In the downstairs dining room at ZAVO Restaurant & Lounge, two brightly colored paintings on the wall greet you. A bold, curved ribbon of black at the bottom of each canvas gives way to a mint-colored river. An ocean of fine blue and white lines seems to wash over you. The painting invites you to float on its waves with Mount Fuji in the distance. A golden sun shimmers and bronzes the sky the colors of a sunset. This diptych, called “Big Boy Fuji,” is the work of Natalia Bieganska, the artist whose work is currently on display at Zavo during the month of March Bieganska is a Berlin-based artist who travels frequently enough to New York City to call it one of her homes. Yet of the 15 countries she’s lived in, it’s Japan that truly has her heart. In fact, Japan was the inspiration behind the painting described above, as well as several other paintings in this collection. “Big Boy Fuji” is an homage to one of her favorite Japanese artists, Hokusai, who is well-known for his painting “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” and his series “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji.”
Each piece in Bieganska’s collection begins with one design in mind, but the end result could be quite different — even better — than what she initially envisioned. She is open to the unpredictable element of her work, because even though it is a slow process, it is still rewarding. She sums it up this way: “The design is always the energetic part, but when I start to sketch on the canvas and paint, that’s when it becomes meditative.”
This energetic and meditative quality of her work is palpable, and Bieganska cites her creative process as the reason. For this series, she drapes various surfaces in her apartment with striped fabric, or ties it into a knot and throws it into the air to watch its movement and see how it lands. She then takes pictures of the fabric from different angles. Next, she creates a collage using the photos that she took. Finally, she sketches it all on a canvas. This is usually the point at which the work takes on a life of its own. The knots, twists and wrinkles of fabric on her living room floor make their way onto the canvas as a form of meditative painting. Each delicate line is painted freehand, without the assistance of tape, giving the illusion of movement to each piece.Speaking to another inspiration behind this collection, Bieganska says she is particularly drawn to patterns. She says, “I’m fascinated that the simplest of all patterns, with a little movement, can change everything. In one painting, the pattern can be a mountain, but in another it’s the ocean. It can be anything where your imagination takes you.
”The color choices in each piece stir the imagination — choices that Bieganska says are intuitive decisions she makes along the way. She also credits the Polish artist Wladyslaw Strzeminski as an inspiration behind her technique in layering transparent colors to make them bolder. The pieces “Ocean Grass” and “Golden Plot” are particularly striking for their bold reds and oranges against green and blue. Black, a color that Bieganska considers to be grounding, is often a slice of shadow among blue, green, white, light orange and gray, as seen in the diptych “Mountain Valley Squeeze and Twist.”While walking through the restaurant to see each piece, the canvases seem to come alive. Knots morph into mountains, twists become valleys slicing through swaths of color, and wrinkles become undulating waves. As a viewer, you feel as energetic and meditative as the artist did while creating the artwork.
We welcome you to come visit and dine with us at Zavo and experience it for yourself.Natalia Bieganska’s work will be on view at ZAVO Restaurant & Lounge at 1011 Third Avenue through April 1.