Interview with Artist Justyna Dulny-Olszowy

At the heart of Justyna Dulny-Olszowy's work is the expression of the female nude.  The artist captures the vulnerability and contours of the female figure by exploring the dynamic poses of the body.  In each painting there is an inherent sense of mystery, a shadowed sense of self that confronts an equally potent sexuality.  The female body is both hidden and seen; the face, nameless; it abides by the same rules of the body.

Safe Heaven, 2009
The painted figures exude a sense of power and seduction over the viewer.  Nothing is left to chance and we are meant to treat the subject matter seriously, removing at once whatever ideas we might have about the easy consumption and disposal of female beauty.  Justyna Dulny-Olszowy rejects the ideation of beauty and form and instead highlights the layering of the body by carefully blending it (and at times, distorting it) with the background.  Her female figures take careful possession over their environment and their essence confidently permeates throughout the artist's works.

Admiration, 2009
These are not innocent images; in fact, sensuality is on full display here.  The female figures do not participate in a narrative but rather dictate it.  What emerges is a woman who takes an active role, a dominating role even and urges us to do the same.  The artist wants us to take pride in the female body because it is ours to discover and also because it is a vehicle for personal empowerment. 

Warning II
After studying and living in Canada for many years Justyna Dulny-Olszowy now resides in Warsaw, Poland.  Over the past several months I had a chance to interview the artist about her creative process, her influences as well as her life in general.  Here is the interview that followed: 

1.    You mentioned photography as a direct influence in your work. Can you tell us how that came about?

When photography was first shown in 1834 it revolutionized the way painters saw the world. Since then, photography has had a profound influence on many prominent painters from that period including: Degas, Caillebotte, Courbet etc. The camera’s influence is apparent in the visual characteristics of paintings, the subject matter, and the powerful direction in which artists were able to fuel their creative visions. These days photography for me has a similar dimension and forms the basis of my work. Thanks to the possibility of freezing the moment through the camera, I am able to treat photography as a series of sketches. It’s a great tool to manipulate with light.  The term “photography” means: “drawing with light”, because at first it was considered simply a drawing aid. This definition for me is still very present. I consider photography as a fusion between science and the creative eye of an artist, and it gives endless creative possibilities that I can transform into painting.

Irony, 2009
2.   When you begin a painting do you have an idea of what it will look like or does it change as you proceed?  What is your creative process like?

I work from my own photos. This allows me to stay and create alone in a space of my own imagination. In other words, the presence of the model in the studio as an extra energy somehow restricts my own. I need total disconnection from the external world while I’m working.  As I have already mentioned, I treat photography as a “sketch” and then I subjected it into the process of painting. In other words, what I see in my photographs is what I try to filter through with my imagination and then transform it onto a flat surface. I like to work in a series because I like to develop several pieces at once. Rotating from one to another while they are in process helps me to figure out what I am looking for with each painting. When I work I let myself be guided in terms of visual appeal and dynamic impact while always aiming to address what it means to be a woman.

Vacant, 2009
3.    The primary focus of your work is the female body, which appears both erotic and sensual at the same time.   What do you want your audience to understand about the female nude and sexuality in your paintings?

Painting for me is an affirmation of life, the delight of existence. My only desire is to encourage the viewer to some sort of reflection, to commune with my art. I would describe it as a kind of intimate conversation between the viewer and myself.

4.    Do you consider your work autobiographical?

Yes, I consider my work very autobiographical. My paintings are related to many of my personal experiences. From time to time I see differences in the perception of the world around me and this perpetuates in my paintings primarily through colour.

Thoughts, 2010
5.  How does space and colour figure in your work?

With color I define a mood, illusions of space, the aura of the figure or a psychological portrait and depth of image.

6.  At what moment do you find painting the most challenging if at all?

Every time I stand in front of an empty canvas it’s a challenge. The concept of an image, which begins to live in my mind, will suddenly come alive on the canvas.  Feelings of uncertainty accompany me and whether the final result will be what I aimed for at the beginning.

In the wind's eye, 2008
7.  What has your work taught you about yourself as an artist?

Painting is constantly teaching me how to communicate with reality and also the ability to establish contact with the world

8.  How did your studies at the Ontario College of Art and Design shape your development as an artist and future career?

Every art school has a tremendous impact on any artist’s life and subsequent work.  Having the opportunity to study at OCAD I learned how to perceive, read and translate the visual world into personal forms of pictorial expression and representation. This school defined me as an artist.  By the very first year I knew that I wanted to concentrate on figurative painting.

Humility, 2006
9. Which artists were you most influenced by and which would you like to be associated with?

I'm inspired by a desire to live and to make penetrating observations of the world. In the world of painting there are a few works which cause me a great deal of reflection for me however I treat these very selectively. I don’t recall any specific artist who has made a huge impact on the progress of my creativity.  I do, however, collect these moments when an artist’s work has activated my admiration.

11. What do you want people to know about you as an artist?

I believe that the artwork is the most important aspect the viewer should focus on. What kind of person the artist is, is a separate issue. I think the artist should stay in the shadows of one’s artwork, so that it can be freely appreciated or not appreciated.
12. What is the best part about living in Warsaw?

I’m a city person, and living in a small town is out of my imagination. Warsaw fulfills everything that a big city should offer. We have a wide range of cultural events here such as: art exhibitions, film festivals, happenings, concerts. The city is developing very much in the right direction. It’s a pleasure for me to witness the process.

Uncommonly, 2006
13. When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

I believe that no child is born with the conviction that she or he wants to be a musician, painter or sportsman. A child doesn’t know yet what it means to be a musician or a painter, or a sportsman, how much time and practice must be devoted and what type of lifestyle it requires. It is only when that interest begins to consciously realize that we then start to deal with a living passion. It’s that passion that decides what we do in life, what choices we make and what direction we go in. It’s this passion that I chose to follow in my life and that’s how I began as an artist.

14. If you could do anything else what would you do?

Life outside of any kind of art is an abstract concept for me. I can’t imagine such a situation… I don’t want to consider such a future.

15. What direction would you like your work to take in the future?

It is important to properly set a hierarchy of your own values. The most important thing in my life is satisfaction and the development of my own personality. I want to create art in a way that ensures that whatever success I have in my work it will never weaken whatever hierarchy of values I have set for myself.  A career has never been an indicator in my life, I just want to follow my passion.

Challenge, 2006
16.  What three works of art would you love to have in your home?

Wind from the Sea” made by Andrew Wyeth,  “Walking Man”  made by Alberto Giacometti,  and one of the latest works made by Seraphine de Senlis.

17.  Who are your favourite writers, your favourite books and films and your favourite foods?

It is easier for me to answer that all these forms of art have fundamentally influenced my sensibilities. I love to read biographies, diaries, journals and any type of literature that relates to real life. I don’t need to be taken into someone else’s imagination by reading fantasy or science-fiction, because my own imagination is very vast.  When it comes to cinematography, I must admit I’m a huge enthusiast! There are several movies that to this day remain in my heart. I also admire documentaries and independent films, and I follow film festivals ever year.  Food?  I’m a vegetarian. I love Thai, Indian, and Turkish cuisine. When I travel I always try to discover new flavors in the country that I’m visiting. I think that having the opportunity to live in such a multicultural city as Toronto has made me very open to a variety of cultures which I love discovering.

18.  What are your favourite things to do and see in Warsaw?

Warsaw has an undefined energy that stimulates your quest through the city.  I love to stroll around the city with my camera, stealthily watching people around me. I also have my favorite coffee-houses where I often contemplate these moments.

Justyna Dulny-Olszowy was born in Poland in 1973.  After immigrating to Canada she completed her education at the Ontario College of Art and Design, Ryerson University and at the International Academy of Design and Merchandising in Interior Design.  Upon completion of her studies she continued painting full-time.  Her work is exhibited internationally and can be found at Saatchi Online as well as on her own personal website JDO.


  1. WOW.. Justyna is a very talented artist. I was in love with her 3rd art picture.
    Ps. I am so sorry if I haven't been able to read your blog lately.. I was on holiday.. but I am back now!
    Lee x

  2. she is very talented and depthful artist... keep it up