Much of Olowska’s recent painting has paid homage to women artists, often overlooked, whose works have influenced or inspired her. Pauline Boty, the pioneering British pop artist, until recently more known as muse than painter, Zofia Styrenska, whose motifs were appropriated by the Polish state without acknowledgement or permission, and Alina Szapocznikow the avant-garde sculptor, who represented Poland in the Venice Biennale of 1962 have all appeared as subjects of Olowska’s recent exhibitions and return as echoes here. But their influence in this group of paintings softens into a reflection on the archetype of the female image, the idea of the muse in its most rudimentary form, and the portrait of a mother, remembered or imagined.
In their photographic quality, as well as in their fashion-plate composition, these new works refer back to Olowska’s own paintings based on appropriated images of knitwear or dress models, to the work of American photographers of the 1960s and 1970s such as Helen Levitt, William Eggleston and Leo Rubinfien, or to photographs taken from the magazine Ameryka, published in the 1970s by the American Embassies in Poland and the USSR, which has also been a recurring source. But in stark contrast to the static commercial and propagandistic images which those works embody, this new series of paintings has a striking transience and fragility, a sense of an observed or remembered moment, captured in time.