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Pukle (Locks)

Pukle (Locks)
signed, titled and dated 'Ewa Juszkiewicz "Pukle" 2012' (on the reverse)
oil and acrylic on canvas
51 3⁄8 x 39 ½in. (130.4 x 100.2cm.)
Painted in 2012
Lokal_30, Warsaw.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2012.
Katowice, Centrum Kultury Katowice, Rosamunde, The Princess of Cyprus, 2012.
Słupsk, Bałtycka Galeria Sztuki Współczesnej, Ewa Juszkiewicz: Things We Don’t Talk About, 2013.
Szczecin, Galeria Zona Sztuki Aktualnej, Juszkiewicz/Kokosiński: Up to my head, 2013.
Warsaw, Lokal_30, Pukle/Curls, 2013-2014.
Bielsko-Biała, Ewa Juszkiewicz: The Descent Beckons, 2015, p. 107 (illustrated in colour, p. 33).

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Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Painted in 2012, Pukle (Locks) stands among the very first examples of Ewa Juszkiewicz’s celebrated historical appropriations. In vivid, luxuriant detail, the artist reimagines the 1824 work Portrait of Baroness Alexandrina Simplicia Nicolai (1787-1824), née Princess Broglie by the Danish Golden Age painter Christian Albrecht Jensen. Set against a backdrop of velvety chiaroscuro, her dress and bonnet come to life in hyperreal splendour. The colour of the blue fabric is heightened and intensified; every wrinkle, crease and pattern in the lace is rendered with immaculate clarity. Her face, however, is obscured by a mass of curls, transforming her into a surreal apparition. Juszkiewicz is fascinated by the ways in which women were depicted in historical portraiture. Her practice, begun in 2011, seeks to highlight the anonymity and uniformity with which they were traditionally portrayed. By replacing their facial features with startling, elaborate disguises—from insect masks, flowers and drapery to the locks of hair seen here—she invests her subjects with new life, character and intrigue. The work was included in a number of Juszkiewicz’s early exhibitions in Poland, including at the Centrum Kultury Katowice shortly after its creation.

Juszkiewicz studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts, Gdansk, and completed a PhD at the Academy of Fine Arts, Krakow. During her studies, she became particularly interested in European portraiture of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. ‘While looking at classic examples of portraiture from the past, I felt a kind of dissonance in the way I perceived them’, she has explained. ‘On the one hand, those paintings attracted me and fascinated me because of their artistry and technique. On the other hand, I noticed that many of them present women according to a particular formula or convention … Their poses, gestures, and facial expressions were very similar and showed no deep emotion or individuality’ (E. Juszkiewicz, quoted in C. Selvin, ‘Painter Ewa Juszkiewicz Wants to Shatter Conservative Ideas About Beauty’, ARTnews, 25 November 2020). Juszkiewicz’s uncanny appropriations rescue her subjects from this state of inertia. They are no longer genteel, placid archetypes, bound by conventional notions of beauty. Instead, they are strange, metamorphic rebels, at once seductive and disarming.

Juszkiewicz mines art history and fashion for inspiration: from Surrealism, to the works of Cindy Sherman and clothing designers such as Rei Kawakubo and Iris van Herpen. She is particularly fascinated by women’s hair, her meticulous curls inviting comparison with the work of Italian Pop artist Domenico Gnoli. Juszkiewicz relishes the ‘sensual tension’ of her intricate hairstyles, and delights in probing their historical overtones (E. Juszkiewicz, quoted in conversation with V. Marchione, InsideArt No. 115, December 2018, p. 113). The curator Lisa Small notes that, for centuries, hair was an ‘important site of women’s self-fashioning’: a marker of social status, and ‘the focus of male anxieties around sexuality and power’. Juszkiewicz, she writes, ‘insinuates the (literally) outsized role that hair has played in articulating the female social body by completely replacing all facial features with dense locks’ (L. Small, ‘Ewa Juszkiewicz’, Gagosian Quarterly, Winter 2020).

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