Visual-arts artist and co-founder of the Film Form Workshop. Born in 1951 in Warsaw. A member of the Association of Artists of Other Art Forms (Stowarzyszenia Artystów Sztuk Innych, SASI).
A visual-arts artist, co-founder of the Film Form Workshop, and member of the Association of Artists of Other Art Forms (Stowarzyszenia Artystów Sztuk Innych, SASI).
Kwiek studied at the National Higher School of Film, Television and Theatre in Łódź, where he later lectured between 1978-1981. His artwork divides into two stages. The first is characterised by his activities in the neo avant-garde movement of the 1970s, while the second stage is marked by a departure into spiritualism. Since the 1980s, he has been involved with a movement that links exhibitions and churches. His short autobiography is tantalizingly brief on this topic:
Paweł Kwiek. 1971-1980 secular avant-garde artist, 1980 - conversion, 1980-2004 raising the status of religious avant-garde art, 1991-2002 - five-time psychiatric hospitalization, a couple of psycho-spiritual deaths and resurrections.
Works from both stages of the artist's career were exhibited in Warsaw's Centre for Contemporary Art in 2010. Dorota Jarecka wrote about the event in "A Conceptualist in Wonderland", whilst Krzysztof Jurecki speculated: "Which Paweł Kwiek?"
Let's start with the first one:
In the 1970s, Paweł Kwiek was a member of the Łódź Film Form Workshop, a group established in 1970 by students attending the Łódź Film School. Their goal was to break with the conventions of cinema. The proposed Workshop was to create a third force between cinema and contemporary art. It criticised the university programme as well as film itself. It was during this period that Paweł Kwiek also collaborated with a group of students and graduates majoring in sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw (mainly collaborating with the Oskar Hansen studio), along with his brother, Przemysław Kwiek. The interplay between both artistic environments, "imbued his works with innovation", according to Łukasz Ronduda.
In 1971, Paweł Kwiek worked with Zofia Kulik, Jan S. Wojciechowski and his brother on the film Open Form, whose title referred to the theory of Open Form by Oskar Hansen, which deals with historic architecture and contemporary needs.
The aim was to "improve communication and social individualism" (Ronduda). Open Form was an experiment exploring the possibility of such communication. The film consists of several episodes of: Pracownia Hansena" / "Hansen Studio, Gra na twarzy aktorki" / "A Play on the Face of an Actress, Pracownia rzeźby" / "Sculpture workshop, Studio TV" / "TV Studio, Mojżesz" / "Moses, Biblioteka" / "Library, Szkoła" / "School and Plener" / "Exterior. Having been inspired by instruments from the Laboratory of Composition of Blocks and Solid Surfaces, the film developed into a visual analysis of actress, Ewa Lemańska's face, as well as of school students subjected to "camera provocation".
Another piece derived from the KwieKulik partnership, was Paweł Kwiek's film entitled 1,2,3 - ćwiczenia operatorski" / "1, 2, 3 – Cinematography Exercises' (1972) - spontaneous improvisations that undermined the legitimacy of the regime of political organisations (in particular, the Union of Youth Socialists) at the Łódź Film School. The film did not have a clear, linear meaning and the author treated and assessed the materials with reserve, because the content itself interested him much less than the manner in which it was presented.
It is not possible to state clearly, writes Ronduda, whether the film is an affirmation or criticism of given symbols, so its projections in the 1970s usually evoked strong emotions from viewers.
His previous, now-lost film Twarz" / "Face (1971) also criticised the regime. In the film Jacek Łomnicki parodies the First PZPR Secretary Władysław Gomułka in a scene that depicts his dismissal.
Kwiek, one of the leading animators at the Film Form Workshop, sought to create an objective type of documentary film. His 1974 article Dokument obiektywny o człowieku" / "An Objective Documentary about a Man states:
A documentary film's aim is to provide the truth about man. Both for the sake of Art as well as from a scientific point of view. So far, however, it has not been possible to prevent the distortion of the truth, which results from (the subjectivity of the creator). (...) We can conclude that the truth we receive from man is based on direct contact with him, regardless of what he would like to show himself or in what fashion he would like to be perceived. (...) In a movie, this situation may arise when any decisions made by the filmmaker are taken upon by (...) a person or group, who are the film's subject. This means that he will make a film about himself, in the sense that this will allow him, or her, to freely work on any topic.
This concept began to be implemented through the assembling of type films (a method also adopted by Józef Robakowski, co-founder of the Workshop). An example of this type of action is found in the small rural village of Niechcice. Kwiek gave the camera to young people who went on to make over a dozen short films based on their own scripts. Ronduda claims:
The artist wanted to activate them, to awaken a critical and creative attitude towards reality in them, to help them realise what determines the shape of their life experience.
In 1974, he surrendered to this "objective notation", when, during a live broadcast at the TVP 2 Television studio, he conducted an experiment - standing in front of the camera, he gave a "television message about himself" (The Studio Situation). In 1978, during the festival "Działalność niezidentyfikowana" / "Unidentified Activities" he gave the audience control over the camera that he was operating. In this sense, the camera often served him (as in the episode Szkoła" / "School, Formy Otwarte" / "Open Forms or Niechcicach) as a tool for creating social events. On a different occasion, the catalyst was a specially designed table, where two people could draw in a parallel manner, as a means through which they can enter into a dialogue with one other (Międzyrysunki" / "Between the Pictures, 1979).
The film Ja + telefon" / "Me + A Phone (1972), shows the method of coupling, which Kwiek used between the actor and the camera operator. In the first part, against a pitch-black screen, the author talks about the film and the process by which it was made. The second part is then presented void of sound. He went one step further with his film "Komentarz / Commentary" (1972), which was reduced to text delivered by Kwiek in front of an audience - an ironic play on the mainstream cinema of the time. On another occasion, he used a mirror to reflect light from the film projector, and directed rays of light into the audience. His projects did not always take on the form of a pure film. They were also live events.
At the same time, Kwiek was interested in inter-media relationships, as well as the relationship between the body, the medium, the message and the recipient. Naturally, he was still concerned with wanting to improve communication. One of his most famous films is called Wideo-oddech. Kanał informacji" / "Video-breath. Information Channel (1978), in which he made his own breath condense onto the TV screen. He used his breath to control the brightness of the screen. Here, television played the role of a new culture fetish for the masses. Kwiek performed an interesting reversal method, in which the TV-viewer controlled the tools of propaganda and manipulation. Years later, the artist himself gave that action a different interpretation:
It was one of the first cases of meditation, in which I resorted not only to the ratio, but the existence of cognitive-behaviour. This was done in a creative sense associated with eastern, western and religious cultural traditions, not just pertaining to the modern cold-art practice of so called art-science detached from the roots of what is humanity.
Paweł Kwiek was also one of the first Polish artists to experiment with video (for example, Video A, 1974; Video C, 1975).
During the 1980 strike at the Łódź Film School, Kwiek, together with Jacek Jóźwiak, recorded Solidarne czekanie" / "Waiting in solidarity. By then he was already a member of the Solidarity Movement and an activist for the Charismatic Academy Renewal. On December 13, 1981, he was expelled from Film School.
The 1980s, particularly during the introduction of martial law, brought a veritable revolution in the art scene. Throughout the decade, so-called "next to church exhibitions" took place, with many artists directing their works towards a concrete spirituality. These artists did not necessarily form religious images, (the aim of artists such as Tadeusz Boruta). Few artists, however, retained this spiritualism within their artistry.
Paweł Kwiek belongs to this sphere of radical creators. In 1980, he claims to have experienced a mystical awakening. The form of his vision was apparently a "wall of golden light". He explained that:
An avant-garde attitude had at some point saturated itself. It (provided me with the option) of total anarchy in either art or religion...
Kwiek became the head representative of a narrow stream of "vanguard religious art". Whether this still counts as being avant-garde is a central issue. The artist certainly changed his language only very slightly. Many of his formal neo avant-garde works recall projects from the 1970s. In a text from 1990, accompanying his exhibition at the Center for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, he wrote:
I'm trying to – by using the simplest forms – show the way to the individual. On the one hand, these forms are geometric abstractions; but on the other hand, they are reproductions of spiritual visions. The person is understood ...(through) Tischner – as an observation of the spirit, which after many experiments that contemplate and examine it reflectively, states that what it is, is itself formless, which is only an embodiment of physical experiences, thoughts and the world. And it is through this fact that (works can) unite with (people and saints) around the world.
Kwiek speaks directly about the problem of clairvoyance in relation to his photographs. He is interested in the pronunciation of religious gestures (see photographs Moja liturgia" / "My liturgy, 1991) and the possible forms of co-existence of different religions (Modele ekumenizmu" / "Models of ecumenism, 2005).
Dorota Jarecka wrote that since the 1990s:
He confronts himself with religious, meditative and mystical symbols (circle, star, cross, triangle) as well as processes associated with religious gesture and worship. He is interested in the same topic: the relationship of body to sign, gesture to meaning, and of the body to objects.
It seems that his art concerning the problem of communication has also gained a new level. In the 1970s, Kwiek attempted to create inter-individual situations. Today, his actions are accompanied by his faith in global awareness activities. As part of his exhibition at Warsaw's Centre for Contemporary Art in 2010, the artist sent letters to the government of the Republic of Poland as well as 86 foreign governments via the Polish embassy in Warsaw, in which he asked them to introduce three "war-free days" per year.
Author: Karol Sienkiewicz, December 2010
Selected solo exhibitions:
- 1979 - "Uczestnictwo, poznanie, decyzja" / "Participation, cognition, decision" - Small Gallery, Warsaw;
- 1983 - "Objawienie" / "Revelation" - Small Gallery, Warsaw;
- 1988 - "Ekumenizm sztuki" / "Ecumenism of art" - Small Gallery, Warsaw;
- 1989 - "Myślokształty Lecha Wałęsy" / "Lech Walesa's thought forms" - Small Gallery, Warsaw;
- 1990 - "Pamiątki spotkań duchowych. Obrazy hermetyczne" / "Spiritual meeting gifts. Hermetic Paintings" - Center for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw;
- 1991 - "Spotkania ze światłem" / "Meetings with light" - Small Gallery, Warsaw;
- 1994 - "Pomiędzy wodą a powietrzem" / "Between water and air" - Small Gallery, Warsaw;
- 2000 - "19 fotografii" / "19 photographs" - Small Gallery, Warsaw;
- 2008 - "Międzyrysunki" / "Between Pictures" - Senator Gallery, Warsaw; "Sześć kompozycji" / "Six Compositions" - Art NEW Media Gallery, Warsaw;
- 2010 - "Światło - miłość - spokój" / "Light - love - peace of mind" - Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.