Polish painter, illustrator, educator. Modzelewski was born in Warsaw on October 8, 1955, resides in Warsaw.
Born October 8, 1955 in Warsaw. Polish painter, illustrator, educator, resides in Warsaw.
The dashing resurrection, 1987, oil on canvas, courtesy of Regional Museum in Bydgoszcz
Between 1975 and 1980 he studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw under Professor Stefan Gierowski. In 1982 he began teaching at his alma mater and was among the co-founders of Gruppa, a group which continued to organize joint exhibitions of its members' works through 1992. In addition to Modzelewski, the group included Ryszard Grzyb, Paweł Kowalewski, Włodzimierz Pawlak, Marek Sobczyk, and Ryszard Woźniak. Gruppa was a manifestation of new Expressionism in Poland. An expression of the tensions, dilemmas and artistic choices of the period of Martial Law in Poland seemed inscribed in its paintings, actions, and ad hoc artistic manifestations, as well as in the attitudes its members represented. These same issues were the focus of essays published in Gruppa's periodical titled "Oj dobrze już" / "All Right Already" (1984-1988), of which Modzelewski was co-publisher.
Croton and pot
1984; oil on canvas; 130x170 cm
courtesy of aTAK Gallery
In the early years of his creative career, Modzelewski used abstract signs and ideograms to construct his paintings (series of diploma paintings, 1980), though these were soon superseded by simplified, multiplied stencil motifs (Szturmujące delfiny / Charging Dolphins, 1981). In 1984 Modzelewski and his Gruppa colleague Marek Sobczyk received scholarships to travel and work in Germany. While in that country, they jointly painted a cycle of four large-format compositions on paper. In 1985 Modzelewski created a series of paintings based on illustrations from Russian language textbooks, depicting simple tasks whose verb forms were used as the titles of the works (Umivayetsya, Utirayetsya, Odevayetsya, Stoyit, Sidit, Idyot, Byezhit, etc.)
The nightly fisherman
2005; egg yolk tempera, canvas, 160x200 cm
courtesy of aTAK Gallery
Between 1986 and 1989 he produced figurative paintings whose forms (color, modeling, perspective) corresponded with those characteristic of realism, however, which were unusually aggravating for their depiction of figures and especially the situations represented. The artist created these effects by, for example, doubling figures, (Fotograf. Fotograf / Photographer, Photographer, 1986), showing them in situations of uncertainty, discomfort, or on the verge of falling (Trudnosci w poruszaniu sie / Difficulty in Moving, 1987), and through manipulations of space (Romantica Toscana, 1987). At times the surreal atmosphere in his works resulted directly from their subject matter or the existential situation represented (Bezreki cud / Handless Miracle, 1987; Niewidomy obslugujacy centralke telefoniczna / Blind Man Working a Telephone Exchange, 1988). In some of his paintings of this period the artist refrained from depicting human figures in favor of saturating the space of represented landscapes and interiors with emotion (Dom / House, Murek / Little Wall, 1988). In 1989 Modzelewski reverted to figurative scenes, treating them in a flat and decorative manner (Hygiene, W smutnym sklepie / In the Sad Store, 1989). In 1991 Modzelewski and his colleagues from Gruppa, Marek Sobczyk and Ryszard Wozniak, joined with Piotr Mlodozeniec to create the private School of Art in Warsaw. Modzelewski continued to manage this institution through 1996, and during this time reinitiated his collaboration with Marek Sobczyk. Between 1994 and 1998 they painted a series of new works and in 1998 presented these along with their "papers" from 1984 at an exhibition in Warsaw titled Szesnascie wspolnie namalowanych obrazow / Sixteen Jointly Produced Paintings. In terms of Modzelewski's individual output, the artist spent all of the 1990s creating "painted statements" (as they were dubbed by close friend, art critic and gallery owner Jan Michalski), marked by far-reaching simplification and sketched human figures who execute the gestures and actions mentioned in the titles of the works. Many of these scenes also occur against empty or entirely independent, abstract backgrounds (Kobieta wsiada na rower w kierunku Magdalenki / Woman Mounts a Bicycle Headed for Magdalenka, 1993). This impression of causticity was reinforced by the change in technique that occurred in the artist's career in 1997, when he shifted from oil paints to tempera. In 1998 Modzelewski received the Passport Award from the prestigious Polish weekly "Polityka".
Selected exhibitions and awards:
- 1985 - "The Road and the Truth"- 1st Biennale of Young Artists, Wroclaw (3rd prize)
- 1992 - "Kunst, Europa", Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn
- 1998 - "Polityka" weekly Passport Award for 1998
- 1999-2000 - "Aspects - Positions". 50 Years of Art in Central Europe, Vienna - Budapest
Author: Maryla Sitkowska, Museum of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, December 2001