Victoria Victoria 1983, marble

Polish sculptor, action artist, creator of installations and art objects, poster designer. Born on July 25, 1953 in Krakow, resides in Rome.

Between 1973 and 1978 he studied sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. While still a student Bednarski began to work with Jerzy Grotowski and the circle of artists that surrounded him. By 1975 he was participating in Grotowski's post-theatrical projects, creating a series of posters for productions like Czuwanie / Vigil (1976-1977), Przedsięwzięcie Góra / Project Mountain (1977), Przedsięwzięcie Ziemia / Project Earth (1977-1979), Drzewo ludzi / Human Tree (1979), and others

In 1978 Bednarski completed his thesis project titled Portret totalny Karola Marksa / Total Portrait of Karl Marx. The artist created this work under the direction of Professor Jerzy Jarnuszkiewicz, using multiple cast heads of Communism's chief ideologue. The piece mocked a figure that was surrounded by an official cult and was one of the most significant works of the political contestation movement that preceded the social upheavals of August 1980.

Between 1978 and 1986 the artist participated in numerous sculptural symposiums in the country and abroad, among others attending those in Carrara (1982 and 1985). During these he created classical sculptures in traditional materials (marble, bronze, and the like) with legible, identifiable metaphors, often drawing on the motif of an exaggeratedly large hand. The best known of these - a marble sculpture titled Victoria Victoria (1983) - was viewed as the visual equivalent of the social atmosphere that reigned in Poland during Martial Law.


In 1984 Bednarski began spending more time in Rome, a city that was home to Marina Fabbri, the woman he would marry one day. In the spring of 1986 he traveled to equatorial Africa, a voyage he now views as very significant to his personal spiritual development. A new period in the artist's work began with Moby Dick (1987), made of the hull of a yacht that Bednarski found one day, and that seemed to him to answer his search through both its form and the metaphorical meaning inherent in it. The shape of a boat hull would now appear in many works: combined with the motif of an African mask in the series of small sculptures titled Moby Dick - Maska / Moby Dick - Mask (1989) or as the skeleton of a colossal structure in the installation Unsichtbar (1993), a piece inspired by the poetry of R. M. Rilke. Simultaneously, the artist returned to the motif of the bust of Marx, which became the building block for a number of other works, including La rivoluzione siamo Noi - J. Beuys (1986), Dziela zebrane Karola Marksa / The Collected Works of Karl Marx (1988), Kurhan SKRAM LORAK / Burial Mound XRAM LRAK (1988), Kolumna skonczona / Finished Column (1991), and others.


 
Mobby Dick 1987
installation in Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, 1999
Mobby Dick 1987
installation in Museum of the Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw
 
Mobby Dick - Mask 1989, bronze
Unsichtbar 1993
installation in BWA Sopot


In the late 1980s the artist began to create expansive installations in which meaning was conveyed through abstract modules, both solid and openwork, spatial stars constructed of these modules (sometimes supplemented with red and blue light), and series of metal tables with identical dimensions. Bednarski further enriched his formal language in a series of works titled Vision & Prayer (from1998). Based on the visual poetry of Dylan Thomas, the pieces in the series were produced using a variety of techniques (sculpture, relief, drawing). In yet another return to earlier solutions (something that became a hallmark of this artist's work), the artist inscribed important meanings into degraded materials (Thanatos polski / Polish Thanatos dating from 1984 and dedicated to deceased friends, erstwhile collaborators in the theatre of Grotowski) and into such ephemeral materials as light and shadow. In Pamięci Jana Szeligi / In Memory of Jan Szeliga (1980) (see pictures), it is the shadow cast by a shaped object that is the work itself. Similarly, a cast shadow is today the essential element in Bednarski's design for the monument to Federico Fellini which is to be erected in Rimini (designed in 1994, under construction).

During the 1996/97 academic year, Bednarski taught a studio class in the Sculpture Department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. In recognition of his contribution to the propagation of Polish art abroad, the Ministry of Culture and Art awarded him a scholarship for 1998.

In 1999 Warsaw's Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle organized a solo exhibition of Bednarski's works titled Scarpe italiane - Buty włoskie (Italian Shoes). The exhibition was conceived as an original installation composed of the artist's earlier works accompanied by a self-mocking video performance of the same title. 



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Drzewo ludzi / Human Tree 1979 poster
Czuwanie / Vigil 1979
poster
Przedsięwzięcie Góra / Project Mountain 1977
poster

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Dzieła zebrane Karola Marksa / The Collected Works of Karl Marx 1988 assamblage
La Rivoluzione Siamo Noi - J. Beuys 1986, instalacja
Kolumna skończona / Finished Column 1991 bronze

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Pamięci Jana Szeligi / In Memory of Jan Szeliga 1980 granite, shadow
Vision & Prayer 1989, metal, wood
 
Bilet / Ticket 1979 granite, copper
Krzysztof Kieślowski's Gravestone, Powązki 1997, bronze
Słoneczne pasaże / Sunny Passages 1995, installation in Królikarni
 
The monument of Federico Felliniego in Rimini 1994 model

 

Selected exhibitions:

  • 1990 - Rauma Biennale Balticum, Rauma (Finland)
  • 1990 - "Prigioni d'invenzione", Festival dei Due Mondi, Spoleto (Italy)
  • 1992-1996 - Stala ekspozycja sztuki XX w. / Permanent Exhibition of 20th Century Art, Muzeum Sztuki (Museum of Art), Lódź
  • 1993 - "Konstrukcja w procesie IV / Construction in Progress IV - My Home Is Your Home", Muzeum Artystow (Artists' Museum), Lódź
  • 1995 - "Port of Art", International Art Exhibition, Kotka (Finland)
  • 1996 - "Bekannt(-)machung / Intro(-)duction", Ostsee Biennale, Kunsthalle, Rostock (Germany)
  • 2000/2001 - "Uważaj wychodząc z własnych snów. Możesz znaleźć się w cudzych / Be Careful Exiting Your Own Dreams. You May Find Yourself in Someone Else's", Jubilee Exhibition of the Zachęta Contemporary Art Gallery, Warsaw


Author: Maryla Sitkowska, Museum of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, December 2001.