Large Format Painting

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Interview with Maggie PIU (Małgorzata Bieniek), about her unusual paintings depicting beautiful and colorful women. Her works are displayed in her own art gallery in Cracow, which was awarded the title of The Best & More. Maggie Piu is a Charismatic Woman who combines the role of an artist with the duties of a wife, a mother of three children and who also supports the needy by donating her works to charity auctions.

The Best & More title was awarded to the Maggie PIU Gallery, so I wanted to ask about the gallery first. How long has it existed, in what conditions was it created and why here – that is, at the Square of the Ghetto Heroes?
Thank you very much for the recognition and granting such a noble award. I have to say that my paintings look much better live, in large formats, than on the Internet, which I enjoy using anyway. Direct contact between a work and its viewer as well as artist – viewer contact has its unique taste. I have been considering opening an author’s gallery for a very long time. Recently I came across my first blog post from 2010, in which I wrote that although I had always dreamt of having my own gallery, I started with a blog and that’s how it went… In the meantime, I attempted to start a gallery in cooperation with other brands, but now I do have my own author’s gallery. We run it together with my husband. It is a place where everyone interested in my work can always freely come or arrive, see, touch, compare, talk, and simply commune in a friendly and relaxed way. The location, in turn, is the result of several factors: I like Cracow’s Old Podgórze district and its climate very much, besides the Old Town and Kazimierz it is currently the third district of Cracow most often visited by tourists, a place where life goes a little bit slower, where large cultural projects are developed and which is modernizing while maintaining its local climate. It is also important that you can easily reach the gallery by car and park your car nearby, get to it by streetcar or take a walk from Kazimierz.

„Maggie Piu Gallery”, Kraków, pl. Bohaterów Getta

What works can art lovers find here?
As I mentioned, it is an author’s gallery, where you can always see several dozen of my works from different series and in different techniques. The selection of the presented paintings is also constantly changing, because I have painted several hundred of them and I keep on doing so (laughter). But in the gallery we also present posters, iconography, products inspired by my paintings, which are more useful, decorative, serving as gifts, all in line with my favourite idea that art should not remain closed in itself, but rather come out and reach people.
For 2020 I have planned a series of temporary exhibitions under the general title „Master and Margaret”, in which I planned to present to the public the works of a selected artist presenting a clear, personal style and juxtapose them with my work. These plans, however, have to wait for the realization of a more social friendly time.

So far I would like to invite everyone interested in my work, in general Maggie Piu’s tyle in various forms.
Your path to painting led you along different routes. You were an architect first. At what point did you focus on creating paintings?
I drew as a little girl, actually since I can remember and it has always been my passion, I realized it quite early on. I graduated in architecture at the Cracow University of Technology, and all the time drawing more than painting, that’s the technique I preferred at that time. I am an architect not only by education, but also by practice, but this demanding and absorbing profession did not allow me to create art, so I decided to give up the profession of interior designer, and to take care of what I love, namely painting. It was a risky choice in life, but very important for me and my inner harmony, also very conscious.

Do you think that your genes have also influenced this?
I’m not a specialist in genetic conditions, but colloquially speaking, the blood of the artists flows in my veins: my father is a sculptor; although a musician herself, my mother is also from a family active and successful in painting. The atmosphere in the family home in Rytro was really artistic, the times were difficult, but since childhood art has surrounded me. However, I really appreciate the fact that neither my parents nor my late brother-painter influenced in any way my creative activities, they discreetly supported but did not interfere, and I thank them very much for that.

Do you paint only women? How would you describe your painting style? What techniques, paints, canvases, other materials do you use?
Yes, women have always been, are and will probably be a constant theme of my drawing first and now painting. Depending on the period in my life, first princesses, then female warriors, now their various incarnations, the set is considerable. Sometimes, however, I ask myself if women are the subject or if women are just the element that fits into what you are asking about, that is style. It is my personal style, I am faithful to it, I feel like its author, it flows from my heart and mind, I can call it „magiepiuism”. I don’t like comparisons to Art Nouveau, although there are some parallels, but I especially appreciate the works of old masters who created in different times. It is the times that determine the art…

How did it happen that you started to inspire interior and clothing designers? You often appear not only at exhibitions but also at fashion shows and conferences.
As we have already mentioned, I am an architect myself and I worked for a long time in this industry, precisely in interiors. There is a growing awareness among architects and clients that a designer must also plan paintings for an interior so that everything is coherent. And my paintings, especially the large ones, work very well for this purpose. As for fashion, when I graduated from high school I was thinking about design, especially the shoes of my design were very original. However, the city with the only school teaching in that field at that time was Lodz,so I gave up this idea as my beloved Krakow won. But I feel strongly attached to fashion, my paintings often refer to it and I have to admit that I feel like a pioneer of exhibitions at fashion fairs. I have been doing it as the only one at many fairs for years, including the pioneering „Fashion Week Poland”, which is no longer there, in Łódź.

Where else can one find your paintings? Who orders them most often? How long does it take to wait for them to be created?
Currently the main place where you can see my paintings is Krakow and our gallery. I organize temporary exhibitions or participate in exhibitions and other ventures virtually all over Poland, I do it with great pleasure and have already visited many cities and towns. Even this year in September I was invited with exhibitions simultaneously to three very different places: The Magistrate of the Krakow City Hall, for the opening of the extremely interesting Tichauer Art Gallery in Tychy and the climatic Cafe-Artistic in Solec-Zdroj, before the pandemic I visited London and Katowice. I believe that the sense of art is to share it, so I am happy to participate in various projects related to its presentation.
Answering the second and third part of the question, I would say that my paintings are probably mainly ordered and purchased by those people who find some beauty in them and simply like them. My style is very decorative, so the paintings almost always become part of the space where the buyers live every day or at least from time to time and inevitably make this space more beautiful. My paintings must probably harmonize with their soul and sensitivity, perhaps that is why they choose them, the world of my imagination suits them, for which I am very thankful and grateful.

Maggie Piu’s vernissage during The best & More conference. From left: Paweł Janas, Beata Sekuła i Natalia Ciekańska

What professional and life achievements are you most proud of?
I am most proud of charity auctions, every year I add amounts that go to good causes, the rest of my life is sinusoidal ups and downs.
In life like any mother I am proud of our family, it is not easy to reconcile professional and family life, and certainly the life of an artist with that of a housewife.

How does your work look like in COVID times?
My painting work hasn’t really changed, I still spend most of my time in the studio. So, unlike for most people, my regular day looks like it did before. What has changed is the inability to organize exhibitions, meetings with people in a larger group. For 2020 I planned more activities related to the presentation and promotion of my painting abroad, in Poland these activities were also reduced to a minimum. The gallery, in turn, is visited by far fewer people than usual during COVID. Tourists and guests from abroad, and even from Poland, who have willingly and numerously visited us before, have disappeared from Cracow.

The gallery and you, as Maggie Piu, have been awarded the The Best & More title also for your social activities. During the WHY Story conference you donated your work to support Fabianek’s surgery, but there were many more such activities…
I am very proud to participate in charitable activities. This gives additional meaning to my work. Anyway, I participate only in charity auctions, so anyone who prefers this way of obtaining paintings and plans to have one of mine is invited to take part in auctions with the charity purpose specifically. I’m pleased to contribute my donation, I’m also happy that there are generous and good people who spend money to help those in need by buying art.

How do you recharge your batteries in your free time and what plans are there for you?
There is a problem with charging the battery, in fact I don’t have time to do it in some special ritualistic way every day. I combine work with passion, both of these parts of my life are filled with painting and this is a big advantage, but I also share time with home and family duties. I am a mother of three school-age children, everyday life absorbs a lot of time and energy. I have plans to travel to Japan and if such a few weeks’ trip could come to fruition, I would be very happy and I suppose that then the batteries would be 100% charged. n

Thank you very much for inviting me and I would like to greet all the readers.

Beata Sekuła