Cities of Fish

prof. Joanna Stasiak
(Collegium of Art Education, The Maria Grzegorzewska University, Warsaw)

Expanses of silk respond to the slightest movement of air, waving and rippling like the surface of a lake. A restless tremor runs through an inner landscape.

These kimono-paintings spread their arms to reveal looming mountains, houses and distant horizons above which enormous fish soar, and where sky and water mimic and reflect each other.

Joanna has been working with silk for the past ten years. She respects its watery and lunar nature but doesn’t let herself be carried away by its flow.

She channels the pigments spilling across the silk into compact forms, touching up their tones as the paint dries and sets. Later paintings are more complex in terms of composition and symbolism: proof that she has become a mature practitioner of this difficult and rarely used technique. Last year she travelled to Japan to learn new skills at the source, and to meet other artists working in the same technique.

The landscapes she saw there: far-off islands emerging from the mist, and city lights seen as if through an aquarium wall, earned a lasting place in her imagination.

And there were fish, too.

On Children’s Day in May, cloth and paper streamers called Koinobori and shaped like the koi fish are flown all over Japan, wishing children fortitude and determination to overcome obstacles.

Legend has it that koi fish can swim up a waterfall, struggling against gravity and the rushing water, going against the tide and logic of life, climbing ever higher until their efforts are rewarded and they turn into dragons, and fly away.

I remember Joanna’s early paintings of two Lenten fish bearing the promise of food for a hungry soul.

A zodiacal Pisces herself, it is no wonder that Joanna has chosen the fish as her own emblem, a voyager of her inner spiritual sea.

Katarzyna Stamm

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