Reflection: Dana’s art

by Dr Colin Shingleton, Mentone, November 2007

Danuta Michalska’s passion extends her life into her art and transforms her art into an autobiography. Art is the refuge into which she retreats to find solace and to replenish herself. It is in making work that she settles the challenges to her sensibility and puts on the welcoming face she presents to the world.

Earlier this year Dana made approximately thirty large paintings many of which are represented in this catalogue. The work followed a serious illness and the distressing loss of her adult son in 2002. At first, Chris’ death halted his mother’s creativity. She put her memoirs aside, laid down her brushes, and spent her time reflecting, gradually turning grief into understanding and re-evaluation.

Encouraged by painter Felix Tuszynski her partner of 22 years and supported by her youngest son Jacob and his family, she began to work again in February 2007. In a creative flourish, she covered canvas after canvas in abstracted colored patches of freely associated, beautifully balanced blues, violets, reds and greens. Designing as she worked, the abstracted surfaces came to life with deliciously thick paint and infinitely transparent sheens often tied together with continuos dribbles and splashes of color.

Works like Deep, Poppies for Konrad and Margararet’s Blue Eyes count as the stylistic and aesthetic epitome of Michalska’s oeuvres so far. Commensurate with the significance of the events that swept her up, they present an aesthetic that re-thinks her understanding of truth and reality. This new body of work interrogates her sadness and her joy. They are sophisticated statements, displaying her universe in one urgently painted suite of paintings.

Michalska’s art education in Warsaw was thorough in a way long forgotten just as her career extended into every crevice open to skilled artisans in Poland. Accomplished in drawing, painting and printmaking she mastered the styles of her youth. Like a poet, she refined and polished her vocabulary and handwriting .

As her career progressed, her skills became the expressive vehicle of a gentle, intuitive personality. Interests in decoration and composition take her work along a number of paths toward abstraction. Poster design teaches her to flatten the picture plane and Polish folk art encourages her decorative flair. Developing the regional style of Wycinanki or cut paper design, Fairy Dance and Fairy Craft are intricate flights into mythology and natural fantasy. Other works like Gypsy and Theatre find untamed expressionist resolution, whereas Adam and Eve controls its energy to produce a disarming interpretation of Jugendstil.

Michalska’s portraiture provides an overview of her inventiveness, yet the latest work transcends earlier explorations of style and subject matter. Scattered Pearls presents her personal world aesthetically and points toward the continuing adventure of her art in the times to come.

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