Anka Dabrowska, a Warsaw born queer woman artist living and working in London, spoke to Artlyst on the eve of an exciting new project in the seaside town of Margate. Anka is a storyteller. She is a collector of the hidden tales she finds in the detritus others leave behind. She is deeply interested in the lives of others and objects that belong to those people that we too often overlook. Her work explores how the public negotiates its own landscape by transforming the every day and the mundane into magical sculptures or ‘anti-structures’ and intricate drawings that really do defy categorisation.
JP: Your work is very practice-based. How was it under lockdown?
AD: The lockdown allowed me to focus solely on my practice and on art commissions. I received two book illustration projects, as well as private drawing commissions, and I concentrated on my own practice. Even before lockdown, I have been working hard to pay the bills and support my creative practice. It was a relentless juggling act, depleting my energy and time. Working from home under lockdown gave my work a focus on ideas of restriction and shelter.
JP: Polish queers are going through a tough time right now. How do you feel about it?
AD: I am very sad and very angry about this wave of homophobia and anti-queer policies in Poland, where the lives and liberties of Polish LGBTQ + people are threatened, under the violent and authorised hand of the brutal Polish Police. I am in London, but I do whatever I can to support my queer and non-queer family, especially, in Warsaw, which is the city I was born in. Sharing news and spreading the truth, following art projects (queer artist Karol Radziszewski), supporting and contributing to many organised campaigns (Strajk Kobiet (Women’s Strike) by designing protest banners and photographic series with my partner Stav Bee).
The fight to protect the liberties and rights of queer people in Poland is going to be a long one, and its outcome will bear significant consequences on the state of the LGBTQ+ community in Europe. I also stand in solidarity with all the Polish women who have been protesting since October 2020 in reaction to the tight and unfair laws on abortion. Living in London and returning to Warsaw periodically, enables this, which for me as an artist, enables greater understanding of my unique and on-going personal journey with the place I was born.
JP: Could you tell us about your latest project?
AD: My latest project ‘A Place In-Between” was born during lockdown, from a need to expand, to push and to challenge my practice and myself. I am at a pivotal point in my career where I am building on the momentum of my solo shows, artist residency and my on-going research. ‘A Place In-Between’ is a solo exhibition at The Margate School, and a catalyst for the production of new artwork. I’ll be working with an established, professional Margate arts organisation ‘art hub’. It will give me the opportunity to present my work as an immersive installation, to a large and new audience.
The heart of the project centres on working with diverse and new audiences located in some of the most deprived wards in the country, through talk, interactive workshops, action research and an exhibition. It will focus on the School’s theme of art, society, nature, the impact of Covid-19, diversity and inclusion. The new work will challenge my current practice in context, location and scale, with the interaction with artists form a diverse community in Margate. The direct/ indirect connection with The Margate School and a focus on British seaside history will be seen from the perspective of an outsider: myself, from elsewhere, living elsewhere.
JP: What kind of work will you be producing?
AD: Sculpture, installation, drawing, photography and sound.
I will be working in two locations: Arlington House, a residential apartment block built in 1964 at the seafront, and the Lido, Margate’s iconic ‘pleasure park’ built in the 1920’s but closed since the 1980s. I shall be blending the urban/rural/seafront environment, with architecture, stories, history, myths and exploring what links the two locations. Finally, I will present a large-scale solo installation of new artworks that investigate the changing face of Margate.
JP: Why is Margate interesting?
AD: I have primarily worked in big cities. Margate, with its strange and diverse history, its architecture and its seaside setting, will be a challenge. For me, I see it as a space ‘in-between’, an unfamiliar territory ready to be explored and deciphered with my aesthetic and studio practice.
Foremost, this is a community project which will include the local community, should they wish to participate; my project honours and respects, and does not alienate. I’ll be using old school flyering, and inviting people to share their Margate stories. This will involve individuals who might not usually engage with my work. I’m keen to reach out to a diverse age, class and ethnic group, in order to create an honest base for my studio work and the exhibition to follow.
Everyone is welcome.
Then I will be organising workshops and talks with local artists,the LGBTQI+ community, and locals. These will be available in situ and digitally. I have many, many collaborations planned with artists, DJ’s, activists and curators, and I hope to include as many voices as possible.
The Place In-Between project is Kindly supported by The Arts Council England, The Margate School and a private Crowdfunding campaign.
Find out more about ANKA DABROWSKA:
Find out more about The Margate School (TMS)