Fossils are just a starting point, Wioletta Kulewska admits as people contemplatively observe her marine-fossil-inspired abstract paintings at her latest exhibition, Embedded. Some will say they see galaxies or scratched ancient walls in those large canvases covered oil paint, charcoal, and gold leaf.

“Gold is just a colour for her,” curator Sandra Zaffarese told Eve, praising the artist for a good understanding of colour. Large blots of gold are surrounded by soothing blue, black or unsettling neon-yellow.

Painting by Wioletta Kulewska – detail

Arranged in the awe-inspiring space of the Palazzo de la Salle – the Malta Society of Arts, the exhibition starts from the latest work on the topic of fossils – two oil and charcoal paintings on unstretched cotton canvases. All the rock found in the Maltese archipelago contains petrified lifeforms, the exhibition’s leaflet reminds us. Kulewska, who works in Malta since 2008, likes to employ a combination of forensic studio observation of natural phenomena and ‘on-the-spot’ figurative painting.

The prehistoric life recorded in Maltese rock dates back some 35 million years. The artist’s idea for the exhibition was that vestiges of prehistoric lifeforms inspire a series of meditations in oil — on fragility, the infinite and the sublime. Printing plaster sculpture directly onto the canvas, Kulewska recreates the elemental process of fossilisation, and explores themes of embodiment, resemblance and disappearance.

In the inner rooms of the exhibition, the viewer sees studies series – all untitled – with large masses of gold leaf on board. A few sketches in gouache on paper complete the immersion into the artist’s creative process.

Wioletta Kulewska’s exhibition Embedded is on until the 1st of March at Palazzo de la Salle, Republic Street 219 in Valletta.