Ewa Harabasz

Untitled, Poland, 2007

Wooden panel, digital print and oil on canvas, gilding,
167.5X91X7.5 cm

Courtesy of Le Guern Gallery, Warsaw

The work of Ewa Harabasz belongs to a series on which she has laboured in recent years. The young woman grasping a bottle of water is one of the victims of the terrorist attack on the London Underground in 2005.

“Most of the artist’s works are icons of suffering,” writes Bozena Czubak. “Images representing innocent victims of the turbulence of the times, wars and terrorist attacks, alongside individuals suffering from natural disasters. She finds the source of the models upon which she bases the figures and scenes, in photographs and images distributed by various newspapers worldwide, as a further snippet of news.”

“The scenes – framed, enlarged and lightly colored – trap our regard with their vivid colors and gilded settings or borders. Gilded surfaces are associated with the icon tradition and the art of the Orthodox East, very familiar to the artist whose origins are Polish.”

Harabasz’s work raises significant questions relating to the inclination within the mass communications media and contemporary culture to create an association between the status of victim and motifs of sanctity and suffering. The association of sanctity and suffering is not alien to the history of art, but projecting these motifs upon terror victims entails a further demarche. The degree of sanctity that Harabasz grants to the photographed figure is not endowed by virtue of some unique or noble act that figure has performed; rather, it comes about under entirely accidental circumstances. This happenchance, beyond stressing that terrorism strikes indiscriminately, also grants the victim a special status, inviting reflection on the consequences of the cultural choice of relating to the victims in this manner.