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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » September 2, 2009
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Starting Over
September 2, 2009   
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Manon S. is a Dutch-Australian painter who, after the breakup of her marriage, decided to establish herself in Warsaw. Hilary Heuler speaks to her in her Praga studio.

When did you first come to Poland and why did you decide to stay?
I came to Poland 11 years ago. I was at a crossroads of my life, and I found myself in Poland even though I didn't choose to be. But I wanted my children to finish school here, and by the time they did I was starting a whole new life. Maybe the transitions Poland is going through as a country have created an atmosphere where new things are accepted more easily. Poland has this great past and so do I. We are both going through changes, both starting over again. I immediately felt really safe here. I felt that people were so kind to me, even though I didn't speak Polish at the time. I really felt like I belonged.

What drew you to painting, and what are your inspirations?
I've been painting since I was a little girl. I went to an art school in Australia, and was even selling my work, although sporadically. When I chose to stay in Poland, I immediately started painting again. My first exhibition was at the Palace of Culture-that's when I discovered how shocking my work could be for Poles. But my inspiration is always people, and relationships. I'm intrigued by the psychological aspects of relationships, the positives and negatives, the circumstances and all the emotions involved. It's true that there are a lot of women featured in my paintings, but my work isn't really all about women. It's just that I have to speak from my point of view, because I'm a woman. It's a little bit autobiographical. I think women are special, because they get into vulnerable situations more often than men do. I'm also inspired by the Polish countryside, which reminds me of the Dutch countryside where I come from. I think it's so beautiful! So in the summertime I'm always moved to paint something green.

Where do you generally sell your work?
I've had eight exhibitions here, as well as in Australia, Stockholm and Paris. People also contact me wanting to visit the studio, and I've been asked to do a bit of interior decorating as well. I'm not really an interior decorator, but I do it for the joy of the design. I think that the idea of decorating walls is really coming alive now in Poland. People didn't grow up with it, so they are intrigued. It wasn't possible before, when people in Poland were living in such huge families and the walls were all covered in cupboards and wardrobes. Whereas me, I spent my whole life with art on the walls. It was as important as bread.

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