Iwona Zając, Gdańsk, Poland
Iwona Zając – a visual artist (b. 1971). Graduated from the Painting Department of the Gdańsk Academy of Fine Arts in 1999. In 2017 she obtained the title of doctor of art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk.
Lead Polish Artist – Memory of Water (2018-2020), an artist-led project exploring post-industrial waterfront heritage in the context of community development and urban planning.
Funded by Creative Europe, sharing best practice for socially engaged artworks in Gdansk, Gothenburg, Govan/Glasgow, Levadia, Limerick, and Ostend.
Human emotions are at the core of her practice. The artist explores themes such as longing, dreams and attachment to a place and the past. Her works carry an emotional load and stem from the human experience. The emotional focus of the artist's projects necessitates a link to the intimate parts of our lives. Zając pays attention to the location of a project – she starts with collecting detailed information and meets with the people to whom it will be directly or indirectly related. To avoid intrusive interventions, she develops strong relationships with people, including inviting them to cooperate. Her practice carries respect for hard labour, which determined the medium of her self-expression – murals require a lot of time and, at the same time, enormous care and attention.
Since 2000 she works in the field of mural painting, including The Shipyard mural (2004-2013), showcasing stories of the Gdańsk Shipyard's workers. She exhibited in Poland and internationally, including: Kunsthalle, Rostock, 2014; Centre for Contemporary Art, Gdańsk, 2012; Bleckinge County Museum, Kalskrona, 2012; Łaźnia Centre for Contemporary Art, Gdańsk, 2012; Gdańsk City Gallery (solo), 2011; The Town Hall Galleries, Ipswich, UK, 2008. Recipient of several awards. Her artist's residencies include: METAL, Southend, UK, 2012; SPACES, Cleveland, USA. Co-authored the book: The Ideal Woman. From a Guide to a Dialogue (with Monika Popow). She is the author of videos The Shipyard Nike Is Leaving and Farewell and of the project Shipyard On Air.
Recently, her practice expanded to also include embroidery. In 2012 she began working on canvases titled Patience. The embroidered canvases from the series Patience address work ethos and various changes inspired by its contemplation. They relate to the Gdansk Shipyard, a place of local and national importance present in many of her previous works, and feature accounts from the lives of its workers. Originally, the workers' quotes were painted as a mural on the wall surrounding the shipyard. Transferred to canvas, they have become a testimony to workers' hard work. Blue and red thread resemble veins and blood. Together they form a physical symbol of the human body – a medium of special importance to her art.