By Yolanda de Kock
Oliewenhuis Art Museum
Oliewenhuis Art Museum is giving honour to the life and work of an incredible artist, Karin Jaroszynska (1934-2014). Oliewenhuis holds 20 artworks of Jaroszynska in its Permanent Collection. Most of the works, including the Helsinki- series, were part of a generous donation by the art collector and philanthropist Fernand F. Haenggi to Oliewenhuis in 2006; the remainder were purchased by Oliewenhuis. Her work – surrealist, playful and somewhat mysterious – shows Jaroszynska’s extraordinary talent and artistic integrity.
The clown, the horse and the hound was an exhibition, specifically curated, to highlight interesting elements in Jaroszynska’s work. The Helsinki-series, mostly a combination of coloured lithographs and dry point etchings, contains mysterious figures and animals in desolated landscapes or settings. This series was conceptualised in 1974 in collaboration with her husband, Tadeusz. These two artists’ work show striking similarity of surrealist imagery and styles. It could be said that from 1973 Karin’s distinctive style had become evident and this was to develop and progress over the next few years.
Karin Jaroszynska was born and raised in Finland. She married fellow artist Tadeusz Jaroszynski in 1954 and then moved to South Africa in 1957. This female surrealist’s work was exhibited in a number of local and international exhibitions such as in Helsinki, Cape Town and Johannesburg. She was represented by Gallery 21 at the ART fair Basel and in London in 1974. Her excellent draughtsmanship is noteworthy and her compositions predominantly consist of figurative subject matter.
Jaroszynska was a printmaker by trade, with a specific preference for etching and the intricate process of lithography. Her earlier work, however, did consist of ink and wash as well as tempera paintings. The surrealist undertone in her concept and subject matter persists throughout her oeuvre.
The 20th centenary surrealism movement is a genre that specifically refers to art (often executed in an extremely realistic manner) that involves themes of a dream world or the subconscious mind. International artists such as Salvador Dali, René Magritte and Max Ernst, to name a few, were seen as the pioneers in surrealist art. South African surrealist artists such as Alexis Preller, Walter Battiss and Helen Sebidi have worked in similar surrealistic styles but their subject matter also reflect the sensitive history of South Africa during the 1970’s that includes apartheid, identity and social change. Walter Battiss, for example, created the famous Fook Island as a conceptual fantasy during the 1970’s. Roger van Wyk stated that:
“Fook Island tuned to a local environment that was accessible and playful, but also profound in challenging ideas of South African nationalism. Battiss’s imaginary island – created through the production of heraldry, titles, postage stamps, and rituals – offered an escape from the South African condition and identity”.
Jaroszynska dealt with surrealism in her own distinctive way; it is perhaps due to her upbringing in Finland that her work reveals another viewpoint towards the genre.
Her work triggers imagination and curiosity while being observed. Throughout the Helsinki– series a specific emphasis was given to similar looking male figures dressed or decorated in clown-like attire. These whimsical characters are all dressed in enlarged ruffled clown collars that give them a somewhat eccentric appearance.