When Surrealism Meets Fashion: Agnieszka Stopyra

Open­ing Image: In Hon­our of the Red Lip­stick

Words Eve Fitz­patrick

In March 2021, I had the priv­i­lege of talk­ing to Agniesz­ka Stopy­ra, an illus­tra­tor and graph­ic design­er whose art focus­es main­ly on women and fash­ion. Her sur­re­al­ist artis­tic style is reflect­ed in her col­lages, and has been rec­og­nized by top brands such as Pan­do­ra, Sam­sung and MAC Cos­met­ics. In our con­ver­sa­tion, she teach­es me about her inspi­ra­tions and artis­tic meth­ods, as well as pro­vid­ing me with an insight into her new project, In Hon­our of the Red Lip­stick.

“The project is a trib­ute to this icon­ic object, which is so much con­nect­ed with our vision of a woman. It is also a visu­al sto­ry of attract­ing and seduc­ing. It is an attempt to tack­le a dis­cus­sion about what fem­i­nin­i­ty is and how it is defined nowa­days. These are sev­er­al sur­re­al­is­tic graph­ic illus­tra­tions, which show a col­lec­tion of ele­ments in a way which is not a typ­i­cal one, like some kind of a play, not clear­ly defined, which reminds us strong­ly that beau­ty may be a form of pow­er.”

She is an artist to keep an eye on, as she com­bines pop art, fash­ion and sur­re­al­ism, ulti­mate­ly plac­ing a unique twist on fash­ion illus­tra­tion. 

In Hon­our of the Red Lip­stick

Eve Fitz­patrick: Where do you find inspi­ra­tion for your work?

Agniesz­ka Stopy­ra: I think that the world is so full of fas­ci­nat­ing things that we’re absorb­ing inspi­ra­tion all the time, whether we’re aware of it or not. Andy Warhol, whom I absolute­ly adore, used to say that artists worked all the time. I am con­stant­ly fill­ing my imag­i­na­tion with new stim­uli, mag­i­cal images and down-to-earth ones, which I fil­ter through my own per­son­al world, and which I then use to start the process of cre­ation. I keep com­ing back to the aes­thet­i­cal­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed Wes Anderson’s films and my favourite fash­ion pho­tog­ra­phers (Tim Walk­er, La Chapelle or Philippe Hals­man). I also often turn to the Pol­ish School of Poster Art, which is a world phe­nom­e­non.

In Hon­our of the Red Lip­stick

EF: Would you regard fash­ion illus­tra­tion as your main focus?

AS: It depends. On the whole, my works fall into two cat­e­gories: fash­ion graph­ics and illus­tra­tion. And what I do is that I switch from one cat­e­go­ry to the oth­er, depend­ing on my will and inspi­ra­tion, and depend­ing on my con­tracts. Some­times I just have to dis­tance myself from paint­ing and then I only make col­lages. And then, after I have been work­ing with graph­ics for a few months I feel like I need to come back to paint­ing. Then, I cre­ate my best works: longed for, wait­ed for, calm and caressed. These are fash­ion illus­tra­tions that only show the fig­ure of a woman or just a sil­hou­ette of a woman — a metaphor. Men do not exist in my works.

EF: What mate­ri­als do you use to cre­ate your designs?

AS: In my graph­ic designs (more specif­i­cal­ly in col­lages) I usu­al­ly use pho­tos, in which I find an inspi­ra­tional ele­ment that fits my vision. I then cut out this ele­ment and arrange it togeth­er with oth­er match­ing ele­ments of non-ran­dom pho­tos. In this way my vision mate­ri­al­izes, which is a beau­ti­ful and mag­i­cal moment, and extreme­ly sat­is­fy­ing. For tra­di­tion­al illus­tra­tions I use ink, Eco­l­ine, a pen­cil or oil paints. Some­times I use pas­tels. My absolute favourite colour is black. Thus, I usu­al­ly restrict my colour palette. Recent­ly, I have had a gold­en-black peri­od of my cre­ation. I quite often find some kind of an artis­tic “brand­mark”, which then dom­i­nates in my works, like a spe­cif­ic artis­tic sig­na­ture.

In Hon­our of the Red Lip­stick

EF: Which par­tic­u­lar moments have stood out to you in your career?

AS: I think the key moment was when I won the inter­na­tion­al com­pe­ti­tion for the Supe­ri­or Dig­i­tal Novem­ber 2015 Cov­er. Very soon after­wards, I was offered coop­er­a­tion with OPI and Pan­do­ra. And then it just went on. Now, I am hap­py to say that I have been col­lab­o­rat­ing with Harper’s Bazaar, Sam­sung, MAC Cos­met­ics, Elle, Glam­our, Pen­ny­black, etc. A very impor­tant moment in my artis­tic devel­op­ment was my solo exhi­bi­tion enti­tled “SHE”, which was held in 2017. I showed about 50 works there: from a female nude to a fash­ion illus­tra­tion, show­ing a woman with the whole spec­trum of emo­tions, fears and inspi­ra­tions.

DIOR Patrick Demarche­li­er

EF: Who are your biggest influ­ences?

AS: I love pop artists and sur­re­al­ists. I adore Warhol for what he did for every­day activ­i­ties – he showed every­day and triv­ial objects from a new per­spec­tive, at the same time forc­ing the view­er to a cer­tain reflec­tion over every­day life and over the def­i­n­i­tion of a work of art. I extreme­ly val­ue Dadaists for their manoeu­vring from art and to anti-art. And sur­re­al­ism … to which I come back per­sis­tent­ly and which is the most vis­i­ble in my graph­ic art.

EF: What defines your per­son­al artis­tic style?

Illus­tra­tion for LA MODE

AS: It is sum­marised in one sen­tence: “When sur­re­al­ism meets fash­ion”. It focus­es my atten­tion to the places where I am look­ing for inspi­ra­tion. It shows that art is extreme­ly impor­tant to me and it deter­mines my artis­tic cre­ation, which I express in my own spe­cif­ic, fash­ion-like, way – by means of my favourite motives and colours.

EF: How did you obtain your artis­tic skills?

AS: I think artis­tic skills are just the result of cer­tain expe­ri­ences and years of artis­tic exper­i­ments, but also a mix­ture of a cer­tain taste with which a per­son is born, the influ­ence of inspi­ra­tions and likes which you just absorb, whether you are aware of it or not. And there are also years of art edu­ca­tion and learn­ing paint­ing and graph­ics. I have always been art-ori­ent­ed. When I was a child, I used to draw a lot and went to spe­cial draw­ing cours­es. And then I went to uni­ver­si­ty – I stud­ied art his­to­ry, art and fash­ion design and mod­ern graph­ics.

EF: Where do you hope to see your work take you in the future?

AS: My great­est dream is to col­lab­o­rate with an icon­ic fash­ion house such as DIOR or Schi­a­par­el­li, which by its con­nec­tion with Sal­vador Dali and sur­re­al­ism is espe­cial­ly close to me. But what also attracts me a lot is to be able to show my works in well-known, mod­ern art gal­leries and art exhi­bi­tions that under­take a mul­ti-lay­ered dis­course regard­ing women and female art. In the future I also see myself coop­er­at­ing with the­atres and operas – I have always want­ed to cre­ate posters for the­atri­cal plays. I am think­ing of putting my vision of a play or a sto­ry in a sketch-like, abbre­vi­at­ed way, by means of one metaphor­i­cal pic­ture.