Magdalena Więcek (1924 – 2008), sculptor, author of monuments, large and small scale sculptures; she also created drawings, gouaches, and photographs.
In 1945-1949, she studied painting and sculpture at the State Higher School of Visual Arts in Sopot (under Marian Wnuk, among others), and in 1949-1952 she continued studying sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, initially as an auditing student, and later in Franciszek Strynkiewicz’s studio. She received diploma in sculpture in 1952.
Magdalena Więcek took part in group exhibitions while she was still a student, and in 1954, her sculpture Miners received an award at the 4th National Exhibition of Visual Arts at Zachęta, while in 1955, she was given an award for her work The Mother at the National Exhibition of Young Visual Arts Against War, Against Fascism at Arsenal Gallery. At the 1st Biennale of the Young in Paris in 1959, she received the Critics Award. Her first solo exhibition took place in 1960 at the Krzywe Koło Gallery in Warsaw. In 1965, together with Marian Bogusz, Więcek founded the Biennial of Spatial Forms in Elbląg, in which she participated in 1965 and in 1967. She took part in the 1967 Symposium of Spatial Sculpture in Aalborg, Denmark, where she received a prize and realised the awarded project. In 1979, Więcek’s sculpture Porta de la Inferno received second prize at Biennale Dantesco in Ravenna, while in 1981, she received Grand Prix Internazionale de la Contemporanea d’ Art Principauté de Monaco. In 1966-1982, she lectured at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań, while in 1983-1984, she taught at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. In 1986, and in the following years, she made a few months-long trips to New York, where she created numerous drawing series and sculpture designs. In the 1990s, she lived and worked in Germany, mainly in Berlin. In 2007, her last show took place at the Zapiecek Gallery.
Magdalena Więcek’s outdoor projects are located in Poland, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Italy. Her works belong to the collections of the National Museum in Warsaw, National Museum in Poznań, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller in Otterlo near Arnhem, and others.
Magdalena Więcek was a prominent sculptor, she co-formed the modern movement in Polish sculpture. Over the course of over half century of artistic practice, her oeuvre went through major transformations: from plaster and concrete realistic sculptures, through amorphous structures derived from the natural environment, to abstract compositions and shapes related to the realm of ideas. As an artist, she was an explorer, she experimented with form and materials; one of her favourite materials was metal: steel, aluminium, and brass.
After a short period of working according to the convention of socialist realism, Więcek became interested in the language of expressive deformation. Her figurative works raised a lot of emotion, mainly due to the dramatically formulated existential message. The Mother (1955), carved out of a block of wood, or Próba życia (1957), cast in iron, are what first seems like shapeless, imprecise forms, but nonetheless heavily charged with pathos. Synthetically constructed silhouette of The Mother expresses a gesture of tragic protest – the critics saw in this work one of the original announcements of the thaw breakthrough in Polish sculpture. In the 1950s, she also produced the sculpture Atomzeit, created under the influence of a threat of atomic disaster. Więcek simultaneously realised her first Florals (a series of works which she also developed in the subsequent years), which were exhibited in 1959 at the 1st Biennale of the Young in Paris. By the end of the 1950s, an expressive vocabulary gave way to intricate spatial compositions in Magdalena Więcek’s art. The artist almost completely abandoned figurative art and turned to abstraction; she created small and large scale compositions in metal, often installing the latter in open space. In 1963, the artist created a 3-metre tall sculpture Der Stein (The Stone) in St. Marghareten (Austria), and in Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo – the work Close to the Earth. This style, which henceforth dominated her output, was distinctly manifested in the form of her outdoor projects at the Biennial of Spatial Forms in Elbląg (1965, 1967). Więcek paid special attention to the relationship of her works with their spatial surrounding, thus initiating modern thinking about the place of sculpture in an urban environment. In Elbląg, she created, among others, the steel Oderwania (Disconnections), which are there to this day.
In Elbląg, I learned how to understand metal. My previous endeavours, made in heavy, raw, unpolished reinforced concrete were aimed at defining the relationship between movement in the structure of the Biennial sculptures, the force of its inertia, its weight described by mass. I saw incredible potential in the nature of metal. When beginning to compose the last spatial form, I thought in sport categories – apply minimum effort to achieve an impression of a throw of a metal form into space, a throw associated with a flight of a ball.
In the 1960s, Magdalena Więcek produced many monumental projects, and her works from that period are characterised by a bulky form and references to the world of nature or abstract notions. Her works from that decade are crowned by a six-metre tall, brass Lotna (1967), which Więcek designed at a biennial in Aalborg, Denmark. Alongside her compositions in metal, the artist created low-key, elegant forms, in which she combined stone with other materials, putting stress on the expressive contrasts in texture. Nonetheless, she did not move away from monumental realisations, which is demonstrated by the series of six works titled Sacrum from 1971- 74, which made a reference to sacral architecture. In 1970, Więcek started collaborating with the Warsaw-based Współczesna Gallery, which gathered a part of the art circles after the Krzywe Koło Club was closed down, while beginning in 1977, she regularly exhibited at the Zapiecek Gallery.
In her works from the 80s and 90s, the artist exposed the beauty of steel, aluminium, and bronze, as well as increasingly headed towards distinctly more synthetic forms, manifesting a geometrical order and simplicity of material. In 1982, during the martial law, Więcek was removed from the school in Poznań, while in 1986, she emigrated from Poland. During that period she created, among others, the sculpture Niemoc (Impotence), as well as six crumpled Pages from a Diary cast in aluminium. In 1996, Więcek created the series Książki (Books) in bronze, while in 2001, a series of steel Wieże (Towers) and Płaskorzeźby (Reliefs).
Magdalena Więcek died in 2008 in Egypt.
Author: Ewa Gorządek, marzec 2017, tranlated form Polish into English by Anna Micińska, March 2017