“Shields” by Bogusława Kowalczyk as part of the cyclical project STOP WITH ART

As part of the cyclical project STOP WITH ART from March 14 to April 819, 2024, the Jan Tarasin Art Gallery is presenting selected works by Bogusława Kowalczyk in seven bus stop windows. This is one of the installments of the exhibition „Shields” which is presented at the same time at the Jan Tarasin Art Gallery in Kalisz.

Bogusława Kowalczyk “Shields”

A sense of security, peace, integrity with our inner self, harmony with oneself, with people, with the surrounding world – these are the eternal human pursuits. The pursuit of happiness, joy of existence and broadly understood well-being.

We experience violations of borders – whether our internal ones, invisible to the naked eye, or the real borders of the state or peace at home. It is completely natural to defend ourselves and prevent threats from outside.

The shield has been an integral element of defense for centuries. These material ones have changed their shape, size and form over the centuries. Made of wood, wicker, metal, leather, round, oval, cylindrical or rectangular – they had one task – to protect against danger. They changed as the world around them changed. They have become an indispensable element of defense. A fundamental need – the sense of security – is exposed to constant attacks. We want to defend every aspect of life: health, emotions, finances, relationships, etc. Each of us has our own shield, not one but many, depending on the circumstances and needs. A shield is a real object, but also an idea that protects and gives a sense of security. When fear or anxiety appears, when boundaries are threatened, we look for a shield that will effectively defend us against them. For some it is belief in the existence of a good God, for others it is belief in deities, magical objects, sometimes it is theories and beliefs, other times it is material goods or another person.

In recent years, the word “shield” has appeared in various configurations. Anti-missile, anti-crisis, anti-inflation shield, or a shield for the protection of health. The pandemic, new wars, the climate catastrophe, subsequent crises in the world cause widespread shaking of our comfort zone, but also force us to reflect on life and expose what is impermanent. The foundations of our well-being are shaken and questions arise: where do I put my hope? what am I building on? what will protect me, my home, my loved ones?

The result of these reflections is the SHIELDS exhibition.

The variety of compositions and materials used shows that anything can be a shield: a piece of cardboard, wood, any object, a teddy bear hugged by a child or belief in the existence of an all-powerful God.
A shield can be a word that, filled with venom and hatred, destroys and kills, but a shield can also be a word that brings love and goodness, bringing life and hope.
Some of the works are a response to contemporary events. The “Children’s Room” series was created after the Russian terrorist attack on Kiev, where a family with two children died. The inspiration for “Icons” was the alleged appearance of the image of Christ on a tree in one of the Polish towns.
Everywhere we look, we see shields separating us from danger, from other people, sometimes effective, sometimes completely unnecessary.
In the paintings, I raise the issue of the impermanence of shields, the processes involved in destroying and repairing them, their effectiveness and their lack, and their value – because those that show how numerous battles were fought have greater value.

I invite you to personal reflections and perhaps even deeper searches.

“Shields” by Bogusława Kowalczyk
Courage and humility

The history of art knows many examples of artists using the recycling method, i.e. what remains after wear, washing, shattering, breaking off, or crushing. What initially seems like an accident, but becomes a practice. The history of collecting and cataloging seems to be equally broad, as shown by Krzysztof Pomian’s dissertations and Umberto Eco’s essays. Bogusława Kowalczyk practices a bit of each of these arts: she collects pieces and replaces the collecting-cataloging process with composing a painting. Her individual signature, the immanent particle that encodes this individual creative space, is the thread. From it, the artist builds her worlds. All associations related to the delicacy of the threads seem justified here. First the warp and the weft, then the labyrinth (of the Minotaur) and the ball (of Ariadne), finally weaving, spinning yarns, but also (perhaps) escape and (definitely) protection from what makes us afraid.

In her latest series of paintings entitled “Shields,” Bogusława Kowalczyk builds from fragments and pulled threads. The fragment may be an afterimage from the TV news, a stick, a fragment of a crumpled bag, sometimes a tablet, sometimes the “skin” of a soft sweater or plush fabric, and – significantly – a letter (words). Some paintings directly imitate shields in their form, others refer only to their defensive function, as in the case of a large canvas in red and black colors; sharp, bristling with letters scattered in disarray, it creates a contemporary allegory for the noise of fake news. “Whose shield is it and is it even a shield at all?” you may ask. Isn’t it true, however, that when we defend ourselves, we very often attack brutally and senselessly? Another work, created from a scattered alphabet, treated as the basic element of building a composition, is calmer, and thanks to the structure enclosed in a circle (shield), it seems closer to the way out of the labyrinth of powerlessness and inertia. Right next to it I see a transparent structure made of white and threads, i.e. hand-embroidered and sewn fabric. Bogusława explains that apart from what builds us externally, there is a world made of completely different matter. If we draw conclusions directly from what can be seen in this image, we happen to be transparent, see-through; it happens, I think, that we survive thanks to the strength of the spirit.

Like those people wandering in the labyrinths of forests on the border(s), like every person on Earth who is alive, even though he was not supposed to live, because he belonged or belongs to a community that, for one reason or another, is not liked by its neighbors. It was Georgi Gospodinov who spoke up for the Minotaur in his book The Physics of Sorrow (Fizika na tagata, translation from Bulgarian by Magdalena Pytlak). This bull-man, as the writer muses on the pages of his mini-novel, had to be killed with all the cruelty of killing, because he was different. Let’s admit that small and big problems start the same way, at the beginning there is the difficulty of acceptance. Bogusława’s works also speak about this, spanning courage and humility. I’m standing over three inconspicuous pictures. The artist says that she was inspired to create them by one of the first bombings of Kiev and the sight of the destroyed room where the children died. A fragment of a subtly-patterned wallpaper burned inside creates an effect stronger than millions of words. The second image is pink, the third is blue. It is the flawless selection of pastel colors combined with burnt black that makes us shrink internally when looking at these images. It hurts.

Can an ordinary stick provide protection and what can it be used for? You can build a hut with sticks, you can defend yourself with it, you can finally leave a trace or a message on the road. From such thoughts, another series was created in which the author uses sticks, big and small. These are also shields – of those who run away and defend themselves from others, expecting nothing else but help. Little runaways can be helped by a stuffed animal, adults can be helped by looking at a child hugging his or her toy. Bogusława creates another shield – this one is green as grass, which is why it evokes associations with ecological art. For the artist, in this case, the first sense in the process of creation was not sight, but touch, not the color palette, but the haptic structure of the image; a plush fabric that brings a sense of security, or rather soothes the experience of pain and fear, through its softness. The next image in dark brown and silver colors is similar in matter. It is a piece of Bogusława’s washed sweater. A fragment cut from it creates an expressive, restless vortex of whispering threads.

The series that I called “golden” is completely different in expression, although it is not only composed of golden accents. This time the artist introduces us to the web of idolatry; she does not judge, but notes and enumerates. So people believe in the power of: the red ribbon and red itself, medicines, various amulets, and finally icons, but also images appearing as a result of the forces of nature (rain, sun, and wind). This happens, they are also protective shields. Something is visible, something that can be easily interpreted as a patch of damp or a water stain, but it creates an outline in which others see the interference of divine forces. A difficult and aesthetically dangerous topic, but certainly worth considering. What paths lead us to faith and unbelief? What ideas about the world and being stimulate our brains and, consequently, our behavior? In the gap between them is another step (purgatory?), as the artist’s works seem to suggest. This zone is called disbelief and is made of little things (pebbles, ribbons, sticks) glued to gold, or less often white, backgrounds.

So, quite unexpectedly, it turns out that Bogusława Kowalczyk’s present-day workshop no longer follows the classic triad pattern of paint, brush (or palette knife) and canvas (let me remind you of the artist’s great painting series entitled “Creation of the World” from many, many years ago), but it is expanded or converted into thread, needle, paper (usually the basic, gray one), fabrics, trinkets, glues and finally paints. The works are entirely sewn and embroidered, often revealing the warp and the weft around which the author constantly circles. I find in these thoughts a search for the beginning, the foundations, although its shields rather collect the anxiety of the world, which is why they are born from chaos. I appreciate even more the efforts to bring order and find silence in the screaming. I see the Moiras in the same way, these ancient personifications of the weavers of fate, humbly focused on the single threads of life. They weave, Bogusława sews, and like Atropos, the third goddess of destiny, she breaks the thread where she finishes working on the painting.

Anna Tabaka, Sunday, January 28, 2024

Bogusława Kowalczyk studied at the Kalisz Department of Art Education of the University of Adam Mickiewicz in Poznań in the years 1988-1993.  She obtained her diploma in 1993 in the painting studio of prof. Andrzej Niekrasz.  She took part in many individual and collective exhibitions in Poland and abroad. She has been running an art studio and the “Szatnia” Gallery in the Youth Cultural Center in Kalisz for many years. 


She is the author of several individual exhibitions in Poland and abroad: diploma exhibition – Youth Cultural Center in Kalisz, 1993; Klub Środowisk Twórczych, Radom, 1993; MPiK Gallery, Kalisz, 1994; Municipal Art Gallery in Częstochowa, 1997;

Haumont, France, 1998; Center of Culture and Art Gallery, Kalisz 1998; Rem Gallery, Heerhugowaard, Netherlands, 2000; Hamm, Germany, 2000; BWA, Kalisz, 2001;

Water Tower, Konin, 2001; MBWA, Leszno, 2002; Puławy Art Gallery, 2002; Municipal Art Gallery, Ostrów Wielkopolski, 2008; BWA, Kalisz, 2008; “Water Tower” Gallery Kalisz, 2013;

She also participated in numerous collective exhibitions: Galeria MPiK, Kalisz, 1993; post-open-air exhibitions “Słupia”, BWA Gallery in Kalisz, 1993, 1994; District Museum of the Kalisz Region 1994; “Egeria” Art Salon, BWA Gallery in Ostrów Wielkopolski, 1994 – award; 1995; post-open-air exhibition “Gołuchów”, BWA Gallery, Kalisz, 1995 and 1996; Art Culture Center “Water Tower”, Kalisz, 1997; The Tadeusz Kulisiewicz Drawing and Graphic Art Centre, Kalisz, 1998; post-open-air exhibition “Park 2000”, BWA Gallery Kalisz, 1998; post-open-air exhibition Kobyla Góra’99, BWA Gallery, Kalisz 2000; post-open-air exhibition “Kalisz 2000”, BWA Gallery, Kalisz, 2000; Musee Lanchelevici, La Louviere, Belgium, 2001; post-open-air exhibition, BWA Gallery, Kalisz 2003; Kalisz Salon – 2011, BWA and the “Water Tower” Gallery in Kalisz, Industrial History Museum in Opatówek 2012; Hamm, Germany, 2014; Split, Croatia, 2015; Hamm, Germany, 2018; Accumulations 2019, Kalisz Art Biennial – City Art Gallery in Kalisz;  Prof. Andrzej Niekrasz University Art Gallery in Kalisz – 2020; post-plein-air exhibition of the International Open-air Painting Santok 2023, CKiR Santok.

Awards – Medal of the National Education Commission; award of the Mayor of Kalisz for activities in favor of culture in the category – cultural animator in 2019.

Exhibition duration         Mar 14 – Apr 19 2024  
Opening Mar 14, 7 P.M.
Meet the author session: 8 P.M.
Free admission

pl. św. Józefa 5
62-800 Kalisz Poland

Gallery Partners: 
GRUPA Mo, SCHIMMEL Pianos, POLIFARB KALISZ S.A., M&P Alkohole Wina Cygara
Media patronage: