Interview with Justyna Frąckiewicz

Right from the start you said you felt like home in this hotel.

Justyna Frąckiewicz: Indeed. I’ve been here several times and I contributed to the establishment of this hotel; I do feel well here.  

Isn’t this what success is all about? When an artist feels satisfied looking at her work of art?

Justyna Frąckiewicz: It’s the first time in my artistic career that I can see my works rendered in large format, i.e. on the walls of individual rooms and other spaces at ibis Styles Warszawa City hotel.  This was possible largely thanks to the team of Ideamo, who were able to recreate my works on a large-format plan. Conceptually, the graphics fit in very well. It seems to me that this hotel is different from others as it captures the local atmosphere.  In a way, it continues the story unfolding in its surroundings. Its guests do not enter an empty space, but have the chance to feel the local spirit instead.

How did this cooperation begin? The design of the hotel was developed by three artistic parties, i.e. architect Ian Hamilton, Tremend studio and you – graphic artist and illustrator.

Justyna Frąckiewicz: Ian was responsible for the entire project and for the selection of a color range. I decorated the walls which were too white. Since pastel colors which he chose appealed to my senses, I applied them in my works. How did it all start? I first received an email from Orbis. Having read it, I thought: “wow”. I sat down and needed to think it over. I got anxious whether I would be able to make it – after all it was a big project. Now, looking at the final result, I am pleased with it.

Were you given a lot of artistic freedom?

Justyna Frąckiewicz: We definitely were. We received some framework guidelines, including the theme of Vistula and the idea that the hotel is open to local people; these two elements had to be included in the DNA of its interior design. Therefore, in my works I referred to a rowing school and the climate of life by the Vistula river, which has been so vibrant in the capital city recently. The hotel was in a way meant to continue the celebration of time by the river. I think this has worked out.

Vistula connects people.

Justyna Frąckiewicz: Each and every time I head for Powiśle (city district by the river), I will take a particular route, passing by a rowing school. In the summer, at 7 or 8 a.m. I will see people with canoes going to the river and starting their training. A gentleman sitting in a boat nearby will rush them, screaming “faster, faster” through a megaphone. Thus I concluded that a rowing school is a great local motive that should be presented on the murals at ibis Styles. In fact, my murals feature many figures because it’s the people that play a key role. Things will be things whereas life is about people and what they have inside of them; this is what I wanted to convey.

You make illustrations, photos, drawings. Your works are born in a creative mess, with you sipping cocoa at the desk. What other rituals do you have which always accompany you at work?

Justyna Frąckiewicz: Coffee and breakfast, these two are indispensable. Even though I work at home, I act as if I worked outdoors. Hence, I will take a shower, dress and prepare just as I would if I were to head for my office or studio. I can’t work in my pajamas. I will put on my hat, glasses and then sit at the desk. Another ritual is that after two or three hours of work I will need to clear my head and do some down-to-earth stuff like going to the post office or to a grocery store to buy some bread rolls. When I come back, I will return to my work. Although sometimes I work until 10 pm., during the day I will take frequent breaks to refresh my mind and to keep fatigue at bay.

Creative work is also about getting inspirations and feeding your imagination with exhibitions at galleries or with series and books.

Justyna Frąckiewicz: You could say that again. This is what I do during the Christmas break. After an intense period of work, the time has come to have some rest and seek inspirations. I’ve been actually watching Netflix every day recently.

And what did you watch?

Justyna Frąckiewicz: Black Mirror. Part of my creative work involves designing posters for films and series. I did one for Netflix too: for a film entitled Okja. There are some film productions which I find really stimulating. Once in a while I need to distance myself from creative work for a couple of days to try to reach for some fresh thoughts. Then I can get back and create something new and fresh.

Your works presented on the walls of a hotel will be a sort of endless exhibition of your creations, won’t they?

Justyna Frąckiewicz: Yes, there is something timeless to it. I won’t need to take down the frames and find some new locations for the works. They “hang” right here and I hope things will stay this way for as long as possible.

The whole concept of the hotel reflects the trend for going green. This trend is very much visible in arts as well. How does it show in your works?

Justyna Frąckiewicz: We live in the times of excess. There are too many photos, texts and films of hardly any value anywhere you go. That’s why it’s so rewarding to create something timeless. I try to minimize the number of things around me. I don’t go shopping to chain stores; instead, I sometimes visit second hand shops in order to buy something which already had an owner. I try to take pleasure in things that do not cost much and can be brought back to life thanks to me. Also, I don’t buy objects I don’t need. Or, talking about groceries, I never buy water in plastic bottles but in glass ones instead. I am happy to see my friends adopt dogs from animal shelters. These creatures are not pedigree dogs and need a home and a care giver so badly. I like to call it a method of small steps; it is through such steps that we can make a difference.

And if you had been asked to create works for a hospital designed in a similar fashion, would you have come up with the same murals?

Justyna Frąckiewicz: I don’t think so as these works of art are personalized. I would first need to spend some time in a given space and try to sense who the recipients of my works would be. It is my job after all to create a good place to live, no matter what type of space we are talking about.

In that case what message did you want to convey to the guests of this hotel? What emotions or associations are they to evoke?

Justyna Frąckiewicz: Firstly I wanted to make them feel like home here. Also, I think the rooms with my works will give them an impetus for action and stimulate their creativity. This space is not very much hotel-like in a traditional sense. Looking at conventional hotels, one feels tempted to paint them and breathe more life into them. I really hope that my murals will brighten the time spent at the hotel to the guests or even make them stay in instead of going out.

As an artist, what do you specialize in?

Justyna Frąckiewicz:  I love the paper. I have tried my hand at animation but, just as my mom once told me – when you do too many things, you will never be a master in any of them. It’s one thing or another. That’s why I stick to illustrations. I will take occasional photos but this is just for myself.

Are there any walls in the city which you would love to paint?

Justyna Frąckiewicz: Of course there are! At Ząbkowska street, there is some great space which I would be happy to work on. In fact, I’ve received an interesting proposal there. The very thought of it warms my heart!