Monika Zawadzki is a Warsaw-based visual artist who creates sculptures, video works, posters and works of graphic art, born on the 24th of October 1977 in Grójec.
Visual artist creating sculptures, video works, posters and graphic art.
She received a master’s degree from the Faculty of Graphic Art of the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. She has received two scholarships from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage (2005, 2012). She lives and works in Warsaw.
Monika Zawadzki creates simple forms using such media as sculpture, painting and video. She has devised her own visual language of expression based on repeatable motifs. The colours used by Zawadzki are most often limited to black and white. Less often – as a consequence of the qualities of the materials used for the making of the works - her creations become completely translucent. (Discomfort (Dyskomfort, 2010); Water Sculptures (Rzeźby wodne, 2010); Gloves (Rękawiczki) and Wet Table (Mokry stół both from 2012). Her works presented in the framework of individual and group exhibitions often constitute complex spatial installations.
The main topic of the artist’s creativity is the creation of identity shown by means of shapes devoid of the qualities of individualism. This was the central theme of Zawadzki’s large individual exhibition entitled Anyone, which was organized in 2010 at the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle. The curator of the showing wrote:
Anyone is of course about identity, the lack of identity and, what’s worse, about the lack of need for identity. No identity, no qualities. That is why Anyone blurs the faces of figures, women, we see a profile or a pulp, we do not see anything else, a contour, a specific solid of a sculpture speaks, being however deprived of meaningful details, differences, unification, and if there is a difference it is rather like the difference between anyone and anybody. Here there is a lack of a subject, the subject is random […] Zawadzki’s Anyone is like a projection screen, an obvious association proportional to the amount of projectors at the exhibition. Anything and everything can be screened there. But there are certain framework topics, or maybe not topics but rather a form, which somehow organizes this, and the artist, the aesthete is responsible for this form. This is a critical aesthete, a visual artist critically disposed toward reality, who processes reality aesthetically. A graphical essence, a core, but the content is political.
Humans and animals
In the series Rights for Humans and Animals (Prawa dla ludzi i zwierząt) which consists of drawings and graphics from the years 1995-2008, the artist, by declaring her reserve towards the addressed issues, inclines the viewer to individually analyse the position of the individual and the socio-ethical dependencies between various beings: man and man, man and animal, man and woman. Zawadzki, by means of slogans and visual messages, provokes thought on the basic values and laws that are in force in the world. She raises questions about violence and domination, and the coexistence of entities in the framework of social, biological or political orders.
Among the important issues addressed by the artist are the problems of the food chain and metabolism which show the interdependencies between humans, animals and the world of organisms. The curator Joanna Sokołowska points to the equality of many entities and to the equality of animate and inanimate matter in Zawadzki’s works:
Monika Zawadzki’s works assume a view of the world from the perspective of an alien who ignores earthly hierarchies. By situating herself close to post-humanistic thought, she questions the anthropocentric perspective, and undermines the relation of domination that exists between humans and animals, species, genders, organic matter and creations of culture.
Many works by Zawadzki have in them something of propagandistic and agitational performances, however, the meaning of these creations, which may be considered works of the artistic activism movement, is utterly humanistic. The artist often shows the figure of 'the Other' as an animal, equating humans and animals and broadening the traditional understanding of love. The artist’s interest in the issues concerning relations between men and also between men and animals evolved in the direction of an interest in matter as such, including inanimate matter.
This is how Monika Zawadzki characterized her interest in matter in a text that accompanied the individual exhibition Blackbird, which was held at the SVIT Praha gallery in 2011:
The history of matter is unknown. The accumulation of experiences of earlier states and arrangements is registered subconsciously. A person that confronts him or herself with an object – a body of unknown, alien and everlasting matter – should identify with this object in a natural way. Objects are active, stimulating, oppressive bodies with which one is forced to establish relations. The memory of matter commits us to responsibility for the things we own. Creating new objects is dangerous because of the risk of interacting with other matter. By giving new meanings, the forming of objects from matter causes the partial cleaning of earlier states from matter.
The topic of exclusion
Zawadzki addresses the issues of exclusion and social restrictions. She focuses attention on the mechanisms of the functioning of individuals; on individuals’ diversity, corporealness and the impossibility of reaching an agreement. These themes appear in such works as Skipping Rope ( Skakanka, 2006, 2009), which was at first realized as a graphic and later as a video based on photographs, Sausagey Lovers (Kiełbasiani kochankowie, 2006), which tells about the physiology and spirituality of sausages, in the sculpture Bathtub (Wanna, 2011) which is kind of an anthropomorphic, bothersome costume that has openings that correspond to the particular limbs and the head of a man, or in the poster Sausagey Anarchy (2009).
Zawadzki’s works display an economy of form, are rich in content and use conventionality and abridgements. The elegant minimalism isn’t, however, only a derivative of graphic art, which, in the case of spatial works becomes expanded with a third dimension. Zawadzki’s works are openly socially engaged. Similar to the works that may be considered achievements of the Polish poster school, the very clear content of the message is precisely expressed through the form, which is subordinate to the message. This is especially visible in such works as Beggar’s Sculpture (Rzeźba żebracza, 2011), which is a leg pierced with a hand making a gesture of begging, in the sculpture Poverty (Bieda, 2011), in which hands form a looped, self-locking system shaped as an open cube, and in the mural Green Island (Zielona wyspa) in which a man is shown in four stages – from upright to lying down, in a rescaled form. In a text that accompanied the exhibition Monica which was organized at Wrocław BWA in 2010, Katarzyna Rój characterized the artist’s work method, using the notion of applied graphics as a starting point. By doing so Rój tried to capture the essence of Zawadzki’s creativity.
Graphic design, especially the kind based on logotypes and pictograms, has accustomed us to clear messages that don’t raise any doubts. It is this doubt that Monika Zawadzki asks for in her works. She situates them on the line between design, art and sociology, she also designs for the perverse pleasure of looking. In the beginning she uses a 'moment of content' and she later complicates the visual equivalent of it. What she gives back to the viewer has a formula that has already been made objective, has been captured as a graphic idiom and is simple.
Graphic realizations are a separate part of the artist’s work. Zawadzki has been the artistic director of the magazine DIK Fagazine which was founded by Karol Radziszewski since 2005. She designed the logotype and the layout of this periodical. There is a different typographic concept for every issue of this magazine.
In the years 2008-2011 she worked as the artistic director of the lifestyle magazine K MAG founded by Mikołaj Komar (logotype, layout). She is the author of the graphic design of the educational collection of Polish films Filmoteka Szkolna. She realized graphic projects for the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, the theatre TR Warszawa, Krzysztof Warlikowski’s theatre Nowy Teatr, the National Audiovisual Institute, the Polish Film Institute, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, the online magazine Dwutygodnik, the magazine Szum, the theatrical Malta Festival. In 2010 she was one of the jurors of the 22nd International Poster Biennale in Warsaw. In the years 2003-2007 the artist ran a non-commercial gallery in Warsaw named Zoo. (This gallery was independent from, and had a different program than the Z.o.o. gallery with limited liability).
Main Exhibitions and Collections
The individual exhibitions which most fully present the works of the Grójec-born artist include two showings at the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle (2008, 2010), an exhibition at the Pinchuk Art Centre in Kiev (2012), and a showing at the Zachęta National Gallery of Art (2014). Zawadzki’s works may be found in the collections of the Museum of Art in Łódź and the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw. The exhibition Cattle / Bydło at Zachęta encompassed, amongst others, sculptures and a mural. The strongly geometrized works of a monumental scale, for example The Feeding One (Karmiąca), Cow (Krowa), Cooked Head (Gotowana głowa) and Membranes (Hands, Legs, Trunks) (Błony (Ręce, Nogi Tułowia)), were made from epoxy resin covered with black paint. This is another of the artist’s projects that refers to the status of mass.
Zawadzki commented on the exhibition at Zachęta:
Cattle as a collection of elements deals with the own consciousness of meat in a closed structure (body) and in an open structure (mass). This exhibition also addresses the issue of the transformation of this consciousness which results from the separation of parts from wholes. I don’t acknowledge the evaluative division between human meat and other kinds of meat. […] Complementary meat elements composed into structures which have fixed shapes and are subordinate to the functions of these structures limit own consciousness. By being separated from a whole, meat receives the status of mass – the separated meat is free from form and from the compulsion to operate, such meat may be divided and modelled without losing its qualities, meat of this kind becomes an open structure, the identity of such meat becomes fluent and independent from shape and amount. […] A radical transformation of meat takes place when meat is absorbed – eaten – by other meat. In this case mass, by being incorporated into a fixed form, is turned into a part of a closed structure (body). The merging of structures results in the possibility of obtaining qualitatively identical meat, which however takes on the identity of the dominant meat.
Author: Michał Jachuła, March 2014, translated by: Marek Kępa, May 2014
Selected Individual Exhibitions:
- 2006 – The Biggest Pleasure Is to Avoid Contacts with Society / Największa rozkosz to unikanie kontaktów ze społeczeństwem (from the series Rights for Humans and Animals), TR Warszawa
- 2008 - One Who Lies Down with Dogs Wakes Up with Fleas / Kto kładzie się z psami budzi się z pchłami (from the series Rights for Humans and Animals), Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw
- 2009 - Idealized Self-Portrait / Autoportret idealizowany (from the series Rights for Humans and Animals), TR Warszawa; Sausagey Anarchy / Kiełbasiana anarchia, Goldex Poldex, Kraków
2010 - Concept, Goldex Poldex, Kraków; Monica, BWA Design, Wrocław; Anyone, Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw
- 2011 - Blackbird, with a guest appearance by Dan Perjovschi, SVIT Gallery, Prague
- 2012 - Mud / Błoto, in the framework of the project Raster Editions, Raster Gallery, Warsaw; A Tent and a Fire / Namiot i ognisko, Kordegarda, National Centre for Culture, Warsaw; A Man and Two Seesaws/ Człowiek i dwie huśtawki, Pinchuk Art Centre, Kiev
- 2013 - Two Shared Rooms / Dwa wspólne pokoje, Biała Gallery, Centre for Culture, Lublin; Bucket / Wiadro, SVIT Gallery, Prague
- 2014 - Cattle / Bydło, Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw
Selected group exhibitions:
- 2011 – Eyes Are Looking for a Head to Live in / Oczy szukają głowy do zamieszkania, the 80th anniversary of the International Collection of Modern Art, Museum of Art, Łódź
- 2012 - Auropol, Kala Kendra Gallery, Auroville, India (In collaboration with the Museum of Art, Łódź); POSTDOCUMENT. The Unportrayed World. Documents of the post-1989 Polish Transformation / POSTDOKUMENT. Świat nie przedstawiony. Dokumenty polskiej transformacji po 1989 roku, Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw
2013 - A Photograph of a City. Warsaw Photography and Related Practices, from the End of the War until Today / Zdjęcie miasta. Fotografia warszawska i praktyki pokrewne od zakończenia wojny do dziś, Nowy Teatr, Warszawa; Testing (Re-)Production, Festival of Performance, Museum of Art, Łódź; Self-Government: Cultural Evolution vs. Revolution, The 3-rd Odessa Biennale Of Contemporary Art, Museum of Odessa Modern Art; Dimensions Variable, Changdong, The National Art Studio, in the framework of a residency organized by the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul; Collection. Fragment / Kolekcja. Fragment, Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw; SVIT, SVIT Gallery, Prague
- 2014 – An Atlas of Modernity. A Collection of 20th Century and 21st Century Art / Atlas nowoczesności. Kolekcja sztuki XX i XXI wieku, Museum of Art, Łódź.