Lioness (Detail) All images courtesy the Artist
We are excited to feature talented surrealist painter and ceramic maker Justyna Koziczak this month on Dark Art & Craft. Justyna's expansive surrealist landscapes and structures are vibrant yet dark explorations. Below you'll find our conversation with Justyna and several collaboration Art pieces with Dark Art & Craft. We hope you enjoy the interview and please visit the Artists' personal portfolio and recommendations.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with Dark Art & Craft. Can you tell us a little more about yourself and your Art?
Thank you for this opportunity, I am really delighted! I am Justyna Koziczak and I am a painter and a ceramics maker based in London, UK. I came to England four years ago after getting my Master's degree in restoration of ceramics and glass. I am originally from Poland, where I spent most of my life, but I moved abroad following my love and looking for adventures.
What tools do you use to create Art?
I work mainly with oil paints on canvas, which is my very favourite technique. I do it in 'wet on wet' technique which means the painting process takes as long as the paints are still wet. After the painting has dried up a bit, I add some details and highlights with fine brushes. Apart from that I have my own technique of burning pieces of metal ( such as a fridge or electric box door) and then painting on top with enamel or acrylic paints. It is a pretty fun technique, especially the burning process but also checking out the scorched marks which fire has left on the metal. Working with that, I paint on top trying to extract the shape which has appeared on the piece of burnt metal. I also started porcelain casting and I am planning to start producing a new type of porcelain guitar slides.
Does your current location in London impact your Art? Is there an Art "scene" in your area or does the internet provide you the most connection (During COVID-19)?
Living in London really expanded my world. The city itself is immense by all means, with its heritage, history, monumental architecture - it's truly epic! Having an easy access to one of the best art collections in museums and really inspiring contemporary exhibitions really changed my art practice and my way of seeing art itself. Apart from that, London's art scene isn't about artworks only but mostly all of these wonderful people I've met, not only visual artists but also performers, actors, directors and musicians. Their strength and determination in achieving their goals is pretty remarkable and inspired me greatly. Nevertheless, we all live in a so-called 'global village' and I have made a lot of connections, but most importantly, friendships through the social media and they definitely helped me in my personal growth, not only as an artist but also a person.
"Monsters Disguised as a Gothic Cathedral"
The evolution of an Artist is always one our readers like to know about. Can you describe the creator/Artist that you are today?
It's not going to surprise if I tell you that it was a long process- from drawing and painting since early childhood, through choosing somehow 'practical' and 'reasonable' compromise by studying and working as an conservator of art to eventually finding my passion and comfort back in painting. My style started to change in spring 2020 when the world stopped, stunned by the pandemic. I, on the other hand, had more time and therefore consistency and commitment, so I devoted myself to work, also as a way of escaping from the face mask reality. My art is still very surreal but after that it took a bit of an abstract and more expressive turn, where I focus mostly on the colours, lights and shadows as opposed to figures and shapes. I really enjoy this way of working now, which is more intuitive and spontaneous.
"Dante and Virgil in 4th circle of hell"
You are quite active creating Art that is surreal or dreamlike in nature could you tell us about your recent developments?
My last works are much more dynamic than previous quite detailed, figurative paintings. In the most recent process I use a more intuitive method of working around shapes made by expressive brushwork. This way, the final effect is sometimes a bit of a surprise even for me. These last paintings consist of two elements: dark yet colorful brushstrokes with hidden creatures surrounded by floral patterns and baroque ornaments. This part is contrasted with a light as a glowing structure emerging in the middle part of a painting. These artworks represent what I call the “duality of life” as a perpetually twisted bitterness and sweetness blending together like in 'The Agony and the Ecstasy'. They portray many different states of mind and emotions like in 'The Birth' where the light representing hope and new beginnings is contrasted with doubt and uncertainty of swirly dark shapes surrounding the luminescent part. The process itself is quite fast, according to the consistency of paints, yet really satisfying.
How does the occult, Dark Art, horror or the macabre relate to your work?
I love everything which is strange, unusual, sometimes it can be even disturbing. I try to explore many various subjects in my art, starting from my own demons, my fears and anxiety. I portray these states of mind and feelings using characters of monsters from my own bestiary or creatures inspired by ancient slavic and pagan beliefs. I am deeply influenced by literature, in which we can find many disturbing subjects like in William Shakespeare's play 'Titus Andronicus' where the main character's daughter is severely mutilated by her father's antagonists. One of my most repetitive topics are circles of hell from Dante's Alighieri 'The Divine Comedy'. Apart from that, sometimes I portray the events which had a strong emotional impact on me, like the story of Nicaraguan woman Vilma Trujillo Garcia, who was burnt by members of a local church in order to cast out a 'demon' from her body. Looks like sometimes a little read from a newspaper can be far more dark surreal trip then purely surrealistic and dark artwork.
Expanding on your last comment what does Dark or Dark Surrealist Art mean to you?
Dark Art and Dark Surrealism are to me just different ways to portray the reality, in my opinion, the most honest and real ones. Many of the 'dark' artworks are not very sinister or disturbing to me, they just depict true emotional pictures of the world we live in. That depends on one's perception of reality and it is a very personal matter. Looking at the recent developments in the world, I would say that reality has become dark surrealism so much that it has outran some of my darkest visions.
Do you have any Artistic Rituals or frameworks you adhere to?
Not really, what I like to do while painting is listening to music or crime podcasts. The only ritual I can think of is to have a cigarette before starting painting and keeping my sketchbook nearby so I can always quickly sketch some new ideas.
What past Artists of any medium have inspired your current output?
I am deeply in love with 20th century surrealists like Dali, Kahlo, Ernst, Beksinski but also medieval art from Bosch, Memling and Breugel and 19th century artists such as William Turner, William Blake. My life philosophy was shaped by 'Karamazov Brothers' by Fyodor Dostoevsky (this book became my bible and I recommend it to everyone).
"In a Solemn Hour"
We always ask in interviews for three contemporary Artists you want everyone to check out right now. What are your recommendations to our audience?
I recommend fusion progressive music by Alex Lofoco (his album 'Beyond' featuring Jordan Rudess from Dream Theater and Marco Minnemann from The Aristocrats, just to name a few, is something out of this planet). As for visual arts I am always blown away by Allen Williams' intricate drawings and his infinite imagination. My favourite film director is Lars von Trier (I actually don't think I have to introduce him). What I love about his films is the way he juggles with different topics, symbols and references to other works of art like the metaphor to Dante going through hell depicted in his last film 'The house that Jack built'.
Where can our readers find you online?
You can find me on Instagram.com/justyna_koziczak Facebook.com/koziczak.justyna or check out my new website: surrealeveryday.com I would love to hear/read any feedback about my art. Thank you so much!