Polish artist Justyna Kopania captures the fleeting nature of time in her expressive oil paintings. Inspired by moments that have “stuck” in her memory, the artist crafts emotive scenes using bold brushstrokes and eye-catching color palettes.
Kopania’s beautiful body of work features a wide range of subject matter, from sailing ships and stormy seas to pianos and stage performers. Each textured painting exhibits Kopania’s profound fascination with freedom—a concept she strongly associates with the the ocean—and her interest in the “complex processes that take place both outside and inside” each human being.
In addition to exploring what it means to be a free individual, Kopania also uses her large- scale paintings as an outlet for her own self-expression. “My art reflects the world I perceive with all my senses,” she explains. “People I meet and love; nature I admire; and all the things that affect the way I am.”
We recently spoke to Kopania about the inspiration and creative process behind each textured painting. Learn more about the poetic nature of her practice in our interview below.
What inspired you to pursue painting?
I always knew that I want to create. I’ve known that forever. When I was a small child, I was fascinated with ballet, played the piano, dreamt of a violin. I was fascinated by opera, theater, painting, broadly defined art. I dreamt of creating, not destroying. I didn’t choose painting. Painting was choosing me.
With theater, opera, I built the first “serious” series of oil paintings of my Carmen. These paintings are theatrical, exaggerated to show emotions, feelings, thoughts. This is the “art for art.” Carmen is the first painting that I painted. I painted it while listening to the opera, “Carmen” by Georges Bizet, music from the film by Carlos Saura, and tangos by Astor Piazzolla. It was an amazing time!
If I could choose, I would be a movie director, maybe sporadically theatrical. I would choose ballet also. But painting has chosen me, so maybe it was my destiny. Time will tell. I tried different arts but today painting is the most important.
How would you characterize your style?
That’s a difficult question. I paint a lot of paintings. I paint with everything what will fall into my hands—sometimes a piece of cardboard or wood, sometimes a kitchen fork, sometimes tools for sculpture or bricklaying. I often paint with my hands.
The style of my painting is hard to specify. There is certainly something from Impressionism, Expressionism. But I think that my style that has no name, no border. It has its own expression or character, like every style.
How do you achieve such expressive levels of texture in your work?
As mentioned above, I paint with everything that will be useful for me—that is, all that I have at hand. I like learning, to acquire knowledge, experimenting with various tools, and painting lets me do it. And the effects can be seen.
On every touch of canvas, paint leaves a trail. The trace depends on the pressure of the tool on the paint, the angle of inclination of the tool relative to painting, the density of paint, and the amount of paint used. Of course, the most important is the tool for creating every fragment of painting.
What are your favorite subjects to paint, and why?
Freedom. Space. Space gives freedom, space is freedom. That’s why I love the sea, the ocean. Man looks and doesn’t see an end…no end in sight. The power of the ocean during a storm when the waves almost reach heaven. The ship laboriously flowing, and dozens of birds over it that scream—and then comes the silence. You can only hear the sound of the ocean, its whispering, the heart of the great water.
You have expressed an interest in capturing “the quick passage of time.” How do you evoke this concept in your paintings?
Time…Man is looking at time constantly. He looks at the clock, he lives from hour to hour. It scares me. That’s why I try to capture time in my paintings. Stop time, a snippet of a second. I’m painting fast, I’m racing against time. A surreal challenge.
The concept of time irritates me. Man was born and has only a certain amount of time. That is life, unfortunately. This is reality. I have a big imagination. Sometimes I think it’s too big. I sometimes stop the time in my imagination. And I feel totally free, like I was the ocean. And this feeling I paint on the canvas.
Have any artists inspired you?
I was brought up on “Polish Art.”At my grandparents in the living room hung paintings by Marian Mokwa. Thanks to this painter, I love the sea and space.
I was fascinated by Polish paintings by masters like Matejko, Malczewski, Mokwa, etc. Then I saw the paintings of Picasso, and it was beautiful. It was a breakthrough for me. Also, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, the Impressionists, art until 1950. Why? Because they each had something that caught my heart and soul.
Do you have any upcoming paintings or series planned?
Now, I’m finishing a series of large paintings, Furia. It started with the painting Furia (180cm x 120cm), of a ship. And then I thought that I would paint a series of ships and mythological goddesses.
I work with one gallery; I like working, calmly. Alfam is a gallery in the US. The people with whom I work give me freedom. They gave me the opportunity to paint Furia, and that’s why the whole series of oil paintings was created.
For this series, I also made a movie of my work every day. I recorded everything. I have put all of the videos on my Facebook. In a few days, I will start working on the last painting (300cm x 230cm) of the series, which will feature all of the characters. After this, I will create a “big” movie with all the paintings of the series. The film will be about the strength of women, and will have two parts: part 1 will be about women, and part 2 will concern the whole series.
Then, I will work on the next series of large paintings, which will be about the mythological gods along with the ship, Furia. The series will be called Chaos and it will also feature large paintings. It will also be filmed, and Furia and Chaos will be created the unity.
In the meantime, I will continue to paint the series Boats, Mist, Streets, etc. The next series will be also large paintings and the theme will be the ocean. I would like to paint only large paintings, but I have too little a studio, so I am looking for a larger one.