In the Studio: Joanna Pilarczyk

For this edition of In the Studio, we’re taking a peek inside Joanna Pilarczyk’s colorful London studio. We’ll explore her latest body of work, Intimate Times, a series born from close quarters and the constraints of the COVID-19 era.

Pre-pandemic, self portraiture was uncharted territory for Joanna. Accustomed to painting friends and people she encountered by chance in a world once crowded with unmasked strangers, the onset of lockdowns and self-isolation forced her to shift her focus. Stuck inside her London apartment for months on end, she turned to the only subjects that were available – herself and her partner, Jarek.

Though sunny days are rare in her London home, you’d never know it from the brilliantly dappled depictions of her colorful apartment. Staged with the brightly patterned textiles that populate her space, Joanna is photographed in repose by her partner, creating the reference imagery for her paintings. As she develops her sketches, cameos from her jungle of houseplants creep in, crowding even more life into the four walls of her canvases.

“My big pleasure is to observe the light and play with it, find a good composition and translate the reality into painted emotions … I want the viewer to feel the sunlight from my pictures, to enjoy color and the positive atmosphere.”

Color plays an important role in Joanna’s work, and her vivid palette speaks volumes in Intimate Times. Florescent brights and rich neutrals miraculously co-exist in peace under the direction of her brush. The density of color, pattern, and shifting light add up to create ordinary but poignant scenes that illustrate the heightened intensity born of spending an unprecedented amount of time in a single space – and the intimacy of sharing that time and space with another person.

Unlike many accounts of the desolate and seemingly endless temporal expanse spent sequestered in one’s apartment during lockdown, Joanna’s paintings tell a refreshingly optimistic story of an intimate relationship with her surroundings. Despite the challenges of isolation, close quarters, and the looming uncertainty of the COVID-19 world, Joanna chooses to highlight the quiet moments of peace and ease that inspired her in the long months spent indoors.

“I never thought I would live so intensely and intimately with just one other person … We were both so lucky to have each other, but also were unable to escape each other. But we eventually found a way to be together and also alone … sharing moments in quiet without words spoken.”

Click the link below to browse our collection of works from Joanna’s Intimate Times series on Artsy.