Ewa Kuryluk

1946 | Kraków, Poland
Ewa Kuryluk — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Ewa Kuryluk, Self-portrait, Paris, 2022, autophotograph, © photo: Ewa Kuryluk

Polish painter, photographer, installation art pioneer, writer, poet and art historian.

Ewa Kuryluk’s father was a journalist, editor, politician, and diplomat; her mother a poet, writer, translator and amateur pianist. In 1959 her father was appointed Polish ambassador to Austria. While attending secondary school in Vienna, she discovered the art of Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) and Egon Schiele (1890-1918), and the poetry of Georg Trakl. She studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw from 1964 to 1970, and began writing at the same time. In 1970 her first solo show of paintings and prints was presented in London. In the 1970s she exhibited regularly in London, Paris, Vienna and Warsaw, and published her first art history books in Polish. One of them, a study of the grotesque, was later rewritten in English and published as Salome and Judas in the Cave of Sex: The Grotesque: Origins, Iconography, Techniques (1987).
She lived in London from 1977 to 1978 , painting large acrylic portraits and self-portraits with small vignettes. In 1978 she shifted from painting to working with loose fabric, and a year later showed her first textile installation, Within Our Four Walls in Warsaw. She lived in the United States from 1981 until 1996, exhibiting and lecturing at various universities, and writing in English: her scholarly study Veronica and Her Cloth: History, Symbolism, and Structure of a True Image was published in 1991, and her first novel Century 21 in 1992 (both were later translated into Polish and other languages).

At the end of the century, she divided her time between New York and Paris, and made her first large-scale Paris installation, Who’s  this Mysterious Boy (1995). In 1997, she exhibited at the Artium Gallery in Fukuoka, Japan, as part of the series The Secret Life of Clothes.  Galeria Artemis in Kraków presented her installation Trio for the Hidden in 2000, along with a small selection of “autophotographs”, self-portraits she has been taking since age 13.
At the turn of the 21st century, after the death of her mother and brother, E. Kuryluk’s work focused on her family history and their struggles with mental illness. The story of her mother, saved from Holocaust by Karol Kuryluk, her future husband and Ewa’s father, became the subject of Yellow Birds Fly (2002), and the installation was included in the Air People retrospective at Zachęta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw.

She investigated the subject further in the novel Goldi and in the installations Taboo and The Yellow Ship. In 2009 Frascati, part two of her autobiographical trilogy, and Kangaroo with the Camera 1959-2009:,Autophotography, were published in Poland. In the years that followed she produced the installations The Yellow Tryptic and The Pony, dedicated to her parents and brother. In 2016, Don’t Dream About Love, Kuryluk, a retrospective of paintings, was presented by National Museum in Kraków. The artist’s yellow years, 2000 through 2019, were concluded by Cracow 1946, her last yellow installation, and Feluni (2019), volume three of her family history. In 2021, White Folds of Time, a retrospective of installations, was shown at the National Museum in Wrocław, and in 2022, I, White Kangaroo, was a collateral event for the 59th Venice Biennale.

Agnieszka Taborska

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