As a Person

As a Person

Barbara Gorayska - as a person

Barbara Gorayska is Polish by birth and has been a British citizen since 1974. She lived and worked in Hong Kong between 1990 and 2002 and her active pursuit of Fine Art, particularly figurative oil painting, commenced in 2006.

Gorayska’s academic background in Linguistic Semantics and the Pragmatics of Natural Language, as a result of a University education in both Poland and the United Kingdom, evolved into Cognitive Technology research and academic work in Human-Computer Interface Design, both in the UK and Hong Kong. This informs the development of her particular interest in the interface between science and visual art. She is committed to exploring meanings and issues that can be communicated through the poetry of painting.

In the realm of science Gorayska is fascinated by many of the current advances in Physics and Cosmology, in particular the notion of parallel universes. The similarities she uncovers in both scientific and religious dialogues regarding the origins of life on Earth make her heart rejoice! She pays close attention to what is happening in the realm of human advancement, bioengineering, robotics, wearable technologies and all other, related, innovating disciplines that could potentially (in a Darwinian fashion) alter us as a species.

Since 2011 Gorayska has been working on a collection of paintings connected with her Artists’ residency with the Oxford University Research projects: “Framework for Responsible Research and Innovation in Information and Communication Technologies” (FRRIICT) and “Digital Wildfire”. In her own words: “Visual art, unlike sequentially processed texts, has a more immediate impact on the spectator and is licensed to address situations in their extreme. Consequently, the paintings stand a good chance to further reinforce the need for an in-depth understanding of ethical issues and dilemmas that permeate technological progress in a digital age.”

– Amy Letts

As an Artist

As an Artist


Barbara Gorayska paints in oils what she observes to be happening around all of us: in our digital, global culture the old order has been disintegrating faster than ever and the new one has not yet fully emerged. The images that capture her imagination are set in a space where different realities transform into one another. Of paramount importance to her are borderlines between the abstract and the real; the old and the new; the personal and the public; the ugly and the beautiful; the moral and the amoral (or the immoral).

On canvas the multivalent images, where multiple dimensions of reality meet, emerge slowly and at times erratically. With each modification paintings acquire a new identity. Multiple dimensions of reality are not always instantly recoverable. None of Gorayska’s completed works are ever “finished”; to her the continuity of the working process highlights and reminds us of those all pervading qualities and insights found in vision and life itself.

Barbara Gorayska is a strong believer in the Renaissance principle of the Engaged Spectator. To that effect she has adopted a questioning perspective; those that look at her art often find themselves participating in the scenes that confront them and feel called upon to search for answers in their own hearts. Some have detected subtle traces of Polish Romanticism within her work.

She often incorporates a selective, relevant, and symbolic voice of the old masters, which in modern contexts creates an aura of eternal truths about what it means to be human. Her main inspirations to date have been:

  • Caravaggio, who dared put villains in the limelight and whose work, in the words of Simon Schama, cries out ‘Truth” above all else
  • Turner and Rothko’s atmospheric use of colour
  • Picasso’s Guernica; Goya’s painting for posterity
  • David’s skill, pointed out by Tom Gretton, to give true power to his work not by what he allowed us see in it but by what he chose to exclude
  • Giorgione’s stormy landscape surrounding social outcasts; Bruegel’s biblical allegories
  • Chagall and his dream-like world; Leonardo’s emotive group narratives and his ability to encrypt himself in the picture
  • Ensor’s love of masks and Pacheco’s modernised religious tales.

Unlike her renowned predecessors she often “dresses up” contemporary situations in the “garments” of the past. To her the language of art has a continuity that is timeless.

Some of Gorayska’s early works are reminiscent of church murals such as the Doom: Heaven and Hell in South Leigh and the Virgin and Child in South Newington, Oxfordshire. Two major sources of contemporary inspiration for her work in support of the FRIICT project are: the “Human Enhancement” seminar, Oxford University, 23 November, 2011, and the “Uncomfortable Interactions” research of Steve Benford and Brendan Walker discussed at the FRIICT Ethics Retreat, Oxford, 2012.

– Amy Letts


2014 – 2016 Artist in Residence, Digital Wildfire, Oxford University
2011 – 2014 Artist in Residence, FRRIICT, Oxford University


2009 – Present Member of the Oxford Art Society (by invitation)



19 June 2014 Multiverse, FRRIICT Final Showcase Event, Science Museum, London.
April 2012 Moral Playground, Said Business School, Oxford.
July 2007 Borderlines, Jam Factory, Oxford.

Group shows:

2013 ICT2013, European Commission Conference, Vilnius.
2012 Oxford Art Society Member Exhibition
2006 – 2009 Oxford Art Society Open Exhibitions
2008 ‘A Gesture to Red Store’, Lerryn, Cornwall.
2007 Museum of Modern Art Oxford open exhibition.
2007 ‘Shadows and Silhouettes’, Oxford Arts Festival.
2007 ‘Art Trail’, Ulverston, Cumbria.
2007 ‘Shadow World’, Interactive Painting Installation, Oxford-Brookes.


2007 Diploma in Art and Design from the Oxford-Brookes University

Art Related Publication

Gorayska, Barbara (2009). “Pragmatic Acts in Fine Art: A Question”, in B. Fraser and K. Turner, (eds.) Language in Life and Life in Language: Jacob Mey – A Festschrift. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing, 111-120.


As an Academic

As an Academic


Barbara Gorayska spent most of her university career investigating how people fabricate, interpret and adapt to their environments, in particular how they decide what is relevant and how their use of tools impacts on that process. For many years she taught computer science undergraduates to design human-computer interfaces that were easy to use.

Her own research passion has always been placed elsewhere. “If,” says Gorayska, “tools, especially digital ones, could augment human intelligence in a profound way (and I believe they do), brain/mind-technology-world interfaces ought to be humane.” A search for design methodologies to construct such interfaces became internationally known as Cognitive Technology (CT).

– Amy Letts

University education

1987 Postgraduate Diploma in Artificial Intelligence and Knowledge-Based Systems from the Knowledge-Based Systems Centre at the Polytechnic of the South Bank, London
1985 PhD in General Linguistics from University College London
1976 MPhil in English and Education from the Institute of Education of the University of London
1972 MA in English Philology from the University of Warsaw, Poland

Full-Time Employment History

1990- 2002 Associate Professor in Computer Science, City University Hong Kong
1987- 1990 Postdoctoral Research Fellow, CMS, Oxford-Brookes University

University affiliations

2002- 2004 Affiliated Visitor, Department of Social and Political Sciences, University of Cambridge

Significant contributions (In collaboration with Roger Lindsay, Jonathon Marsh and Jacob Mey)

Extended Theory of Relevance
Cognitive Technology (CT) as a scholarly discipline
Seminal, international, CT conferences
Special journal-issue on CT
International Journal of Cognition and Technology (subsequently a part of the Pragmatics and Cognition journal)

Publications most reflective of my interests and research

Gorayska, Barbara, 1998. Cognitive Technology. In: Jacob L. Mey, ed., Concise Encyclopedia of Pragmatics, 132-134. Oxford: Elsevier Science Ltd. (Extended version, 2nd edition 2009, 78-79)

Gorayska, Barbara and Jacob L. Mey, 1996. Of Minds and Men, an Introduction. In: Barbara Gorayska and Jacob L. Mey, eds, Cognitive Technology: In Search of a Humane Interface, 1-27. Amsterdam: North Holland.

Gorayska, Barbara and Jonathon P. Marsh, 1996. Epistemic Technology and Relevance Analysis: Rethinking Cognitive Technology. In: Barbara Gorayska and Jacob L. Mey, eds. Cognitive Technology: In Search of a Humane Interface, 27-41. Amsterdam: North Holland.

Gorayska, Barbara, Jonathon P. Marsh and Jacob L. Mey, 2001. Cognitive Technology: Tool or Instrument? In: Meurig Beynon, Christopher L. Nehaniv and Kerstin Dautenhahn, eds, Cognitive Technology: Instruments of Mind, Proceedings of the 4th International Conference, CT 2001, 1-17. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

Lindsay, Roger and Barbara Gorayska, 2004. Relevance, Goal Management and Cognitive Technology. In: Barbara Gorayska and Jacob L. Mey, eds, Cognition and Technology, 63-109. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.