Central and Eastern Europe

“The Intimate Structures” when a painting can`t exist without a sculpture

By Agata Szostkowska

Born in Poland, worldwide recognized, she worked for the biggest European companies. Her designs are well known. Not only those are her hallmarks. Graduated from The Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw she changed her career and created something unusual called the Intimate Structures, her own style in painting and craving sculptures. She creates the duets that co-exist. Do you want to learn more? Let me take you on virtual trip to Warsaw, my home city, the capital of Poland. The city that has a rich history, modern look and amazing artists.


We met on a summer day in the art gallery at the heart of Warsaw. Walking distance from the former Warsaw ghetto. When I came inside leaving the bustling city behind myself I got to the Station of art. Blend of everyday life and peaceful art. The day was sunny and sunlight was streaming through a window and dancing on the artworks. The exhibition consisted of paintings and sculptures. It would be nothing extraordinary if they wouldn`t been called “The Intimate Structures”. These structures are the duets of a painting and a sculpture. It is as if one piece of art wasn`t complete without another. They simply co-exist with each other. That innovative idea was brought to life by Joanna Roszkowska, the Polish artist, whose works are recognized worldwide. She was awarded at Global Design Awards 2001 in NYC for the project titled “Egri Bikaver”. Her works are shown at the new art gallery in The Netherlands.

Agata: Joanna, your pieces of art are the duets. Let`s take one of them. That duet is titled “All good things come to an end “. What did you mean while creating it?

Joanna: This duet has been made specially on this occasion. What I meant was that everything comes to an end. It refers directly to our life. First we are young and beautiful. We are thriving, blooming. No matter if it is a woman or a man, we are all the same. We are very active. The life is ahead. It`s exactly what this sculpture shows – fullness of the existence. This is not just an object, a piece of hard stuff. On the contrary it`s as dynamic as our living. You can see my concept for the sculptures. They must be flowing, look like they are active, very much alive. And us? We get to our twilight years. Look at the back of the sculpture. The sculptures` advantage over painting is that the former are three dimensional, what you can`t say about the latter.


The point is you can look at them from every angle and countless times. If you watch them a few times, each time you will notice something different. The back of this sculpture shows emptiness. The feeling that most people have when a relative passed away.

I also covered my sculptures with rust to show another structure. I make pottery transferred into steel. The rust is to emphasize  aging, a time lapse. When people make something which isn`t maintained by them properly, their work eventually decays. It`s a natural process. The same is with us, our being. The life ends one day and we turn into ashes.

That`s why I call them “„All good things come to an end”. The painting which is a part of this duet is white, gray and orange. The latter relates to the rust. As I said this is the process. First there is energy and dynamic growth in our life but it eventually ends.

The exhibition is titled “The Intimate Structure” and it doesn`t relate only to intimacy and sensuality but also reveals my inner world. My works is to show my true self.  I add my sensuality and intimacy to the structures and they pass them to the paintings. 

Agata: Your duets of art remind me of The Night Watch by Rembrandt in Rembrandtplein, Amsterdam. The famous painting is original and the sculptures are its three-dimensional copy. Hence you can study the masterpiece from every angle, touch it and literally walk in to stay between the characters of the painting. You can say that it`s pretty much the same as your concept but you made this your philosophy.

Joanna: Yes, it`s a bit alike. I always do my best while creating the duets to be harmonious. Being together they make a collection. They seem to be the same but a sculpture makes my concept 3D. 

However indirectly Joanna`s sensual sculptures are provocative. Her endeavor is to draw attention to people`s attitudes. We are emancipated but paradoxically can`t get rid of shame. Most of us have a backward perspective on intimate life which is the aftermath of the cultural code. So how can we interpret “The Intimate Structures” then?

Joanna: “The Intimate Structures” are to mingle male and female elements. Every woman has a tiny male element in herself and so do men. They have a slight female element in themselves, too. “The Intimate Structures” are also sensual. I am to provoke people to stop for a while to look at the life in all aspects, to have a second thought.



Joanna: This duet consists of two pieces of work. The sculpture is titled “Uncontrolled”. The painting is called “What is on my mind?” and along with the respective sculpture represents my personality. I am lively and always ready to take an action. Dynamic personality is me. I love diversity in my art so I made this collection introducing the different colours, structures and using all kinds of techniques such as pastels, acrylic, coloured pencils and  sprays for painting to show diversity of tools to obtain as much energy as possible. I am the woman of action. Even if I spend my leisure time in the back yard, relaxing in a lounger, I always see what work needs to be done there so there is no chance to get a proper rest.   

Joanna: The sculpture “Uncontrolled” is created to show that we can`t control anything as neither can I myself control a sculpture during burning in the kiln. I can predict  that unforeseen effects can happen during the process as there are clay, paints and the temperature is extremely high. So I can`t control what effect will appear or how a sculpture will look like when the process is done. Therefore I still can`t control my art to the fullest neither do I with my own life.

I leave my works for viewers to interpret. They can see whatever they like. Let their imagination runs wild.


Joanna: Look at those lips. The inspiration for this sculpture was scream. Although its meaning is quite simple, the structure is rather complex. To some people it showed a mother-to-be, a little sad so it relates to motherhood. Inspired by Munch’s Scream. I express obsession, anxiety and fears that can come to the surface unhampered.


Look at that work. It`s called “Monster”. It represents our personalities. Once we are kind, nice, next we become a sort of monster because we get upset. Someone angered us beyond all control. We show our fangs because we defend ourselves. So it`s self defense then.

Agata: Everyone has a shark inside?

Joanna: Indeed. The source of first inspirations I had on the very beginning was the Nature. The corals, seas, sharks. Generally I am inspired by everything around me. Once I watched a film about the whales that were killed and skinned. It was such a blow to me, so my emotional side took me to make a few sculptures of skinned sharks. It was pretty scary.

Agata: I like this structure. What`s meaning hidden in the sculpture?


Joanna: The sculpture depicts what most women have in common. On the outside we seem to hide behind a shield, to wear a turtle shell which allows us to keep a safe distance from the others. But on the inside we are very fragile, affectionate and caring therefore we can be easily hurt. We are human after all. We can open our heart and mind to some people. We make them familiar with us, let them know us very well while the strangers mistake us for someone we are not. And it`s very natural.


Joanna: That sculpture is about trust and caring. I like to mingle clay and porcelain. Porcelain being blended with clay breaks in high temperature. It lacks a smooth surface, becomes brittle. It`s to show that sometimes I am tough, unbreakable and headstrong but occasionally my inner world falls apart. And these are my intimate zones, structures.

Agata: Your duets are very interesting but they are still novelty. You haven`t made it for long time, have you?

Joanna: The idea of making ceramic sculptures came to me unwittingly and took me by surprise. I studied the industrial design and graduated from The Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. My diploma work being titled “Egri Bikaver” was awarded at Global Design Awards 2001 in NYC.  I have continued my profession for over twenty years.

In my student years I was sent to San Francisco, U.S., as one of the best undergraduates to take a part in the ecology workshops. The students from all over the world participated in them. One of the attractions was the trip to Silicon Valley, justly called “a mindset, not a location”. Only there did we visit several design studios. And we decided to have one of our own. It was 1990s so if you ever heard of Poland`s contemporary history you will know that in my country nobody needed the applied arts at that time. The communist state just collapsed and everything was a bit crude. But we didn`t give up, on the contrary we pushed forward stubbornly and succeeded. We ran a big design studio. They didn`t need the applied arts but they needed so called replacement packaging. So we decided to do what was acceptable and made very creative packaging designs. Therefore we became well-known and worked for biggest companies located as in the country and abroad. One of our client was worldwide recognized Carlsberg, a Danish multinational  brewer. Even now when you go shopping to the Polish shops you can see our designs on almost every shelf. We were indeed very powerful.

At that time I also worked on the artistic side. I made paintings. The first contact with pottery I had when I drove my daughter to the arts class. She prepared to study at the Academy of Fine Arts. There was a vacancy at the ceramics group so I also enrolled and got involved in learning very quickly.

I fell in love with ceramics. I saw it was 3D what I liked the most. Even my students works seemed to be spacious. I took the class after working hours and I pretty much chilled out as clay used to be very relaxing to most users. And it was how it started. Six months later I realized it was what I wanted to do. I bought the two kilns, one big and another one a little smaller and now this is my main artistic activity.

I got inspired with different things, the Nature is only one of them. You can form the clay into whatever you like and you will always get what you wished.


When you see the duets made by Joanna Roszkowska you will figure out that they don`t fight to be in the limelight. On the contrary the public can`t take its eyes off them. The Intimate Structures are just a soul food.

Photos published with permission by Ms Joanna Roszkowska

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