintings?
Coming from a design background every job is a collaborative job, and I find it very interesting to start from a point where you already have boundaries and certain goals you have to hit. Both of those clients were amazing to work with, we were so aligned and their ability to be bold with colour and design really spoke to me. If it’s the right client and the right project, it can be satisfying. Working for yourself is great but it can be lonely and you’re never sure if it’s any good. Its lovely to be able to feel part of something from time to time.
Creatives maybe sometimes struggle with boundaries, but I work well within those parameters and I’m a creature of structure in every area of my life, so I enjoy having those anchors in place to keep me going.
Can you tell us about your journey into painting?
I always told my parents I would be an artist or a vet. I drew all the time as a child, but completely stopped as a teenager, thinking I should make a sensible career choice. But I always came back to it and retrained as a graphic designer later in life and it felt like I was coming home. Alongside, I started to paint because it helped my designing and I felt confident enough to go back to it. Design was at first number one and art came second, but now the painting is overtaking it. I needed to get there in my own time.
Graphic design can be very computer-based but I like to bring in texture and collage, and I hand draw and create letters to accompany the design. It can be hard to justify taking three times as long to do by hand, but I think it adds so much.
AI terrifies me, I feel like it as I do about climate change, it will probably be the end of our civilisation as we know it. I actively avoid reading up about it as it makes me anxious – I’m plodding along for as long as I can in the hope that AI won’t be able to take over in painting, and it will leave artistic creativity alone.
You can see Natalia’s work here, and please sign up to our mailing list to be the first to find out about private views, first looks at new paintings and exclusive subscriber discounts.