Over the past two decades, Polish-American artist Tamara Tarasiewicz has assimilated, developed and refined her own dialogue with color, line and structure to create her most recent complex series entitled Metaphors.
Throughout the first decade, Ms. Tarasiewicz’s work transitioned back and forth from traditional representational art of the figure and landscape to abstraction, and back again. Viewing these works is somewhat unsettling. Her most current work is more resolved and cohesive as a mature body of work.
This most current body of work is the culmination of her experimentation with all of these components. Her works are comprised of bold, colorful, predominately repetitive biomorphic forms reminiscent of the landscape and human figure. The artist assimilates not only her sense of color and form, but also eastern and western cultural influences.
Ms. Tarasiewicz creates dynamic forms with linear strokes of color, often enriching these forms with subtle nuances, such as shading forms with metallic paints. Vibrating staccato brush strokes provide a sense of volume and depth to many of these works. The work becomes even more engaging when the same forms go beyond their solid outlines and are elongated, diffused, combined, and juxtaposed. The artist transcends the solid notes and creates pulsating varied compositions that move and intertwine, creating complex scores.
The replicated fractal elements of many of these works often replicate the composition of the whole. The repetition of form and pattern within the whole composition lends pieces constant rhythmic movement and a frenetic sense of metaphoric chaos.
Denise A. Bibro – Art critic – Chelsea, NYC – 2009
Tamara Trasiewicz was born in Northeastern Poland, near the Balowieza Forest, which is the largest primeval forest in Europe. This has inspired her since early in her painting career to focus on landscape and the natural world. While her most recent series, on the topic of spirituality, might seem at first glance like a divergence, it is actually very American, following in the tradition of writers such as Emerson and Thoreau, or artists such as Ryder and Georgia O’Keefe, who sought out the spiritual in nature.
This is particularly apparent in a piece like “Spiritual Phenomenon” in which the vague spirit figures are painted a brilliant blue, which simultaneously calls to mind the natural sky and the otherworldly space of heaven. At the center of a cluster of figures is one who is clearly marked as the ‘phenomenon’. She is the only figure seated, and there is a “beast at the level of her lap, which oddly resembles the traditional imagery of the Madonna and child. But this beast child is a symbol of nature itself, which takes its origins in heaven.
Jackson Pollock, another American artist, appears to be a more direct influence on Tarasiewicz. Her abstract backgrounds, composed of splotches of paint and swirling, often black lines, have much the same feeling as a late Pollock canvas. The feeling might be described as tremendous energy and a strong rhythm, which Pollock himself felt was an embodiment of the energy of nature. The figures, particularly the figure of the ’beast’, which recurs in Tarasiewicz’s other works, bears a striking resemblance to similar ‘beast figures in some of Pollock’s earlier work. Like Pollock, Tarasiewicz lays her canvases on the floor while she works them.
Tarasiewicz’s many spiritual influences and romantic leanings come through in some of her titles. “Travel in Dream Time” borrows the concept of dream time from the Australian aborigines. “Meditation” draws on Buddhist practice. “Woodland Spirit” is very pagan. “Fishing” suggests a form of economic sustenance which is more attuned with nature than modern factory work. “Follow Your Instinct” asserts the superiority of instinct and feeling over reason and intellect.
In keeping with these romantic leanings, other pieces suggest the archetype of the child. In “Spiritual Experiences”, instead of the beast being nurtured and petted, as it was in “Spiritual Phenomena”, two beasts are coming at the central figure like companions or playmates. The child is open to experiences, which are closed off to us as we become older. In the background, is pictured a simple house, which contributes to the impression that this is the sort of scene that a very young child might draw in school– of himself standing in front of his house with his two dogs. “Wandering Souls” pictures figures, whose arms and legs are spread wide, leaping into the air with a childlike abandon. The mix of bright primary colors contributes to the impression of a simpler time of life when people don’t yet perceive the world through a sophisticated palette or subtle nuances of shade.
Visually, this impulse towards the primitive finds expression in a strong reliance on the symbolism of the four elements: air, earth, water, and fire. The blue in “Spiritual Experiences”, suggests air; the children are leaping. The yellows, oranges, and reds of “Spiritual Unity” suggest the intensity of fire. From a spiritual point of view, fire is said to symbolize sacrifice, particularly sacrifice of the ego, which is what is said to lead to the experience of spiritual unity according to the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. The browns and greens of “Eternal Family Tree” suggest the earth, which is the source of our roots. The deep blues in a piece like “Shared Thoughts” is water, or the ocean, which is the seat of the unconscious mind. In this particular case, the unconscious mind is also the home of the Jungian archetypes, which are the thoughts which all humans share in common.
Another striking aspect of Tarasiewicz’s work is its communal nature. It’s to be expected that pictures titled “Gathering”, “Spiritual Reunion”, or “Shared thoughts” might have multiple individuals. But even “Meditation”, which people often associate as an inner, private experience or something practiced in isolation, is pictured as five people together. The simple pictures, uncluttered with detail, suggest universal man, rather than some specific person. That the figures blend into the background further takes away from any strong sense of individuality. The figures are in truth little more than a part of the larger pattern of the painting, just as humans themselves, it might be argued, are little more than a small part of the larger pattern of God’s creation.
Anna Poplawska – Art critic – Chicago – 2008
The current work encompasses both the abstract paintings of the series Windows to Nature and the imagistic canvases of Spirituality. The former group suggests the realm of the intellect, a garden that balances growth, order, and geometry. In Spirituality, the rows of round forms have morphed into the outlines of figures in an active organic space.
In Spirituality, the figures retain a connection to life, while their forms have become less substantial. Although they may appear as just outlines, they are part of the vibrating energy around them. The artist seeks to depict both the visible material world and also invisible dimensions, such as thoughts, dreams, emotions, imaginations. In these paintings, there is an evocation of spiritual feelings and a sense of our passage through this existence, the entrance into a non-material world, and the continuity after life.
In both groups of paintings is the artist’s use of simple forms and lines that are both strong and mysterious, translating onto canvas her thoughts and observations on the life that surrounds her. There is a spontaneous, free use of color. In the viewer’s euphoric reaction, the sound of color, is the inner world made visible. In all of the work, the process is intuitive, but under strict conscious control. Although no sketches are used, the artist has a vision in mind of the process of the paintings from beginning to end.
A work begins with the artist painting random patches of color on the canvas with acrylic and metallic pigment, and ceramic paste. Next, the canvas is placed on the floor and acrylic and oil paint are squeezed from tubes, and liquid acrylic is poured, creating the outlines of people, animals, plants, and other imagined forms. Brushes and wooden sticks are used, along with scratching and textures.
Running through the artist’s work is her concern with the visual and emotional poetry of painting. Her focus is on the process of continual invention. The message is the freedom to imagine and express. It is the artist’s intention for the viewers looking at her art to experience their own vision, complex feelings, and positive attitude toward life.
John Mendelsohn – Art critic – New York City – 2007
Although the forest is her looming subject, Tamara Tarasiewicz doesn’t go into the woods for direct inspiration. Rather, echoing Jackson Pollock, (who never worked directly from nature), she can say, “I am Nature.” She doesn’t paint as theatrically as Pollock, but she composes forcefully–filling a canvas with loops or dense weavings and patches of pigment, often metallic, with just as much abandon.
She often seems to stray as far from a direct representation of the forest as she can. The childlike playfulness of many of her compositions is reminiscent of Jan Dubuffet, and an American might glimpse at times the sheer abundance of nature elements that recalls Charles Burchfield.
She is so prolific it is hard to see a clear line of development. But early paintings from Poland often have a solemn, stained glass feeling, and abstract art-derived panoramas with hills as well as trees succeeded these. Now she is declaring her liberation by moving toward images with a jazzy or Pop feeling. Other frequent, beguiling subjects include The Three Graces, who are often rendered like totemic figures, the kind Pollock evoked when he painted myths. In the context of her body of work, The Three Graces might be woodland spirits. She will also paint subjects that go against the portentousness of the forest. Delicate “Baby’s Breath” is one such standout subject.
But even when Tarasiewicz paints other subjects, the dense forest it is always at her back. In Poland she lived at the edge of a forest and; since 1996, when she and her family moved to the United States, home has been at the edge of another one near Chicago. There are great differences between her life in Poland and in the United States, but the forest, full of surprises and great variety, offers a vital continuation.
William Zimmer – Art critic – New York City – 2007
A native of Poland, Tamara Tarasiewicz has received awards from the U.S. government for her contribution to American culture. She is inspired by worldly observations of nature’s presence in rural and urban life. Her work is marked by color and sense of movement. (excerpt)
New Art International – Book Art Press – New York – 2006
Landscapes injected with a vivid emotional fluidity sustain an almost luminous rationale of balance and coherence to stir arcane feelings of altered reality in the paintings of Tamara Tarasiewicz. Her robust, commotive lines retain a sense of unsettling activity, recalling the edges of a dream about to change.
A sweeping influence of currents is a frequent presence in her intense use of color, suggesting the invisible pressure of a rising wind, often adding to an impression of restless transition which adheres to the images of trees and plants like innuendo. As, perhaps, an unconscious reflection of the political turmoil of the times, the empathic passion of Tarasiewicz’s manner of painting compliments the often raw and wild nature of her early subject matter. The feral inspiration of the last remaining preserve of European primeval forest of any appreciable measure in the Belavezhskaya Puscha, now dwindling before the effects of transition from socialistic to capitalist economies and daily logging, was spark which kindled her young imagination. (excerpt)
New Art International – Book Art Press – New York – 2004
A coursing emanation of form configures into elements of landscape with a pulsing interior jubilance of pigment logic in the paintings of Tamara Tarasiewicz. A heady, leaning balance of color and contour formulates vistas which press the shapes of dream into the design of nature. (excerpt)
New Art International – Book Art Press – New York – 2003
Emotive and burstingly poetic, the paintings of Tamara Tarasiewicz range from virtually figurative depictions of landscape into rapturously abstract interpretations as if they made the journey through stained-glass windows. Her vigorous and vibrant, free use of color excites an almost euphoric center of response. (excerpt)
New Art International – Book Art Press – New York – 2002
Tamara Tarasiewicz, by painting vegetation, creates a personal, literary climate, transferring much more than a realistic reflection of nature. The floral compositions arrange themselves in landscapes of an imaginary and personal world. The paintings, very carefully and thoughtfully accomplished, distinguish themselves by specific use of coloring. In general, the colors are pure, sometimes with a sense of aggressiveness. Their contrasting arrangements manifest confidence and freedom effectively with technical skill of the artist. It also shows culture of art and great skill. (excerpt)
Jerzy Hermanowicz – Art critic – Poland – 1992