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Jan Berdyszak

Jan Berdyszak, photo: Waldemar Andzelm

Sculptor, painter, graphic artist, creator of installations, scenery designer, art theoretician, educator. Born June 15, 1934 in Zawory in Poznań Province. Died on September 18, 2014.

Berdyszak studied sculpture at the State Higher School of the Visual Arts in Poznań from 1952 to 1958, simultaneously experimenting with painting and the graphic arts. From his earliest period, much of his work focused on the problems of space. In his series titled Koła podwójne / Double Circles (1962-1964 and 1967-1969), he effectively smashed the convention of the quadrilateral painting by creating canvasses in the shape of two circles arranged vertically one above the other. These he covered with blurred, contrasting forms that created a kind of illusory, inner space.

The next stage of his explorations prompted him to introduce real space into his canvasses by cutting an opening in them. From 1967 this space that interfered in the substance of the painting was effectively liberated through the actual division of canvasses into separate parts that were exhibited in various configurations (symmetrically, antithetically, perpendicular to one another in the corners of exhibition rooms, etc.). Throughout this time, Berdyszak had embellished his painting/spatial experiments through a variety of graphic art techniques (plaster prints, woodcuts, esp. the series Kompozycje kół / Compositions of Circles). It was at this moment in time that the artist married painting and sculpture in his work. During this period the artist created his multi-part, foldout forms of painted sheet metal that could be exhibited in random arrangements. Towards the end of the 1960s Berdyszak's painted surfaces became flat, his forms sharply defined. The artist undertook to translate into visual language concepts like openness, infinity, potential, and similar ideas rooted in the philosophies of the Far East. Simultaneously, in the series Obszary koncentrujace / Concentrating Areas (1973-1980), he proposed a series of forms that were designed to encourage meditation among viewers. His objects of glass and plexiglas dating from this period and titled Przezroczyste / Transparent (1970-1978) found continuation in his installations of the 1980s and 1990s. In 1990 the artist started working on a series titled Passe-par-tout, which has included objects, installations, prints, and a range of other pieces. These works essentially reflected the form of a drawing frame, the space at its center empty, highlighting the surroundings.

Berdyszak's oeuvre also includes examples of ephemeral art as well as vast volumes of drawn sketches and texts written and spoken during various public meetings, lectures, presentations, etc. In 1965 he began teaching at his alma mater (which in 1996 became the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań). In 1990 he became the chair of the Program Council of the Center for Polish Sculpture in Orońsko and was a member of the program council for the International Graphic Art Triennial in Kraków. Since the beginning of his career, apart from the work he did in the pure visual arts, Berdyszak also designed stage scenery (working, among others, with the Teatr "Marcinek" / "Little Martin" Theatre in Poznań). He also authored a series of theoretical works on the links between theatre and the visual arts.

A source catalogue on the works of Jan Berdyszak was published in 1974 on the occasion of a retrospective exhibition of the artist's work at the National Museum in Poznań. In 1979 Bożena Kowalska published a monograph on the artist, while in 1996 a comprehensive catalogue accompanied an exhibition of the artist's work at the BWA / Office of Art Exhibitions and the Silesian Museum in Katowice.

Selected exhibition and awards:

  • 1960 - "Od Nowa" / "Anew" Club Arts Award, Poznań - for his debut as a painter and draftsman
  • 1969 - Biennale de Paris
  • 1969 - International Festival Exhibition, Edinburgh
  • 1974, 1976 - 10th and 11th Biennale Internationale d'Art, Menton
  • 1971, 1979, 1983 - International Prague Quadrennial (award in 1979)
  • 1992 - International Drawing Triennial, Wrocław (award)
  • 1994 - Arts Award of the City of Poznań
  • 1995 - International Graphic Art Triennial, Fredrikstad (award)

Author: Maryla Sitkowska, Museum of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, June 2002.'s picture
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Jan Berdyszak


Jan Berdyszak


Screenshot from the exhibition in Google Cultural Institute, photo:

Skopje: The Art of Solidarity is the amazing story of the Polish art collection in Skopje, as well as the Poles who took part in reconstructing the Macedonian capital after the devastating 1963 earthquake. This exhibition is now available online on the Google Cultural Institute platform. Read more about: Polish Artists’ Solidarity Act for Skopje

Jan Berdyszak


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