His oeuvre encompasses a number of separate, varied activities invented by Kalina himself, such as "ritual actions," "determinants" and "living pictograms." His work generated social resonance of unheard-of proportions in the realm of public art. Since 1973, he has been creating animated films, winning awards at Polish and international festivals.
His work generated social resonance of unheard-of proportions in the realm of public art. Since 1973, he has been creating animated films and winning awards at international festivals.
Jerzy Kalina, fot. Zenon Zyburtowicz / East News
Born in 1944 in Garwolin and residing today in Komorów near Warsaw, Jerzy Kalina has made a name for himself in Poland and throughout the world as an action and performance artist, set designer, creator of animated films and stained glass. He studied at the Painting Department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw between 1965 and 1971, receiving his diploma in the studio of Stefan Gierowski. He was invited in 1989 by the same department of his alma mater to lead a "guest studio," which he headed for three semesters during 1990 and 1991.
The artist developed his individual language of forms early, delineating his sphere of interests and selecting and experimenting with materials and objects that would come to characterise his art. He has coined his own names for his activities, deeming them "ritual actions," "determinants" and "living pictograms."
He has focused on issues of existential enslavement and limitation, which he strives to deconstruct through artistic processes by which he confronts everyday realities in a direct manner in such works as Skrępowanie / Discomfort, Victory Square, Warsaw, 1971; Przystanek taxi / Taxi Stop, Salt Square, Wrocław, 1972; Wykop / Excavation, Wigilia / Christmas Eve, action art pieces at the Paweł Freisler Gallery, Warsaw, 1972; Biały most / White Bridge, Wrocław, 1974; Obchód / Inspection, Repassage Gallery, Warsaw, 1975; and Przejście / Crossing, corner of Mazowiecka and Świętokrzyska Streets, Warsaw, 1977.
While Poland was under martial law, Kalina adopted an unequivocally oppositional stance. Given his unrestrained, expansive tendencies as well as his links to the Catholic church, his work generated social resonance of unheard of proportions in the realm of public art. He produced works based on "official" commissions from church authorities, including visual elements and scenery for religious ceremonies- the outdoor altars during pilgrimages to Poland of Pope John Paul II in 1987 and 1991; visual design for the funeral of Father Jerzy Popiełuszko in 1984 and the design for the priest's tomb alongside St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Warsaw (1986), and a monument shaped like a cross on the Vistula River dam in Wlocławek (1991). He created works based on government commissions, among them the design for the chapel in Belvedere Palace (1992). More recently he has been creating objects in sheet metal and designing stained glass windows.
Since 1973, Kalina has been creating animated films. He has made more than a dozen films that have won numerous awards at Polish and international festivals. He also designs and directs original theatre productions that are presented on some of the country's professional stages (Pielgrzymi i tułacze / Pilgrims and Exiles, premiered at the Teatr Studio / Studio Theatre in 1989 and performed in Poland and abroad; Katapulta / Catapult, Teatr Mały / Little Theatre, Warsaw, 1993).
Selected exhibition and awards:
- 1977 - Cyprian Kamil Norwid Art Criticism Award for intervention titled Przejście / Crossing, Warsaw
- 1983 - Znak krzyża / Sign of the Cross, God's Grace Parish, Warsaw
- 1984 - Apokalipsa - światło w ciemności / Apocalypse - Light in Darkness, Lower Church of the Holy Cross, Warsaw
- 1984 - Award of the Solidarity Independent Culture Committee for the visual design of the funeral ceremony for Father Jerzy Popiełuszko, Warsaw
- 1985 - Niebo nowe i ziemia nowa? / New Heaven and New Earth?, God's Grace Parish, Warsaw
- 1986 - Brother Albert Award
- 1987 - Annual Artistic Award of the Museum of the Warsaw Archdiocese
- 1988 - Participant of the art exhibition accompanying the Olympic games in Seoul, South Korea
- 1990 - Award of the Minister of Culture and Art for the Most Interesting Museum Event of the Year for his exhibition/installation Czas niepokornych / The Time of the Irreverent, The Museum of Independence, Warsaw
Author: Maryla Sitkowska, Museum of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, June 2002.