Fine-art photographer, grandson of the poet Stanisław Grochowiak. Born in 1977 in Warsaw.
From 2000 to 2001 he studied cinematography, directing and fine-art photography at the Faculty of Radio and Television of the University of Silesia. From 2003 to 2008 he studied photography at the Faculty of Multimedia Communication of the Poznań University of Arts. In 2008 he obtained from this educational institution a master’s degree in photography.
From 2004 to 2008 he worked as an editor for the internet magazine Tempo and was a member of Grupa 4! He works and lives in Warsaw.
Grochowiak has been consistently developing his own style, which displays the artist’s respect for photographic tradition . His photographs are often interpretations of classic themes such as landscape, interiors, genre scenes, architecture or portraits. The diversity of the used motifs comprises a specific documentation and an original and intriguing view of the world. The creator is interested in capturing the specific metaphysics of ordinary places and everyday situations. As he searches for metaphysics, he focuses on the margins, on what usually fall outside of the observer’s field of vision. It is there, paradoxically, that he finds traces of something special. He can create unique visual compositions and propose new interpretations of subjects which he discovers in areas free from popular visual clichés. In Grochowiak’s work aesthetics play a very important role; the artist aims for his photographs to “look nice”. He uses a sparing language of expression, emphasizing strongly the formal side of the presentation and details. His photographs have a specific atmosphere, as if the situations they show were from outside of continuous time. From the chaos of visual information that surrounds us the artist tries to introduce a certain perceptive order.
In 2008 he realized a series of 18 photographs which he entitled 76% H2O. A year later this series was presented in the framework of the Samsung Art Master competition. The artist commented on his work:
The emptiness between the long (total) shot and the details that may be found in the long shot is characterized by a certain ambivalence. In the present world emptiness is predominant. The ocean dominates the land and “76% H2O” is the amount of water in the body of a newborn child. Contemporary Europe is disappointing. Urbanization, globalization, the technological revolution, materialism and tourism. I observe them, I participate in them and I’m their victim. […] We have gotten lost in the emptiness of excess (the excess of emptiness?). We are characterized by a longing for something special, something important that is going on just beyond the edge of the frame.
In 2009 the photographic series Breath / Dech was created. It shows fragments of residential interiors of various characters which are devoid of the physical presence of man. The rooms in the photographs are devoid of human staffage, but in each of these pictures the motif of smoke or steam floating in the air, like the trace of a breath, is present. The little transparent clouds introduce an atmosphere of mystery and suggest an evident lack, which left behind a severe emptiness in the interiors. Silent horror emanates from the empty rooms, one might even come to imagine that these chambers are mute witnesses of some crimes or places haunted by ghosts.
The photographs from Michał Grochowiak’s series Truth Study Corner (2011) are a collection of works that differ regarding subject matter, genres, formats and colour schemes. It is difficult to find the leading motif of these photographs, each picture is an autonomous work but at the same time perfectly matches the whole set. Many of the photographs draw attention to the great, brief composition of the frames which brings to mind Japanese haiku, and to the subtle palette of the captured atmospheres among which peace, meditation and harmony are predominant.
Grochowiak’s photographic project Water & Gas (2012) realized in the framework of the scholarship program Młoda Polska is a documentation of the author’s trip across the United States. The artist travelled from Los Angeles to New York in a rented car; thus he realized one of the pop-culture dreams and confronted his own experiences with a famous American myth. The title water and gas are two liquids that are needed to travel that route. Grochowiak follows that lead, photographing amongst others gas stations and water towers. He visits New Orleans which had been devastated by water and Detroit which went bankrupt after the car industry collapsed.
Grochowiak consciously links his journey across the United States to the strongly exploited cultural cliché, he duplicates a certain myth for yet another time, showing the impossibility of separating that which is real from that which had been shown a number of times in films, artworks and books. Consorting with a reality that is a myth was the artist's challenge:
I predisposed myself for this “crack”, for myself in an great area and visual culture. I didn’t want to run away from it. It was to be an empirical experience. The whole trip was to be a cognition, the series that resulted from this trip is of secondary importance, while the photographic camera is a means of cognition. My copy is more important than the original.
The artist’s website: http://www.michalgrochowiak.com/
Author: Ewa Gorządek, July 2014
Translated by: Marek Kępa
- 2014 – “Michał Grochowiak, That Doesn’t Count” / “Michał Grochowiak, To się nie liczy”, Starter Gallery, Warsaw
- 2012 – “Michał Grochowiak, Water&Gas”, Starter Gallery, Warsaw
- 2011 – “Michał Grochowiak, Truth Study Corner”, PF Gallery of Photography, Poznań
- 2009 – “Tribute to Krasiński”, Bęc Zmiana Foundation, Warsaw
- 2009 – “Samsung Art Master”, Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw
- 2009 – “Michał Grochowiak, Breath” / “Michał Grochowiak, Dech”, Starter Gallery, Poznań
- 2008 – “The Non-Obvious” / “Nieoczywiste”, Old Brewery, Poznań
Awards and distinctions:
- 2008 - Special Distinction, the Design Workshop Meblościanka, Poznań
- 2009 - Laureate of the competition Samsung Art Master
- 2009 – Laureate of the competition Epson Art Photo
- 2011 - Recipient of a scholarship from the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Młoda Polska