Gizela Mickiewicz (b. 1984) is a visual artist based in Warsaw. She creates sculptures, drawings, installations, and modifications of ready-made objects.
Visual artist, sculptor, painter, creator of installations and modyficator of ready-made objects.
She graduated from the Faculty of Art Education at the University of the Arts in Poznań (2007–2012) where she also studied painting (2006–2007). In 2009, she received an award in Samsung Art Master 7, a national art competition for the youngest generation of artists. In 2014, she took part in the artist-in-residence programme at the Gasworks Gallery in London. She also collaborates with the Stereo Gallery in Warsaw.
Mickiewicz deals with everyday objects in her work. She inquires into their mutual relations and relations to people and other objects. She observes them, and explores their origins, functions, and the ways in which they are handled by humans. She examines the whole process of creating an object: from the birth of the idea, sketches of the design, through to its prototype and the final, ready-to-use version. Mickiewicz sometimes takes the objects to pieces and assembles them in a different way, combining the non-matching elements. Other times, she chooses one instant from the manufacturing process of the object and holds it back, or puts it in a different place in the object's timeline.
I'm interested in broadly understood material culture; in the way we operate within the world of objects, and in how we handle them. Objects are obvious, hardly noticeable components of our everyday life, we use them automatically, without reflecting upon them – said the artist in an interview for Culture.pl.
She has no artistic master to follow – she'd rather look for inspiration in areas not related to art, for instance, in materials science. She makes her poetic sculptures with discarded objects, which have noticeable signs of use.
I use new stuff, which I make look old. I control every stage of the work, so even when I use a damaged object, I renovate it first, and only later make it look old again.
Her diploma project was a stool with the seat supported on one side on a toothpick.
In the work 'Nie za daleko' (Not Too Far, 2012) I hollowed out the object itself. By leaving just a shell of a stool, I deprived it of its usability, of its essence.
Immediately after graduating, she held a solo exhibition at the newly opened Frutta Gallery in Rome which revolved around the issue of looking and seeing. The show included works such as an installation made of blinds – Cofanie wzroku na najbliższy plan (Withdrawing Your Gaze to the Foreground, 2013), spatial drawings created with creased paper, the shape of which changes depending on the angle of viewing – Ruchomy punkt odniesienia (Moving Point of Reference, 2013), and an aluminium can sliced in the middle – Jest tylko przód (Persisting Front, 2013).
At the same time, she worked on her solo exhibition titled Pokaz siły (Show of Force) in the BWA Zielona Góra, which revolved around the issue of relation of power between objects, and featured her most monumental work, Granica uradzeń – an empty, worn plastic bag suspended in space, and Zbliżenie odpychania (Approximation of Remoteness, 2013) – a drawer with a duvet stuck inside, which referred to the rigid order prevailing in the world of objects, and which we unwittingly employ, for we live in a world where every object has its place and assigned use.
I wanted to create a situation of conflict. I wanted to assemble objects against the logic of their everyday use. 'Approximation of Remoteness' resembles a clinch – two things in a grip preventing any action, and blocking each other.
Warunki do okazania się silnym (The Conditions in Which to Appear Strong, 2013) is a work in which, as the artist claims, a weak element – a piece of paper – is placed in relation to other objects in such a way that it becomes the strongest element. Another work, Pozostawanie czym się jest (Remaining What One Is) is a wiper cut in pieces and spread out in a large rectangle. It is a fragmented object, difficult to identify; it is only by characteristic details that one can recreate in mind its original state.
This is an exhibition of small, strange objects that look a bit like machines of unknown purpose, or like something that at first glance is unrecognisable. Enigmatic, but very visually attractive, I might even say it is a seductive art – said Wojciech Kozłowski, the director of the BWA, at the opening of the Show of Force exhibition (curated by Michał Lasota).
In her recent work in progress, the Czas tła (Background of Time) cycle, Mickiewicz deals with the unfinished status of the transitional form of an object before it achieves its final shape. Within such a framework, the artist created works in which the object returns to the raw material it is made of. The other work from this series, Cofanie do przodu (Rolling Back Ahead, 2013) is an installation made of a wire fence, a draining rack, a whisk and a strainer, parts of which are partially straightened and reshaped.
The most important sculpture in this series is Czas surowy (Raw Time). It depicts a fragment of a bathroom in different stages of tiling. In this piece, all the elements are separated, and what we see is the intersection of the process of achieving the final structure.
In her most recent projects, Mickiewicz has departed from dealing with objects, and focuses on materiality per se.
Currently, I am interested anew in materials that are not yet utilized in the industry and do not have a specific shape. Material in a pure state. – she revealed in an interview for Culture.pl
The Family Allotments on Warsaw’s Kinowa Street are located in the city centre, but they remain free from the hustle and bustle of the city and are untouched by the urban changes happening around them. It is in this setting – a ‘no man’s city’ – that the Realny Obszar Działań (Real Action Area) project was born. It’s a space dedicated for artists which welcomes artistic events of all sorts: art shows, performances, discussions. This is where Gizela Mickiewicz presented her work in an exhibition entitled Pełny Odcinek (Full Episode) in 2014. She took an interest in the hierarchy and structure of the process of creation. She investigated each stage and their degree of importance in relation to the entire course of all the short but important parts leading to its completion.
The series of sculptures from Mickiewicz’s individual exhibition Mass and Mood was an attempt to give emotions and mental states a type of form. The artist used art to try and present all that's happening inside us on a daily basis. Using different shapes, textures, and sizes, she wanted to materialise feelings and atmosphere. In her installations, Mickiewicz combined various substances to better illustrate conflicting emotions or situations. The inspiration behind the artworks featured in Stereo Gallery came from a social event she attended, which she describes in the following way:
A small group of people grew louder and larger with time. For a long time I watched the way people were greeted upon their arrival and how the atmosphere of the meeting gradually changed, depending on who came. I noticed that while naming these changes and talking about them, I used very specific words for something that isn't tangible – I reached for specific descriptions of solid matter. I decided to play a little game with myself and began to exaggerate these subtle changes. The people entering were almost like shapes with their respective properties: some ugly and sticky like jagged cotton candy, others proud, spread out, under whom one might willingly sit. For example, one person was concave on each side. Together they all formed the shape of the meeting, strange and in so many ways heterogeneous. I remember it primarily as a visual and perceptible experience.
Mickiewicz wanted to externalise and materialise a condition that is often difficult to express even with the use of words, and she attempted to transfer it to the sphere of tangible reality with the help of abstract forms.
Feet, 4 Walls & Head – a two-person exhibition featuring Gizela Mickiewicz and Roman Stańczak – opened in the autumn of 2015 as a result of a collaboration between Galeria Stereo and Bureau, a New York gallery. Despite being from two different generations, the sculptors both use everyday objects and materials. In his work, Stańczak focuses on the physicality of a given object, while Mickiewicz creates abstract pieces alluding to the spiritual sphere; she searches for the metaphysical potential of art. They converge at the point of material transformation. The Feet, 4 Walls & Head exhibition highlighted the similarities between the artists’ work, an affinity seen through shapes and textures. She often uses materials usually associated with the construction industry. A series of sculptures created by the artist for the Mickiewicz-Novotny joint exhibition in Gdańsk City Gallery provided an alternative narrative for these construction materials. Mickiewicz showed an entirely new side to substances previously known to viewers, but their purpose can be volatile. The cycle of works shown in Gdańsk entitled Time of Entry points to the potential use of the material itself, a potential that is limitless at any given moment. The artist played around with the properties and features of the individual materials – she combined delicacy with resistance, plasticity with endurance. Some of the works include a distorted painted concrete fabric, a light installation of wire and plexiglass, and a wall stuck together with bricks, glass blocks, transparent concrete, and hay. The exhibition of works by Gizela Mickiewicz and Jaromír Novotny opened in November 2015. Most of the pieces presented were minimal and austere; the artists wanted to achieve a common point of balance.
Playing with raw materials can have a confusing impact on the audience – when a seemingly familiar object like a carpet or a curtain is made of a rough and inflexible material such as concrete it contains an element of surprise. All of the titles of the works from the Gdansk exhibition refer to the future – a future of these materials that is uncertain and elusive, since currently their function still hasn’t been dominated by form and structure defined by content. That is why Mickiewicz didn’t create specific objects that – in a futuristic vision – could be used for everyday use, but opted for surrealism. Abstract installations allow for open interpretation and do not guarantee any single vision of the future. Minimalist art pieces designed by Gizela Mickiewicz could also be seen at the Next Now exhibition, which opened in the spring of 2016 at Arsenal Gallery in Białystok. Later that year the artist held a three-month residency in New York City's Triangle.
In the summer of 2017, Mickiewicz, along with 9 other artists, took part in the It Is As You Think It Is exhibition at the Arsenal Gallery. The project engaged creators whose work has a common feature – it is often not what it seems to be, hence the main theme of the exposition. It was an attempt to look at seemingly familiar things in a new, refreshing way; to play with how reality is interpreted and to revaluate one's perception of it.
In 2019 Gizela Mickiewicz was chosen to participate in the 9th edition of the Spojrzenia (Views) competition organised annually by Deutsche Bank Poland and the Zachęta National Art Gallery. The competition is aimed at young artists – but not novices per se as nominees must be active in the field of art and have had some substantial achievements in the field. Winners of the previous editions include Tomasz Kowalski, Dominika Olszowa, Liliana Piskorska, and the art collective Kem, as well as Mickiewicz herself. In the second stage of the competition an international jury decides on one winner.
For this occasion, Mickiewicz created an 8-piece sculpture entitled Samotność Widoków (Loneliness of Views). The installation doesn’t have a specific centre. According to the artist’s vision, the work cannot be seen in its entirety – it cannot be grasped with just one look. The transparency of the materials which were used allows for a great number of possible perspectives. Mickiewicz once again tries to affect and shape the surrounding space.
Author: Agnieszka Sural, 15.09.2014, transl. GS, 22.09.2014; updated: HSz, May 2019
- 2016 – The Next Now, Arsenal Gallery, Białystok
- 2015 – Mass and Mood, Stereo Gallery, Warsaw
- 2014 – Background Time, Frieze Art Fair, London; Pełny Odcinek (Full Episode), Realny Obszar Działań, Warsaw
- 2013 – Persistant Front, Frutta Gallery, Rome, Italy; Pokaz siły (Show of Force), BWA, Zielona Góra
- 2011 – Połyk na holu, Stereo Gallery, Poznań
Selected group exhibitions:
- 2019 – Friend of a Friend, Warsaw; Spojrzenia (Views), Zachęta – National Art Gallery, Warsaw
- 2018 – Orient, Art Bunker, Kraków
- 2017 – It Is As You Think It Is, Arsenal Gallery, Białystok
- 2015 – Mickiewicz. Novotny, City Gallery, Gdańsk
- 2014 – As You Can See. Polish Art Today, Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw
- 2013 – Nowe obyczaje (New Customs), Galeria Stereo, Warsaw; Rzeczy wspólne (Common Things), Art Stations Gallery, Poznań
- 2012 – Est ist Zeit fur Turn-Schuhe, Kuenstlerhaus Dortmund, Germany; Prowizorka (Makeshift), Arsenał Gallery, Poznań; Arbeitdisziplin, Arsenał Gallery, Poznań; Będzie dobrze (It will be alright), Stereo Gallery, Poznań; The Museum Problem, Frutta Gallery, Rome, Italy
- 2011 – 6TM 6 Biennale Młodych, Centre for Polish Sculpture, Orońsko; Walking in the House (with M.Sadowski), Emdes Gallery, Wrocław; Tarzan, Stary Browar, Poznań; Barwy ochronne, Kobro Gallery, Łódź
- 2010 – Każdy krok unosi mnie wyżej (Each Step Takes Me Higher), Stereo Gallery, Poznań; preMedytacje/Gesty (preMeditations/ Gestures), BWA Bielsko-Biała
- 2009 – Samsung Art Master 7, CCA Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw