The Chopin Project


Painting in Poland with Ewa Gargulinska

So here’s the story:

When I left the corporate world of Deloitte, I was craving something creative and decided to apply for an Art Foundation. And not just at any College, either. I set my sights on Central Saint Martins, one of the most competitive but also most creative colleges in London. I decided to contact a teacher who I had taken a short course with at CSM one Summer – a Polish artist called Ewa Gargulinska. Her course was called Expressive Painting and involved no objects or still lives – only our imaginations. There’s something very therapeutic about painting from the psyche.

Art by Ewa Gargulinska

Ewa decided to help me prepare a portfolio for my application, which turned out to be a much more massive undertaking than I had anticipated, including 3D sculptures of Physics (drawing on my undergraduate degree) and memories of the faceless suits that marched by during my morning commute.

Twigs and wires entwine in an energy explosion to represent The Casimir Effect.

Unfortunately, my application wasn’t successful but I felt like I was already on a Foundation with Ewa, so we continued to work together until I found myself painting with her in the Polish countryside.


I produced my favourite piece of work at the start of the trip, perhaps because I really noticed the difference since many lessons in Ewa’s Richmond studio (the route to which is sketched below).

My ‘commute’ to Ewa’s studio through Richmond Green.

Working with Ewa involves a deep exploration of imagination and we start by painting a background, usually a greyish colour (sometimes with a suggestion of something else) and once that is dry we see what forms emerge. These figures came through in my first piece:

What do you see?

I’ll leave their meaning to your imagination! Ewa taught us (as we critiqued each other’s work) that the artist should remain quiet so as not to influence the interpretation of others. The trip also included authentic Polish cuisine and a walk through the mountains in Zakopane, which ended here:


Ewa is running her usual Expressive Painting course at Central Saint Martins in December 2017 and as I’m sure you can guess from this post, I would really recommend it!

Who am I?

Don’t worry, I’m not having an existential crises. I’m just wondering what exactly I am. If I could turn around my consciousness so it could see itself, what would be there?

Maybe there’s another level of awareness that we aren’t aware of yet. Take a rock, for example. No self-awareness. Then ‘move up’ to an animal – slightly more aware but I wouldn’t say it knows what it is. Then humans – ah! We know we are humans. But is there a level above that, which a more advanced species would say, ‘aww! Those humans don’t even know what they are…’