Joanna Pilarczyk is a London-based contemporary figurative painter and art educator. Born in Poland, Joanna studied at the Art University in Zielona Gora. She holds MA degree in Visual Arts and Art Education.After moving to London over a decade ago, Joanna fell in love with the city immediately. Amazed and entranced by diverse cultures and the vibrant energy, Joanna began to paint oil portraits of new acquaintances and friends within the artist community of North London.In her recent series of paintings, Pilarczyk portrays mixed-race and gay couples. The artist discusses with her friends and models their experiences, love stories, and struggles related to racism and sexual and cultural diversity. Pilarczyk won the Boynes Monthly Artist Award and was a Women United Art Prize finalist in 2022 and 2021. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally; recently, she presented her newest paintings at the Other Art Fair in Truman Brewery and the Start Art Fair in Saatchi Gallery, London. Her work from the 'My Paradise' series was showcased at her solo show with Oink Gallery. She also participated in the Spring and Summer editions of the Other Art Fair in 2022. Her painting from the 'Intimate Times' series was exhibited in the USA at 33 Contemporary Gallery in Chicago and Mixx Atelier Gallery in Telluride. She showcased her artworks at the 'Memories in Hindsight' group show at J/M Gallery, Notting Hill in London.

Original Art by Joanna Pilarczyk

When did you realize you wanted to pursue art professionally?

My adventure with art started very early. My parents realized my twin sister and I were very creative and signed us up for after-school art classes in the local community center. In primary school, it was clear that I would go to Art College. I took every opportunity to learn more about art techniques. I was lucky to have great teachers from the beginning up to university. I studied art education at the Institute of Visual Arts in Zielona Góra, which focuses on contemporary art rather than traditional. During these five years at the art university, I attended as many workshops by talented art professors as possible. I wanted to have various choices regarding my art-making but also be able to teach others. After achieving an MA degree with a diploma in figurative oil painting, it was clear that I would practice as a figurative artist. When I moved to London 12 years ago, the possibilities were much more extensive and opportunities more available to pursue my career. It got much more serious after the Pandemic. Like most artists, I had time to work on a solid body of work and plan my further steps. I started exhibiting in the city and abroad, and I gained more publication and encouragement to push forward.

Whether fellow artist or friend, who has continued to inspire your work?

Many artists constantly inspire me by pushing their boundaries. I love vibrant and cheerful work by Canadian and British artist Andrew Salgado. I am very much drawn to dark and melancholic scenes and portraits painted by French artist Thierry Carrier. My vivid color palette is inspired by Spanish painter Jose Luis Cena. I am amazed by majestic portraits by Kehinde Wiley or floral, elegant figures by Wole Lagunju. As much I enjoy beautiful work by Robert Paterson. I also find inspiration in street art, huge, impressive murals created by artists like Conor Harrington, Zabou, Lakwena, and Dale Grimshaw. I admire artists who convey old techniques with new ones. An example is terrific digital media artist Matthew Stone, who creates virtual 3D figurative paintings. The other fantastic artist is Alberto Mielgo, who works in traditional painting techniques and is also an accomplished concept artist and motion graphics and video creator.

Joanna Pilarczyk

What do you enjoy exploring through your art?

I enjoy these moments when I come up with an idea for a painting. Usually, they are unexpected opportunities when I meet someone I want to paint. My models are my friends but often strangers who I met at the local cafe, pub, or among creatives from my neighborhood. I love to get to know new people and their life stories. It's about their exciting appearance and a positive vibe and good energy between us.

Once I know who I will paint and have an idea for the composition, I can focus on materials and color. I really enjoy working in oils and various media on canvas. Painting is a natural and very intuitive medium for me. I love oils, acrylics, watercolors, and inks with their fluidity and multiple textures and smells. Most importantly, I am an artist who best describes the atmosphere of my painted subjects in color. I love the vibrancy, contrasts, and kaleidoscopic, clashing tones. The painting process is like a puzzle I must assemble to achieve the desired result. I enjoy the creative process, from the idea and sketch to building a specific composition on canvas. Painting is a therapy, a form of meditation, but also a reason I wake up daily with excitement for a new challenge.  

Looking back, what advice do you wish you could give your younger self?

I wish I had known earlier that I have to take every opportunity to learn about running a business as an artist. I have to take the risk, apply to many calls for artists, and invest in workshops and coached classes with the art curators. Having guidance from professionals at the beginning would help me be on the right path much earlier. It's also essential to understand that no one but me will push my career further. Every day painting is crucial, but creating my own opportunities, connecting with galleries and other artists, and looking for publicity and potential collectors are as important.

What is one thing you hope your audience walks away with after experiencing/viewing your work?

With my paintings, I would like to communicate a need for self-awareness and the importance of relationships and acceptance with other people. Love, kindness, and simple pleasures of everyday life are enough reasons to be happy. I want the viewers to feel positive and energetic while absorbing the vibrant, clashing colors and finding my models' hidden stillness and calm. I want to show what is essential in life, even by creating peaceful, dreamlike scenes inspired by our friends or experiences and memories. For me, they are other people, love, friendship, kindness, and empathy. Visual arts can bring healing and understanding of some severe issues, and I want to point out some of them too. As an artist, I was quiet about escalating problems like the lack of acceptance for the LGBT community, racism, and the validation of women's rights. I am terrified to observe what's happening in my own country and around the globe, and it's time to highlight these problems in my future work.

Original Art by Joanna Pilarczyk
Joanna Pilarczyk