Iwona Zając graduated from the Painting Department of Gdańsk Academy of Fine Arts in 1999. She was awarded a PhD from Gdańsk Academy of Fine Arts in 2017.
Human emotions are at the core of her practice. The artist explores themes such as longing, dreams and attachment to a place and the past. Her works carry an emotional load and stem from the human experience. The emotional focus of the artist’s projects necessitates a link to the intimate parts of our lives. Zając pays attention to the location of a project – she starts with collecting detailed information and meets with the people to whom it will be directly or indirectly related. To avoid intrusive interventions, she develops strong relationships with people, including inviting them to cooperate. Her practice carries respect for hard labour, which determined the medium of her self-expression – murals require a lot of time and, at the same time, enormous care and attention.
Since 2000 she works in the field of mural painting, including The Shipyard mural (2004-2013), showcasing stories of the Gdańsk Shipyard’s workers. She exhibited in Poland and internationally, including: Kunsthalle, Rostock, 2014; Centre for Contemporary Art, Gdańsk, 2012; Bleckinge County Museum, Kalskrona, 2012; Łaźnia Centre for Contemporary Art, Gdańsk, 2012; Gdańsk City Gallery (solo), 2011; The Town Hall Galleries, Ipswich, UK, 2008. Recipient of several awards. Her artist’s residencies include: METAL, Southend, UK, 2012; SPACES, Cleveland, USA. Co-authored the book: The Ideal Woman. From a Guide to a Dialogue (with Monika Popow). She is the author of videos The Shipyard Nike Is Leaving and Farewell and of the project Shipyard On Air.
Recently, her practice expanded to also include embroidery. In 2012 she has started begun working on canvases titled Patience. The embroidered canvases from the series Patience address work ethos and various changes inspired by its contemplation. They relate to the Gdansk Shipyard, a place of local and national importance present in many of her previous works, and feature accounts from the lives of its workers. Originally, the workers’ quotes were painted as a mural on the wall surrounding the shipyard. Transferred to canvas, they have become a testimony to workers’ hard work. Blue and red thread resemble veins and blood. Together they form a physical symbol of the human body – a medium of special importance to her art.
Look!, Govan, October-November 2020
From Gdańsk in Poland, Iwona Zając researched heritage archives and testimonials from former shipyard workers in Govan. She selected memorable quotes from the shipyard workers to install at the historic Govan Dry Docks, using typography inspired by Upper Clyde Shipbuilders posters at Fairfield Heritage Museum. She worked with Polish artist, Eugenia Tynna, to create stencils that were sent to Govan and painted on location by Scottish artist, Beatrice Searle assisted by Inês Cavaco and Hamish Rhodes.
The Broadcast, Gdańsk, October 2019
In Gdańsk, Iwona presented The Broadcast in reference to the pirate Radio Solidarność (Radio Solidarity) which operated during martial law in the early 1980s. At Gate No. 2, she organised an audience with Piotr Jagielski, who supervised the technical equipment of Radio Solidarność, and with Maciej Pawlak, who was its editor and author of the book “Radio Solidarność in the Tri-City”. During this event, the public listened to selected archival programmes and the artist’s own recordings of former shipyard workers.
Sun in an Empty Room, Levadia, April 2019
Iwona organised a fun and interactive stencil workshop at the Riverside park. During this hands-on event, participants printed from stencils prepared by the artist and inspired by stories of the river and Levadia that were heard during the Artists' Research Residency earlier that year.
Iwona Zając’s work is an exemplary conflation of ethics with aesthetics. She honours the people who inspired her and at the same time she provides us with strong feelings and intense sensations, along with rich stimuli for thought.