Solidarity: The Struggle for Freedom, and Overthrow of Communism | 1980 - 1989

Artist Joanna Ciechanowska

Thursday 20 October 2022

(b. Warsaw)

Joanna Ciechanowska MA Academy of Fine Arts ASP Warsaw 1976. She travelled to London in 1977, which was a prelude to the life of migration.

Living and working in Tehran in 1978 she was caught up in the Iranian revolution and become a British citizen overnight. In 1981 she lived in Lesotho, where she learned of the imposition of the martial law in Poland. In 1982 she settled in London and begin her work as a graphic designer and illustrator.Her design and illustrations for the launch of IBM first PC computer Application System campaign were used for posters and brochures world wide, selected for D&AD (Design and Art Direction) Awards and exhibited worldwide. She used an image of a window, (before Microsoft Windows), throughout the whole campaign.

‘I used a window imagine as for me, at the time, this was a symbol of freedom, an escape, hope and new life, but of course, as a new system for the first ever computer, it worked very well in its own right.’

She worked for CBS Records where her cover for Bonnie Tyler won the selection for the exhibition of D&AD Awards European Illustration in Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York in 1986.

Her clients included London Transport Advertising, Barclays Bank, Oxford University Press, Time Out, Rexel, CBS Records, amongst other publications.

Throughout her career and spells of living abroad, (Hong Kong 1990 – 1997), she continued her fine work; paintings, pastels and drawings. Her pastel painting ‘Open for Business’ was selected for Whitechapel Gallery in the exhibition curated by Nicholas Serota in 1987.

In 2012 her original print ‘E-Migration. Will I make it?’ which depicts a herd of ‘digital’ running zebras with one green zebra, was selected for Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, where the whole Edition 50, plus ‘artist proofs’ was sold out in two days. Subsequently, on the advise of RA, the second Edition of 50 was printed with one zebra in red. It is in the collection of Robert Hiscox, Prof. Tim Spector, Amanda Goud, Catriona Wilson, and over 80 collectors all over the world.

‘I tried to illustrate the constant flow, crossing of new frontiers, continents, oceans, boundaries of mind. Pushing for freedom, hopes for the future, new life. Sweeping prejudice, reluctance to conform, fighting own kind and reluctance to give up. Never-ending journey to dream and hope. (Also, this was my private joke to my musician son who can’t see colours, so can’t see my red zebra, but claims he can hear them, and a tribute to my favourite composer Philip Glass.)’

London was the inspiration for the ‘Tales of the Underground’ series of mobile phone drawings and short stories/comments attached to the faces she drew while travelling on tube trains. The colours are linked to the colours of London tube lines.

It expanded to the small drawings of some famous Polish faces, exhibited in Jan Woroniecki’s  Restaurant  in the Polish Hearth Club ‘Ognisko’ in Kensington, London.

Ben Uri Gallery and Museum selected one of those digital drawings for ‘Art Out of the Bloodlands – A Century of Polish Art in Britain’ in 2017.

Summerhall Gallery in Edinburgh selected her painting ‘Kitchen God’ for the exhibition ‘Quality of Everyday Life’ and recorded an artist’ talk with her.

She is a Director of POSK Gallery (volunteer position), a member of APA and FPS.

Selected exhibitions :

ActOne Cinema – ‘Tales of the Underground’. 2022

POSK Gallery – ‘Tales of the Underground’. 2022

ING Discerning Eye, Mall Galleries, London 2021

Bohema Gallery, Warsaw – Constant Travellers, solo show 2018

Ben Uri Gallery and Museum, 2017

Willesden Gallery – Broken Rainbow – solo show, 2017

Somerset Gallery – London, 2014

Summerhall Gallery – Edinburgh, 2013

Royal Academy of Art – 2012

Biennale of Paintings, Poland – 2011

Test Gallery, Warsaw – 1999

Art Show – Hong Kong 1995

Image File, London – 1987

Whitechapel Gallery – 1987

Mall Galleries, Graphics UK – London 1985

Cooper Hewitt Museum, New York, USA 1985

Hamilton Gallery – ‘B&H Time’, London 1984

Graphics UK – 1984, 1985.

European Illustration – London, Amsterdam, Helsinki 1984

Full blog post coming soon