A stage designer, director, painter and photographer. Professor of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw at the Faculty of Stage Design and the John Paul II Catholic University in Lublin. He was born on February 5, 1945 in Bartoszowiny.
Mądzik’s achievements have secured him a place in the history of theatre and the visual arts. He is the founder and head of the Artistic Scene at KUL, established in 1969, as well as a poster artist and book illustrator. As one of the most versatile Polish artists, he is known the world over for his suggestive, unique style.
His own theatrical performances have been staged at numerous international drama festivals and exhibitions. He has received various prestigious awards and acted as a stage designer in Poland, Portugal, France and Germany. He has led workshops for students and (with the same students) staged shows for universities and art schools in Helsinki, Berlin, Amsterdam, Washington, San Francisco, Hamburg, Lyon, Prague and many others. Currently, he is a lecturer at the University of Arts in Poznań.
Leszek Mądzik was born on February 5, 1945 in Bartoszowiny in the Kieleckie region of Poland. At the foot of the Świętokrzyskie mountain range was where he spent his childhood. In awe of nature’s beauty, he was a keen explorer of monuments and trod the path of those who had shaped this land’s history.
Many of Mądzik’s childhood memories found their way into his dramatic and artistic oeuvre and became immortalised in his photography. Take for example, the shot of Wesola street in Kielce: the street covered by cobblestone features a foreground pf a series of adverts for coffins and funeral services. The photograph is accompanied by the following memory:
The windows of my house in Kielce looked out onto a street, where a hospital and a morgue had been built. Funeral processions often started there, heading for the graveyard. (…) I remember the death of two children. They had been crushed by a falling wall of sand. One of them still had a small cherry in his mouth. (Leszek Mądzik, My Theatre, Idea Media Publishing House, Lublin 2000)
After graduating from an arts college in Kielce (1965), he attempted three times to secure a place at the Arts University in Warsaw, Kraków and Poznań – to no avail. In 1966, he commenced his studies at the History Department of the Catholic University of Lublin. It was there that his adventure with the performing arts began.
In an interview for Rzeczpospolita, the artist said:
I found my haven at the CUL – a place always open to those who didn’t manage to find a place at other Polish universities. There was already an Academic Theatre there, which, since 1951, had been actively staging the first post-war performances of Forefathers’ Eve, as well as plays by Bernanos, Claudel, Eliot, Brandstaetter. I came there to study history of art, but I felt the intense need to share my painting with others. Those paintings were seen by Irena Byrska just as she was getting ready to stage Norwid’s Wanda. She liked their mood and announced that their painter must be found. And so I became the stage designer. Soon after, I met Mieczysław Kotlarczyk and worked with him on the staging of Amor Divinus – Old Polish Triptych. I was his last colleague – and I need not mention the identity of the first one to those raised in John Paul II’s fatherland. As I prepared the first stage designs, I began to dream that they come alive and become true partners to the actors.
At the CUL’s Academic Theatre, he also created the stage designs to Jerzy Zawieyski’s Mąż doskonały (Perfect Husband, 1968), directed by the author. In Theatre Gong-2 he worked on Andrzej Rozhin’s Wyznania mordercy (Confessions of a Murderer, 1970) and François Villon's Testament (1968).
Those first stage design projects paved the way for the CUL Artistic Scene which launched in 1969. Mądzik’s debut there was a performance of Ecce Homo, to which he wrote the script and designed the staging while Joachim Lodek directed the play which took the stage in 1970. With Wieczerza as his third performance on the Lublin scene in 1972, Mądzik took an interest in directing. Engaging with the old Academic Theatre, who had previously performed dramas of an entirely different, their performances took on more literary character, and yet they lived up to the new challenges. Wieczerza was awarded first place at the Spring of Theatre festival in Lublin and commenced a flood of awards that poured on the group’s subsequent performances.
It quickly became obvious that the formally expressive, unconventional stage works presented by Leszek Mądzik didn't, and to this day do not, have an equivalent in the world of drama. As the author himself claims, the source of the silence pervasive in his plays is his profound conviction that there exist areas of human reality which cannot be contained in words.
When the artist openly describes his inspiration he talks about the importance of John of the Cross or Teresa of Ávila and their contemplations. He is fascinated with the oeuvre of Leonardo da Vinci and contemporary artists such as Alina Szapocznikow, Tadeusz Kantor, Jerzy Nowosielski.
Many actual experiences and biographical facts have found their way into Mądzik’s dramas. However, the honesty of those memories, as well as the confessions divulged in interviews or books never crosses the boundary of intimacy.
On the occasion of awarding him the Papal Cross of Merit 'Pro Ecclesia et pontifice' in 2014, the author of laudation Professor Stefan Sawicki emphasized:
The Order of Merit 'Pro Ecclesia et pontifice' awarded to Leszek Mądzik by the Vatican on the 45th anniversary of CUL Artistic Scene is primarily an expression of recognition of his creative activity that turns out to be close even to non-Christians. This award, however, indicates also various aspects of fidelity to this activity which subtly inscribes itself within the current of the new evangelization, accompanying it: motivating it or resulting from it.
(Unless stated otherwise, all of Mądzik’s statements were sourced from interviews, which the author has been conducting and publishing since the nineties in Rzeczpospolita).
Author and set designer of works at KUL, Lublin:
Author, director and set designer of works at KUL, Lublin:
Author, director and set designer of works at other theatres:
Author: Janusz R. Kowalczyk, March 2010; updated: JRK, June 2013, translation: Ewa Bianka Zubek 3/10/2013
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