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Mariola Smarzak is emerging as one of Australia's finest contemporary artists. Born in Poland in 1956 and emigrating to Australia in 1980, Smarzak has been painting seriously for the past twenty years. She completed her MFA at UNSW's College of Fine Arts in 1997, exploring the meaning of the land through her own personal narrative. Smarzak has regularly been selected for a number of significant prizes in Australia, including the Jenny Brit Award, Fisher's Ghost Art Award, The Salon Des Refuses, SH Ervin Gallery, Portia Geach Memorial Award. Her exhibiting career has taken her to New York and Los Angeles, as well as Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra.

Her work is held in numerous corporate and private collections throughout Australia. Figurative and abstract art, being diametric stylistic traditions, do not always sit comfortably when displayed together. Yet, the artist Mariola Smarzak has never been defined or limited by stylistic boundaries. Known for the past fifteen years primarily as an abstract landscape painter, over the last three years she has been drawn to figuration and portraiture. In her current exhibition, the artist marries these two styles, creating impressionistic portraits alongside abstract paintings on canvas. Her lyrical abstractions combine amorphous shapes and floating planes of colour with expressive brushstrokes that can literally drip off the canvas. Her colour spectrum however is soft and muted, ranging from earthy ochres to pale pastels.

The restful, meditative dimension of these compositions extends to her figures. Usually seated or crouching with lithe limbs folded, these solitary young women gaze out of the picture frame in a kind of wistful reverie. The girls each seem to be lost in their own private world. Smarzak views these female figures as representing a type of youthful innocence and optimism. On the cusp of womanhood and seemingly contemplating their future, they are at a point in life where all roads are open to them and life is redolent with possibility. The artist's subjects are often women that she knows well who have sat for these portraits; others are unknown faces unearthed from a variety of sources. Each evokes a dreamy, somewhat romantic quality.

Smarzak's traditional figurative style draws consciously on her Polish background, with its historical traditions in classical figurative art. She also confesses to a personal, almost maternal connection with her subjects, commenting that each of them "could be one of my daughters." Most of these works are paired with a companion piece, an abstract work that Smarzak views as an extension of her figurative canvases. They are strongly connected through their misty palette, loose brushstrokes and layers of thin washes of colour. As a body of work, the paintings evoke a mood of serenity, calm and gentle contemplation. Perhaps, in these chaotic, uncertain times, such quietude is what we all need.

To download and view a PDF of Mariola Smarzak's exhibition invitation click here.

To download and view a PDF of Mariola Smarzak's biography click here.
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