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The World & I, June 1997


June 1997

"When I start a painting, I can't tell you what it will be like in the end," says Chicago-born artist Roswita Szyszka. For years a commercial artist in her native city, she turned to fine art after she moved with her husband and two boys to the vicinity of Woodstock, New York, in 1986.

The most distinctive feature of Szyszka's art is a mirrorlike dualism in which a figure, usually with closed eyes, appears in the same pose twice in the same canvas, or a man and woman form two halves of a whole. Around and over them swirls a complex, prismlike webbing of shaded lines - "linear extensions," as the artist calls them, of forms in the background. These lines, she says, "make the figures one with the entire cosmos of the painting." The mingling of realistic and abstract elements is another kind of dualism present in Szyszka's work - one that reflects her love of both figurative and abstract art.

Psychologists could have a field day with Szyszka's imagery. Jungians might see the interplay between persona and ego (and sometimes the shadow), and the coming together of various kinds of opposites. Yet, although the artists calls her painting "therapy without a psychiatrist," and acknowledges that her work expresses different aspects of herself, her distinctive imagery had quite a practical origin. Bored to distraction in a class in which the model maintained the same pose in repeated sessions, Szyszka decided to see what would happen if she flipped her canvas upside down and painted an almost mirror image.

What happened was she found herself as an artist. Turning her canvas opened up a whole new world. She has discovered that background objects, no longer recognizable, become intriguing abstractions whose lines, when carried on through the painting, take on a life of their own. With layers of thin paint, she adds subtle gradations, creating an effect reminiscent of stained glass - a technique that imparts both depth and luminosity.

Creating one of these paintings is a highly intuitive process that puts Szyszka in tune with her inner reality and that of her models - and draws the viewer into his own interior world as well.



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