| Maria Sztuka |
The forced lockdown caused by the global pandemic took almost everyone by surprise. Unprepared to be locked in four walls, often scared and helpless, we looked for solutions that would reduce stress and alleviate our fears. However, many creators refer to this period as a time of inspiration and an explosion of creative ideas. The artists, gifted with exceptional imagination, reached for their tools of work and, taking advantage of the time of isolation and silence, threw themselves into the whirl of creative work, realising visions for which they usually lacked time before. Many of them feel the need to share their reflections, fears and thoughts with the environment, confront their observations and build the foundations of survival.
Anna Wajda, PhD, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Arts and Educational Science at the University of Silesia in Cieszyn, decided to trace the emotions accompanying the pandemic and in early 2021 she started the implementation of the project entitled Art in the time of a pandemic – contemporary challenges of artistic graphics. She comes from an artistic family, both her parents – Aleksandra Magnuszewska-Oczko and Aleksander Oczko, graduates of the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow – are graphic designers, for several decades associated with the Animated Film Studio in Bielsko-Biała. They created dozens of excellent animated films there.
– Growing up in a family of artists, with the passage of time I became more and more aware that in the future I would not pursue a traditional profession – recalls the assistant professor. – Steeped in the world of art since I was a child, I did not want to break with my family traditions, although no one forced me to do so. Already as a child, I made up my mind that I would be a graphic designer like my dad. It was a very conscious and only my choice, but it was only during my studies, when I made the decision to open my doctoral thesis, that I began to forge my own path. It is graphics and I find fulfilment in it, although I also deal with book illustrations.
In Sacrum i Profanum – Show the Invisible (PhD thesis, 2018), the artist traced the path of searching for herself and her own expression with the help of graphics and pens.
– I described how I let through my own sensitivity, how to get to know myself, transfer it into a visual form and give it to the world – explains Anna Wajda, PhD. The artist’s graphics are the result of very personal reflections, but each recipient can read them differently, can interpret them, referring to their own experiences and personal sensitivity. In February, the works of the artist could be seen at the exhibition of the Association of Polish Artists and Designers in Bielsko-Biała.
The idea of the project Art in the times of a pandemic – contemporary challenges of artistic graphics was obviously a consequence of the difficult time of the pandemic, and at the same time a task that was a kind of defence against apathy, stagnation and the effects of forced isolation. The artistic challenge faced time, which left its mark on each of us.
– Stress, uncertainty of tomorrow, economic instability, social distance, closure, masks … – we all had to face it – reminds the artist. The most difficult were the beginnings, when probably each of us experienced a slight paralysis and asked ourselves what to do at this strange time. Closure and limitations caused a need in me to transform difficult situations into something positive, I wanted to make room for what was good. I figured that by creating the beauty I see, and thanks to my work and passion, I am sensitive to it, I can make it the basis for creating an excellent foundation for survival. I think as artists we have a kind of mission to fulfil. We have the opportunity to show that there is something more than this new, covid world, that there is beauty that surrounds us from everywhere, and by showing it, we can build mutual sensitivity and give each other hope. Beauty and harmony build a person’s positive reflexes and a favourable attitude towards the world, even if he is ruled by – I believe for a short time – covid. Communing with beauty and feeling harmony raise the psychophysical condition of a person.
As part of the project, Anna Wajda has already created ten graphics, that take part in various competitions and many of them have already obtained qualifications.
– They are all an expression of my internal mental and spiritual discussion, they are a metaphorical illustration of my internal response to the time in which we live – the graphic artist concludes.
One of the first works is called Patience.
– It was created at a time when I had to be patient. What hung over us gave rise to horror and uncertainty, so I thought it was necessary to petrify and survive. It was with this assumption that I started work – recalls the graphic designer. – With each moment, however, when I watched the evolution of the graphic matrix, I saw that the drawing looked less and less like a petrified solid, solid and unshakable, waiting for a drop falling from the sky that would change something. Contrary to the original idea, the image from the matrix he began to vibrate, golden sparkles of hope appeared on him. It was an amazing experience. From a work of patience while waiting for a miracle, a work of hope was created. And this also shows how strongly and unpredictably art can affect and how powerful its power is in a person – admits the artist.
Patience etching, 2021 | graph. Anna Wajda
Be Still, 2021 | graph. Anna Wajda
All the works are saturated with the motives of going out, getting out of a hostile environment, freedom, but hope is the strongest in each of them. The artist has not determined the final number of graphics, they are created on an ongoing basis, illustrating moods, thoughts, reactions to the surrounding, external and internal world changing under the influence of the pandemic. The project will be completed at the end of 2021.
Participation in competitions gives you the opportunity to confront the way you perceive what is happening around you, as well as analyse the situation in which you find yourself. Observation of the works being created also answers the questions of how art, like artistic graphic arts, finds itself in the new reality, also in the formal sphere; what new technological ways have emerged. It is known that not everyone had access to a professional graphic workshop. It also allows you to get to know the ideological and spiritual sphere: what is happening in people, what new challenges have appeared, how do we want to meet them?
The time of isolation, limited access to a professional studio also brought new ideas for improving work. Anna Wajda, PhD, and a team of graphic designers began to search for preparations that would replace harmful chemical reagents (acids, solvents) that graphic designers use on a daily basis, and in large amounts.
– We are introducing more natural substances, for example products based on organic solvents, as well as vegetable oils. I am in the process of testing in our electrolytic etching laboratory. All these experiments are aimed at reducing the use of acids, which will make our work safer and environmentally friendly. Our entire team of graphic designers is constantly looking for technological innovations, we share experiences brought from various studios around the world, we follow all the news. Everyone brings something new.
The limitations also influenced the imagination, stimulating ideas that, without access to a professional studio, allow at home to use the tools that are at hand (sometimes even drawing from kitchen cabinets). The results are sometimes surprising, but simple and practical, and most importantly – they do not diminish the quality of the work, but often open up completely new possibilities. Art knows no limits, the necessity to arrange graphic studios in one’s own homes has turned out to be the source of many wonderful inventions.
In Sacrum and Profanum… Anna Wajda, PhD, writes: “… in the graphic arts workshop, nothing is fully settled and written as a mathematical constant. Hence, the creative case and its artistic consequences become so important ”.
One of such cases has become a pandemic, the effects of which are not known to us today, but the innate optimism of Anna Wajda,PhD, the belief in overcoming the covid plague and sharing the hope to overcome it with the recipients of her graphics are an excellent remedy for anxieties and fears, as well as a record of the time we all experience.
Anna Wajda, PhD, from the Faculty of Arts and Educational Science of the University of Silesia | private archive of A. Wajda