Born in 1984 in Warsaw, Poland. She studied Fine Arts at the University College of Falmouth (Cornwall, England) and at the National Academy Museum & School (NYC, USA), Costume Design at the International School of Costume and Fashion Design (Warsaw, Poland) and Painting at the Academy of Fine Arts (Warsaw, Poland) where she obtained an MFA in Painting.
Roza worked in Warsaw in the Costume Painting department of the Grand Theatre – National Opera House and as an assistant of Polish fashion designer Mariusz Przybylski at the International School of Costume and Fashion Design, where she also was a tutor of Academic and Fashion Drawing classes.
She is a member of the art group “Young in Art” (“Młodzi Sztuką”).
ROZA’s painting work has been the subject of discussion at art lectures, culture symposiums, press publications and, TV and radio interviews in Poland. She exhibited in Poland, Ukraine, England and the USA. Her works are in private collections in Poland, England and the United States.
It’s no coincidence that we have met on the official website of Roza Puzynowska. So let me introduce you her artistic story…
“Painting is like air, when I can’t paint – I am nervous and suffocating”
As a child, she was the so-called “baby log”. During a break between a million questions to the omniscient father, she usually sat quiet as a block of wood wherever you placed her, completely absorbed by her own world. All she ever needed to be happy was her colored pencils and a sketch pad. She used to draw everything that seemed interesting or made her curious. According to her Mum then she felt like a fish in the water.
Roza loved to draw people. Her first important artistic work came at the times when Poland was still communistic and there were long queues for everything in all the stores. It was 1987 and Roza was three years old. However, her favorite hero was always her dad whose character regularly appears in her paintings and drawings.
Her artistic talent was spotted by kindergarten caregivers and she got enrolled for the “Yogi Bear Club”. On numerous activities she was developing not only her painting skills, but also studied piano, organ and flute. Roza won several competitions in art and literature.
“I have always had the support of my parents, who always give me the opportunity to evolve” – said Roza
Roza’s grandfather was a carpenter. He loved wood working and was traveling to international trade fairs. In turn, her father is a handy-man, he can fix numerous things, and in his youth he even used to sew his clothes.
During his work he was always able to make quality time for his daughter to play with her, create paintings of groats and screws or fantasy creatures of wood chips. For Roza it was an excellent stimulation of her artistic mind and a creative addition to her customary drawing.
Roza’s father also liked to draw. She remembers his amazing sketches of Native Americans after reading the book “The last of the Mochican” by James Fenimore Cooper.
Her mother on the other hand has a tailoring knack, extremely useful in the challenging 80’s when it was difficult to buy anything in Poland, let alone clothing. To survive in the gray monotony, she used to sew dresses for herself and mini versions for her daughter of course.
The first money Roza earned was as a teenager painting pictures for her friends. She was 16 years old and already one foot in the adult life.
Her first serious contact with oil paints was on a preparatory course at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. She was still in high school, but clearly felt she wanted to specialize in this particular technique. The very first work she painted in this way was a nude.
The lady that posed for the class was clearly tired with life – naked, fat, ginger and toothless. What a challenge! “I have never seen a body that gives an impression to illuminate from the inside. This woman had such a fascinatingly transparent skin.” Roza remembers. “Although, back then I didn’t know how to fully capture this luminance – it was the first serious work that I sold.”
After graduating from high school with a certificate of an artist specializing in exhibition design, she could finally apply to the Painting Department at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw.
She gets into the Academy at the first try without any difficulties. She also applied to the History of Art faculty at the Kardynał Wyszyński University in Warsaw, but finally decided that her heart is with the Art Academy. After the second year of studying she went for a half-year exchange to England, studying Fine Arts at the University College of Falmouth in Cornwall. In addition to the studies she also had to work to survive. It wasn’t an easy time having two jobs – cleaning in a bar and keeping a nearly 80-year-old lady company. Interestingly, the lady’s 60-year-old daughter occurred to be a painter. It was a great situation! The daughter was a kindred spirit and a great companion to talk about art. “Mrs. Sue Davis represented a completely different style of painting than I am, she liked abstract forms. It was a pure and wonderful coincidence that I found this soul mate. For me, the whole trip was a valuable lesson of life. And, I am still in touch with Sue.”
Every year, there is an exhibition of the students’ works at the Warsaw Art Academy. Many people visit it to get inspiration and to learn something from their colleagues. According to Roza, however, most of the pieces were the same, and what’s even worse, after a while you find yourself not remembering any of them. Most are empty, emotionless and without a clear message. At the time of graduation, Roza decided to create something that would stand out. She chose to share her thoughts on the aspects of humanity, which she believes are important in today’s world. She didn’t want to shock, her aim was to talk about feelings and emotions.
“I have created eight oil paintings around the theme of “Stereotypes versus Identity” – concerning physicality, patterns of behavior and of human relationships. Among other tings I have painted two self-portraits as an Androgen and a Hermaphrodite. They were nude full-figure portraits that caused controversy. However, my diploma promotor was pleased with all my final canvases and as a result I was one of three distinguished students at the Academy – obtaining the Best Diploma award in 2009.”
After graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts Roza decided to continue her studies. She chose costume design in the International School of Costume and Fashion Design in Warsaw. It was also the time of her adventure at the Costume Painting Department in the Grand Theatre – National Opera House in Warsaw.
You are probably wondering why the faculty choice so far from Painting itself. “I’ve always had a fascination for artistic expressions that can be achieved live on a stage. It wasn’t my original intention to go into this field but sometimes events in your life take unexpected turns. As strange as it might sound, I undertook those studies for my Mom who got depressed after few spine surgeries. She had serious health problems, several times avoided getting paralyzed and simple everyday activities caused her great difficulty. She felt she’d lost the meaning of life. I wanted to do something to get her out of this state and keep her mind busy, so I enrolled both of us to the same school. I know for sure that on her own she would not manage to accomplish those studies, it would be both mentally and physically impossible. She always loved sewing so the International School of Costume and Fashion Design was an excellent idea.”
They graduated together and got awarded for “The Nine Circles of Angels and Demons“ based on Dante’s “Divine Comedy” and Roza herself gained some precious experience in fashion and costume design that opened the door to interesting cooperations juxtaposing art and design.
In 2013 Roza went to New York to continue her study in National Academy Museum & School at the Independent Artist Fine Art Course. When applying she was a bit overwhelmed by the challenges to come, but she was guided New York’s boiling energy. You can meet artists from all over the world and watch how they work, think or just hang around. “It was a massive dose of energy and inspiration for me.”
As many artists she came across, as many approaches to art she was faced with. There were people who needed hours to put a single line on the canvas, staring at it for another hour, took their time to add a second line to finally leave for a cigarette. Others were haunted workaholics. Many people complained about the great loneliness in such a big city. They lamented the lack of friends, longed for their families, forgetting the reason for being in this Big Apple. “I knew why I came to New York. I had wonderful tutors. I remember Ingo, from Germany, who was a sculptor, and with whom it was lovely to share a tea bag. Samuel was a painter and a writer. He gave me a book, that was a great source of inspiration to me. I was also able to see his atelier – once again a huge boost of creative energy!”
In NYC, Roza met many inspiring and kindred spirits, just as she had done in Cornwall. In Brooklyn she used to live with a 40-year-old feisty Polish woman – Iza a wonderful painter. They often went to exhibitions and concerts together. The second character was the 80-year-old Afro-American prima ballerina, Raven Wilkinson, that broke the so-called color barrier in 1955 by signing a full time contract with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. “An amazing personality – a beautiful human-being with a beautiful soul and spirit. Raven is a legendary persona in New York’s culture scene. We spent a lot of time together, went to the cinema, the theatre and ballet performances. It was a great pleasure to meet such a legend. With all your struggles and navigation through the chaos of NYC, it’s meetings like that which makes it all worthwhile” – Roza recalls.
“…what is Art for me? Art is something that has to enrich my soul and make me feel unique and unusual. Emotions are essential – painting is a remedy for apathy and numbness of the spirit. A good work of art must elevate you and ought also to burn into your soul and haunt you, not letting you rest.”
On behalf of Roza and myself I would like to invite all of you to ROZA’s emotional world.
Interviewed by Michał Jędrzejkowski