Even in the deepest depths of Winter its always Summer inside painter Dominika Majowicz’s Glasgow studio. Writer and film director Eleanor Yule talks to the artist about her work. Still in her twenties, and garnering a reputation as an innovative and respected portrait artist, Dominika (or Mika to her pals) explains how she arrived in Scotland, “I love Glasgow, it’s a city that gives you space. It seems so open to people”, she explains as she runs her hands through her long fair hair, her sharp blue eyes sparkling with enthusiasm. Polish by birth Dominika moved to Scotland seven years ago to study art: “After my art foundation in Oxford I applied for many art schools in the UK and got offers for all of them. I was told that Glasgow school of Art was the best, so here I am. I don’t see any other place to be now. Maybe I should now be called Mac -Majowicz !”
Mika grew up in Nisko, in South East Poland, where her desire to draw prolifically started at an early age:
“I remember picking up my first crayons and I started to draw all over everything, over the desk, over the furniture, and a white wall. It was more attractive to me than a small piece of paper…my parents told me off a few times then, after a while, they stopped fighting against it and just let me do it and decided to re paint the house every few months! I always had that need for drawing. Always.”
Scale has continued to play a vital role in Mika’s artwork. Her three large scale self-portraits (130cm x 130cm), produced for her GSA degree show, sold immediately, “people responded positively to the thick paint and strong colours, which I then went on to develope and experimented with further”.
Like the London born artist Benjamin Cohen, who’s work she admires, Mika trawls the Internet, books, magazines, film stills and photographs, looking for inspiration in human faces. Pointillist Georges Seurat and Jenny Saville, who like Mika studied at the Glasgow School of art, also influence her work particularly in their experimental use of form and colour.
Like the French Favues, dubbed ‘the wild beasts of colour’, Mika’s palette explodes with vivid hues, Mediterranean Blue, primary yellow and Cadium Deep Red are her staples, but surprisingly her favourite colour is grey.
“It is a colour that works with everything. It’s a colour you can add to any colour and it will always work..”
Primarily a portrait painter, Mika concedes that capturing a person’s essence is one of the hardest things for an artist to do successfully. “I look for the features to admire in a face”, she explains, “everyone’s got something about them to admire, it’s just a matter of emphasising and showing it to people’.
‘Malachite’, ‘Crystal’ and ‘Emerald’ are some the titles of her more experimental portrait work, depicting strong female characters of her own creation. “I look at the face and then look at the mineral, if there is mostly green, I chose the mineral which one works with her, based on my own intuition.”
These fictional female beauties, are empowered by their direct unwavering gaze towards the viewer, Mika has chosen this technique to deliberately bring her subjects to life. She explains, “I am looking for strength. I have noticed about myself as a person I have a very fragile look, am quite tiny, quite petite, so what’s in my paintings is bigger, stronger, more confident”.
Mika’s commissioned work ranges from portraits of clients to capturing an eclectic range of celebrities. “It started with Marilyn Munroe, she was one of my first portraits with the stronger colours, everybody liked it. She has red but the blue and yellow are quite soft and gentle. I am painting women who are trying to be strong in a way.”
But it’s not just women, Mika’s other subjects include Rod Stuart, David Bowie, Ewan Macgregor and the infamous Govan philosopher and scoundrel Rab. C Nesbit.
‘Coming from Poland I never knew about Rab.C.Nesbitt. I fell in love with him, I am not kidding! I see him as a positive person in a negative world. He’s drunk, unemployed but his personal conclusions about life cheer people up. You could be at the bottom but there’s still happiness there’.
Her collectors, like her work, are an eclectic range of people, many of whom have struggled with life changes, and all of whom feel that Mika’s work enriches both their home and their outlook on life. “It’s nice to put things on the wall that are alive and friendly and help you to forget about the bad things life can throw at you”. Mika concludes.
The proof is in the pudding. Many of those who have commissioned portraits from Mika come back for more.
“When I sell a painting I usually write on the back that I hope you will enjoy this for many years to come and I it will brighten up your every day. Just like flowers, I want my paintings to put a smile on their face, make them happy in a way.”