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  • Iwona ChmielewskaIllustrator–Poland

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Iwona Chmielewska was born in 1960 in Pabianice, Poland. She studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts of the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun and graduated from the Printmaking Department in 1984. She lives and works in Torun—the city of Nicolaus Copernicus, the protagonist of one of her books, Cztery strony czasu (Four Directions of Time).

Chmielewska stepped onto the path of book illustration at the beginning of the 1990s. At the time, she was dealing with a more "classical" approach to book graphic design while preparing illustrations to world-known youth literature—two editions of A Little Princess and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett; Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery; and collections of verses by famous Polish poets M. Pawlikowska Jasnorzewska, Halina Potwiatowska, J. Czechowicz, K. Iflakowiczowna, and K. I. Galczynski—for the Polish publishing house, Algo from Torun. In these works, her illustrations provide visual counterpoints to the long prose texts of novels and the rich poetry of the verse collections.

Chmielewska weaves her own stories, even if they are based on someone else's texts, using delicate contours and subtle colors. Her original way of perceiving a book as a unibody of images and text, a perfect container for sequences of pictures and sets of verses, continues to surprise readers with every new work coming out.

Chmielewska frequently leaves a lot of empty space in her illustrations. Her favorite color seems to be blue, lending a spiritual and melancholic character to many of the books she has been engaged in. She uses subtle patterns, sometimes almost pale, barely visible, and thus directing our attention to tiny details that may become the visual keys to a whole story. It could be a letter knife and a slit in a sheet of paper, as in Czarownica (Witch), a red berry in a bird's beak from the book Girl's Kingdom, or a brown cotton thread from 0 tych, ktorzy sic rozwijali (About Those Who Unwound).

Chmielewska is inspired by North European painting, drawing and graphic art from the turn of the Middle Ages, and also nineteenth-century print-making and Biedermeier aesthetics.

Iwona Chmielewska's books are mainly about people and relations between them. The emotions, feelings, and experiences are so ordinary and so unique, just like our existence is always one of a kind as it is ours. Therefore, they are both universal and individual as we are the ones to interpret these simple yet eternal stories introduced to us by Chmielewska in her books. With these tales, she orders the surrounding world. Like letters, which are arranged in an alphabet, our lives are arranged within the web of cardinal directions, time charts, interpersonal relations, cultural orders, names, cases, and exceptions. Sometimes it is enough to stop and think over the situations which happen to us. Chmielewska's books offer such an interval in our everyday lives. [End Page 59]



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