I was incredibly shocked this weekend to find myself at an event in Edinburgh with Iwona Chmielewska, whose work I have featured on this blog many times.
I had booked a ticket knowing I was going to see a lecture on Polish children's illustration, but I had no idea that one of my hero's was going to be speaking.
Iwona spoke about her books, showing us how she uses the 'architecture' of the book and plays with images on the page, using the gutter and the way the pages fold and close and suggesting a transparency of the paper. Introducing us to new books and explaining imagery from books that I was already familiar with.
Iwona Chmielewska explained that she writes books not because they are commissioned but because she has to and that sometimes these books 'haunt her' and stay with her for a long time.
Her most recent creation more so than usual, as she had fought with herself as to whether or not she had the right to create it. "Until the Sky Does Cry" (Dopóki niebo nie płacze) consists of sixteen paintings by the artist using imagery from a collection of 2,700 glass negatives that were found in a townhouse in Lublin. These photographs show many of the Jewish inhabitants of Lubin before the second world war destroyed their lives and have been attributed to the photographer Abram Zylberberg.
"First I saw hundreds of portraits - miraculously found in Lublin, a treasure." The inhabitants of the Jewish quarter, for so many years concealed, gave us present glances from times when they did not feel the fate that awaited them. Still safe, surrounded by close, full of noble focus people, they asked to be revived and add their colors ... Iwona Chmielewska
The images were created using elements of these photographs form a story about the Jewish inhabitants of Lublin (whose lives were to be so brutally broken by the war) gently re-imagined without that horror, but also in the shadow of it. Iwona has reached through time and through her drawings tried to rewrite the lives of these people eradicating the horror and re-imagining lives of gentle beauty.
In the book Iwona's drawing are accompanied by selected poems for children by Józef Czechowicz (1903-1939).
Below is one of the images used for the book and its new imagining by Iwona.