Grzegorz Sztwiertnia is an artist who creates paintings, objects, sculptures, videos, and installations. He was born on 25th February 1968 in Cieszyn.
Visual artists creating paintings, objects, sculptures, videos, and installations.
Between 1987 and 1992 he studied painting at the Fine Arts Academy in Kraków, where he graduated from Professor Jerzy Nowosielski’s atelier. He’s now a lecturer there. Since 1992 he’s been collaborating with the Zderzak Gallery in Kraków. In 1994 he won a bronze medal in the Bielska Jesień contest. He creates drawings, paintings, and installations, and conducts artistic actions. He writes and publishes texts, which constitute an important part of his artistic strategy. He lives and works in Kraków.
The problems of extreme experiences, bodily discipline, and the question of perception often appear in Grzegorz Sztwiertnia’s works. In some, both subjects interwine. He has been interested since the very beginning in medical experiments, operations, deformed bodies, and places where the individual becomes separated from society (hospitals, prisons, shelters).
The carnal process of liquid flow – blood, lymph – had already appeared in Sztwiertnia’s early work (Pompowanie / Pumping, 1993; Dehydracja / Dehydration, 1995). He also created paramedical objects, which at the same time helped and disciplined the body (Wózek pneumatyczny / Pneumatic Chair, 1994). He uses the same subjects in his paintings, collected in series, usually created on the basis of photographs from medicine manuals. The artist often showed the deformation of the body through disease (Stainless, 2001) and medical operations (Ethicon, 2000).
On the Punkt ciszy / Point of Silence exhibition in Potocka Gallery (Kraków, 1995), Sztwiertnia compiled serigraph prints based on anatomical drawings, presenting the human muscular system (“a man with no skin”) and skins reminiscent of punching bags. In his 1998 work Psychotropy / Psychotropes, as a director of the "Psychotrop" Psychological Analysis Studio, he gave advice to the director of Zderzak Gallery Marta Tarabula on her looks, creating a caricature of books and television programmes operating with the paradigm of a perfect body. Ćwiczenia mnemotechniczne: 1500 kalorii (Martwa natura) / Mnemotechnic Excercises: 1500 Calories (Still-life) indirectly referenced modern techniques of losing weight. The main element of this pictorial installation was an image showing the daily food ration of the prisoners of Auschwitz concentration camp created on the basis of an archival photograph. It was complemented by a work consisting of a line of numbers (Liczenie kalorii / Calorie Count).
Sztwiertnia also created the widespread text Projekt doskonałych falansterów dla artystów / A Project of Perfect Phalansteries for Artists, which was meant as an institution reminiscent of a monestary for artists whose actions were governed by strict rules. The manifesto Jak rodzi się myśl + konsekwencje / How Thought is Born + Consequences had a similar message, but it bore more resemblance to a medical instruction.
In 2004 the work Muzeum wyobraźni / The Museum of Imagination, consisting of a dozen slides, was created. It recorded the author’s visit to the Kraków National Museum – under his white-gloved hands dismembered bodies hide, which suggests the way in which art functions in such institutions. In the Alte Meister – Syndrom project (2005), realized for the Dresden Gallery, Sztwiertnia placed his model in front of old masterpieces, making him mimick the positions of their protagonists. Through reversing the model-image process to image-model, the gestures lost their poignancy, became empty and unnatural.
A second important plot in Grzegorz Sztwiertnia’s art, visible since the mid-nineties, is the question of perception, of colour impact and the functioning of senses (Struktura ekstazy / Extasy structure, 1999). It was especially evident in the Farbenlehre exhibition in 2002, the title of which is a reference to Goethe’s theory of colors. It was also quoted by Rudolf Steiner when he composed the rules of eurythmia, the subject of the film Eurythmicon, presented during this exhibition. It was the fruit of observation of the behaviour of a mentally handicapped boy, very precise and harmonious in his movements. On the video he plays with a colourful tape and emits sounds. A similar subject – the question of perception and colour functioning – came back during the Meeting Room_01 exhibition in Kronika Gallery in Bytom, in 2006, which was subject to change over the course of 10 months, and had an impact on the viewer’s state of mind through painting and three-dimentional arrangements.
Also the installation Ćwiczenia neoplastyczne / Neoplastic excercises (2002) – gymnastics ladders and materasses, using patterns from Mondrian’s paintings. In this work Sztwiertnia showed an influence through colour and shape as one of the form of disciplining the body (gymnastics excersises). He also used Mondrian’s paintings in the installation Ojcowie awangardy / Fathers of the Avant-garde (2005), a specially designed baby bed connected with a sound installation. It was a project of the “total education system” where the child, as Marek Goździewski wrote:
Is situated in an avant-garde aesthetic surrounding.
The question of education as discipline was elaborated by Sztwiertnia during the Dział nauczania / Teaching Department exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw in 2006. Aside from his own works (like Teoria widzenia / The Theory of Seeing, 2005), he presented his students’ accomplishments (Zofia Wollny, Anna Maria Kaczmarska among others). It was a forked act – on the one hand it underlined the academic hierarchy, disclosing the possible effects of the proposed system of education, on the other – it loosened this hierarchy and democratized it .
Author: Karol Sienkiewicz, December 2006, translated by N. Mętrak-Ruda, November 2015.
Selected individual exhibitions:
- 1992 - Pięciu poetów, pięciu malarzy, jeden artysta / Five poets, five painters, one artist - Zderzak Gallery, Kraków
- 1993 - Ścisły ster do kierowania życiem / At the strict helm for life driving - Zderzak Gallery, Kraków
- 1994 - Zło rzeczy / The Evil of Things - Krzysztofory Gallery, Kraków; Jak rodzi się myśl / How the thought is born - Miejsce Gallery, Cieszyn; Jak rodzi się myśl + konsekwencje / How the thought is born + consequences - Bücklein Institute Gallery, Kraków; Aura - Zderzak Gallery, Kraków
- 1995 - W laboratorium / In the laboratory - Laboratorium Gallery, Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw; Punkt ciszy / Point of Silence - Potocka Gallery, Kraków; Melancholia / Melancholy - Zderzak Gallery, Kraków
- 1996 - Transplantacja. Pokaz specjalny / Transplantation. Special screening - Kronika Gallery, Bytom; Dehydracja / Dehydration - Zamkowa Gallery, Lublin
- 1997 - Resekcja / Resection - Krzysztofory Gallery, Kraków; Koło medyczne / Medical Circle - Prowincjonalna Gallery, Słubice; Inkubator - Mały Salon / Incubator - Small salon, Zachęta Gallery, Warszawa
- 1998 - Psychotropy / Psychotropes - Zderzak Gallery, Kraków; Ćwiczenia dermooptyczne /Dermo-optic excercises - Biała Gallery, Lublin; Metodyczna poprawność / Methodical correctness - Arsenał Gallery, Białystok; Ktokolwiek widział, ktokolwiek wie… / Whoever saw, whoever knows... - Potocka Gallery, Kraków
- 1999 - Cud / Miracles - Otwarta Pracownia, Kraków; Remake. Pokaz synooptyczny / Remake. Synoptical Display - Goethe Institut, Kraków
- 2000 - Remake - Studio Galerie, Berlin; Reflekso-hypno-hysteria - BWA, Słupsk
- 2001 - Stainless - Zderzak Gallery, Kraków; Kreatury / Creatures - Górnośląskie Centrum Kultury, Katowice
- 2002 - Farbenlehre - Bunkier Sztuki, Kraków; Action Painting - Otwarta Pracownia, Kraków
- 2003 - Oko i dłoń malarza / The eye and the hand of the painter - Zderzak Gallery, Kraków
- 2004 - Niosę przed sobą lustro… / I hold a mirror before me - Szara Gallery, Cieszyn; Górnośląskie Centrum Kultury, Katowice (2005)
- 2005 - 1500 kalorii / 1500 calories - Rotunda Gallery, Poznań
- 2006 - Dział nauczania / Teaching Departement in the series In the Spotlight, Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw; Meeting Room_01 - Kronika Gallery, Bytom; PAINtings/obRAZY - Zderzak Gallery, Kraków
All titles translated by the editor.