Iwona Abrahams: Talking about the female body

The Polish artist was invited by Carola D’Amrosio and Lara Pitteloud, ‘The Female Nude: Ways of Seeing’ exhibition’s curators to give a talk on her series of prints ‘Think Through Your Body’, which she started working on two years after giving birth.

In an interview talking about her work she stated that: "I want to be not only the author but the subject and object, therefore the process of photographing myself plays an important part in it. I am talking about myself but at the same time I'm completely in charge and that's a very important thing which comes with all these inhibitions. I'm normally quite shy..."

The eloquence and boldness of Iwona's unique printmaking technique mesmerise the viewer with its harmonious and daring mixture of ink and solvents catapulted onto the screen-print mesh to deliver a vivacious message of 'a borderline of life and death; giving birth, making love and dying' which is shown in her sequences of images Six feet under/rebirth and Thirty and One Nights, by using only legs.

One of the main events which encouraged her to use her body in art was giving birth, as she stated in the following: “There is nothing too important than being born. In the end, everything comes down to two events." The pregnancy awoke her senses and she became aware of every single transformation her body was undergoing. The extensive layering process demonstrates her body in various positions underneath coloured ink that is similar to the shape of cells. The colour plays a crucial role in the process, for it brings its own set of associations to her work: ''I like the layers of meaning that come with colour. Colour is such a powerful tool of language. Red would put people off. Would make them think of the menstrual cycle. To me, it was more about life, this dynamic aspect of the body.'' By deciding not to include her head in the pictures, it became a way to alienate herself from the representation of herself. The photographs of her body are significant for they convey a greater message for a global community, 'It's about this universal female body and this sort of living organism.' To Iwona, what was important and shaped her work was having a unique way of printing, finding her own style. While doing the research for her presentation at the Royal College of Art, Iwona shared that it was easy to talk about the abstract universal male body. The Greeks and the Romans set the foundations of male body's beauty which certainly had limitations on the female body, quoting Aristotle 'the male is by nature superior and the female inferior, the male ruler and the female subject’. This disproportionate and toxic masculinity with their perfectionism in body shape prompted Iwona to embark on her own research: 'I had this power that cannot be ignored to address this issue. It was the starting point [giving birth to her child] to tackle this thing. It wasn't easy. I couldn't avoid using the female body'.

Iwona works as a visual artist and researcher. She received her Masters from the Royal College of Art, Central Saint Martin's School of Art and Design and Krakow Academy of Fine Arts. She was awarded twice at the International Krakow Printmaking Triennial in 2003 and in 2006, and RCA's Augustus Martin Award in 1997. She has been a Senior Lecturer at University of Westminster since 2010 and an Associate Lecturer in Drawing Studio at the Royal College of Art since 2002.