Originally published in Issue No. 12 Vol 1 (Dec 2018)
We live in a world where people are increasingly defined by the labels associated with them. Straight, gay, trans, the colour of our skin, our ethnicity all pigeonhole us into predetermined stereotypes. As artists, we can work towards blurring these lines, opening dialogue and challenge the status-quo. One artist who is championing this is Stockholm based Bernadetta Tajs, originally from Poland she now resides in the Swedish capital with her family. Her work highlights the beauty of sex and sexuality, a topic that is suppressed in cultures around the world. Bernadetta talks to us in her interview about the importance of the most primal of urges, her life in Stockholm and the importance of silence.
What do you think it is about sex and sexuality that makes people uncomfortable?
I come from a very religious, patriarchal and traditional community. I understood very early that this is wrong and the world has many colours and shades, that the world is not only white and black or bad or good. When I was little, I still listened that everyone needs to suffer in life and I thought; no, absolutely not. We don’t need to suffer all own life. Different religions or someone who uses religion to achieve their own goals make people think that life on earth is a test, and only in heaven can you be happy. The same people through religions say that sex is evil, that sex is the duty of a wife, that a woman is ashamed of her body, that a man is allowed to be drunk and not a woman. Religions have a significant influence on what people think and unfortunately show a woman as guilty, like Eve in Paradise...I want to tell people that sexuality is ok and that it is natural. That homosexual love has the same rights as heterosexual, and everyone has the right to be here and now happy.
Surely the fact it is a fundamental stage in life should make it an open subject?
Yes, of course. I have noticed that if something is hidden, mysterious and forbidden, people more often want to try it. In college, when we drew or sculpted the act, naked bodies of clay, I asked boys what they feel when they see this beautiful naked girl and everyone replied that her body was fresh and exciting only on the first day. On the second day and later her body was already normal, boring, not so attractive anymore. My colleagues also responded that the body is just a body, feelings to someone are more important.
Where are you currently based in the world and why?
I live permanently in Stockholm, Sweden. Here I have found more understanding and tolerance. Here I met my husband, and we now have two wonderful sons.
Do you think that we are getting more close-minded as a culture with each passing day?
I do not think so. We live in a very commercial and busy world, and there is nothing wrong with that. I love activity and diversity. Everything is different than 20 or 30 years ago. Everyone can find what they want.
Would you say your work allows the viewer to decode their own message?
Yes, absolutely. I want the viewer to feel something, and his imagination helped him move to another world. Everyone sees something completely different in my painting, and that's what it's about. These paintings are to stimulate memories and desires. We live in very restrictive times, rules are everywhere, and their breaking is associated with rejection by society. I do not want new rules ... I want to break them and show everyone that it's ok to be open and honest and that we all have desires.
What do you think Dionysus would make of our modern world?
Dionysos could introduce more openness, tolerance and empathy. People physically close themselves to others. People do not want to talk to each other, sit next to each other, we do not know our neighbours, we hide our feelings, we do not trust each other.
What was the best response you have had to your paintings?
I heard that my paintings show porn and then I thought two things: Yes, that's the point, the viewer's fantasy should lead him to a different place, memories or desires ... On the other hand, I thought, How? After all, these images are colourful, graphic, very simplified in form. Where is the pornography here? Another time, when a social media platform blocked the marketing of all my paintings that were there, I thought, something is wrong. We are not becoming more and more open. New rules, censorship, hurt feelings? It's some kind of return to the Middle Ages. Someone with more power wants us to think like him.
What is Bernadetta listening to on repeat at the moment?
I try to listen to silence. To sit in peace with coffee and rest. Analyse the day and reflect on the future.