Painter, drawer, book illustrator; poster, bookplate, happening and installation artist.
Eidrigevicius (also known as Stasys) was born on 24th th July 1949 in the village of Medyniszki, Lithuania, of a Polish father and a Lithuanian mother. In 1964-8 he learned artistic leather design at the School of Artistic Crafts in Kaunas, graduating with honours for a leather book covers design. From 1968 he continued his education at the faculty of painting and graphic arts of Vilnius Institute of Fine Arts, from which he graduated in 1973. He has lived in Warsaw since 1980.
Eidrigevicius boasts a number of awards won at international exhibitions and competitions, notably at the International Biennial of Contemporary Bookplates in Malbork (1973, 1975), Frederikshavn Interexlibris (1979-82), International Exhibition of Children Book Illustration in Bratislava (1979, 1981), 9th Premio Europeo Competition (1982) and 9th International Poster Biennial in Warsaw (1984). In 1981 his illustrations to the Król Kruków / Raven King earned the book the award of the Polish Association of Book Publisher for the most beautiful book of the year. His children book illustrations were honoured with the 1984 Chairman of the Council of Ministers' Award and the Grand Prix at the International Children Book Illustration Competition in Barcelona in 1986. In 1988 he received the American Film Critics' Award for the poster to the film Maskarada / Masquerade by Andrzej Kijowski as well as the Polish Cyprian K. Norwid Award. The Polityka weekly honoured him with its Paszport award for life achievement.
Eidrigevicius' art is in the collections of the National Museums in Warsaw, Wrocław, Poznań and Szczecin, at the Poster Musem in Wilanów, British Museum in London, Museum of Modern Art in New York, National Library in Washington, Creation Gallery in Tokyo, Vatican Museum in Rome and in private collections throughout the world.
In 1994 Andrzej Papuziński made a film Siedem misteriów według Stasysa (Kamień, wahadło, pragnienie, głód, labirynt, nadzieja, wyzwolenie) / Seven Mystery Plays after Stasys (Stone, Pendulum, Desire, Hunger, Maze, Hope, Liberation).
Despite his use of various techniques, Eidrigevicious' oeuvre makes a distinct whole. An important role in his powerful vision of the world is played by symbolic images of being. While his art derives straight from symbolism and surrealism, it has created a unique, distinct and coherent world originating in the artist's imagination and dubbed 'cheerful through a wise sadness'. This world is populated with big-eyed, lonely and anxious children as well as birds, household animals, animated objects and masks placed amidst nostalgic, childhood landscapes. It is obsessive and rich in metaphor, and its unusual mood is permeated with deep reflection. Eidrigevicius uses images inspired by poetic association and subconsciousness to build a vivid world which is, however, composed of realities extracted from the store of memories and watchful observation based on intuition and sensitivity.
I closely watch the people around me. I look at their faces, figures, movements. I keep using these glimpses of reality to create my own world of gestures and figures, explained Eidrigevicius in an interview.
His characters, through whom he presents this world to us, take the form of puppets with large eyes and potato noses, of roadside scarecrows, wooden-winged birds, or flying people. He develops for them poetic circumstances which pile up in the fairy-tale logic, even though his art refers to human experience, emotion and morality.
Stasys' first steps were bookplates, small graphic works (etchings, aquatints) and small paintings (gouaches, pastels). He exhibited his realistic pictures and printed bookplates - at which he became a true master - while still a student. His mastery of the metal techniques was appreciated a number of times, such as in 1973 when, as a student of the Vilnius Institute of Fine Arts, he took part in the Bookplat Biennial in Malbork and was awarded an honorary medal. These miniature graphic works were the first in which he started to present his intimate world of childhood in a fairy-tale, nostalgic manner. They were followed by book illustrations, mostly for children, which earned him international recognition. His first book illustrations, made while he was still living in Lithuania, were interfered with by censorship. He illustrated the book Robot i ćmy / The Robot and the Moths by a well-known Lithuanian writer Vytauta Zilinskaite with pictures of bald children. The publisher protested and Stasys had to add pretty blond curls. It was incidents like these that prompted his decision to move to Poland.
To children literature Eidrigevicius brought his own, melancholic imagination and metaphors. He has treated his illustrations as little paintings devoted to children. Quite remote from book contents, his illustrations are like stories in their own right - and perhaps this is what makes them distinct and valuable. They have been included in exclusive book illustration publications in Japan; the prestigious Swiss 'Graphis' showed his work on one of its covers. The Japanese have included him among the world's top 110 illustrators.
Drawing - which he has brought to perfection in small and monumental forms alike - is a major area of Eidrigevicius' interest, and so is the poster art. His posters, mostly done in pastels, have won a number of awards. Their language, originating from drawing and rooted in painting and the metaphor, is economical yet powerful and highly individual. His 1989 poster exhibition in Tokyo drew the interest of Yusaku Kamekura, one of Japan's leading graphic artists, and led to Eidrigevicius' presentation in "Creation", the modern graphics magazine. The drawing techniques that he uses are strikingly simple: charcoal, crayons, occasional gouache and, more often than not, pastels, whose merits he discovered for himself in West Berlin in 1984 and has used extensively ever since.
Eidrigevicius likes doing portraits. In the late 1980s and early 1990s he made the Teatr Twarzy / Theatre of Faces pastel series showing faces at different stages of disclosure. There were faces hidden behind semi-transparent screens, bandaged with rags, covered with clay and paper masks. He has made group portraits which are interpreted as a metaphor of interpersonal relationships (Kłótnia / Quarrel, Bracia / Brothers).
His wooden masks and objects developed into para-theatrical, spatial arrangements marked his entry in the third dimension. He combined his first, pastel masks with roots to produce Smutki / Sorrows and Rodzina / Family. His exhibition at Galeria Zapiecek showed masks with robes which came alive when children walked them from his atelier in Bednarska Street to the Gallery. Alongside painted masks, his other spatial works include figures made from unprocessed wooden planks, faces painted on shabby plywood pieces, roughly cut stones with images of people.
In the early 1990s Eidrigevicius embarked upon actions - the symbolic, public-involving happenings, like the one held during the Historia i życie / History and Life exhibition at Teatr Studio.
In Kazimierz upon the Vistula he staged the largely improvised Hommage a Vincent, building a room without walls, constructing a bed, a shelf, a chair and a sort of a confessional for meditation, and painting them all bright yellow. Instead of the planned twenty minutes, this action took more than an hour. Cracow was the venue of Droga / The Road (1992, during his retrospective exhibition): he walked down on his knees from the second floor, putting together a kind of a railway track from wooden planks and carrying on his back an easel, a palette and paints brought from Lithuania. In Olsztyn he staged Niechciana książka / Unwanted Book (1992), building a wall of books and painting a portrait on their spines.
Shortly after his Historia i życie / History and Life exhibition at Galeria Studio, Jerzy Grzegorzewski invited him to stage Biały jeleń / White Deer at Warsaw's Studio Theatre. Eidrigevicious, who was the author of the play, directed it, played one of the roles, did the stage design, costumes and masks. The play, which was premiered in 1993, used facts from his life, referring to his parents and building on his childhood memories, its narrative composed of symbolic scenes in which real people interacted with characters from his drawings and paintings. The drawings that he made during each performance came to form a separate, unique collection, and the props were later used during his installations - and lived their own lives.
Selected solo exhibitions:
- 1979 - Galeria Krytyków, Warsaw
- 1982 - 2016 Gallery, Neuchatel, Switzerland
- 1984 - Mesmer Gallery, Basel
- 1986 - St. Xavier Gallery, Chicago
- 1986 - Galeria Zapiecek, Warsaw
- 1987 - NDA Gallery, Sapporo, Japan
- 1988 - National Museum, Wrocław
- 1990 - Creation Gallery, Tokyo
- 1992 - Galeria Studio, Warsaw
- 1992 - "Retrospective Exhibition", BWA, Krakow
- 1993 - "Retrospective Exhibition", Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius
- 1995 - Sotheby Gallery, Stockholm
- 1995 - "OCON-O-STASYS", Museo Nacionale de la Estampa, Mexico City
- 1996 - Museum of Art, Mikkeli, Finland
- 1999 - Danish Poster Musem, Aarhus, Denmark
- 2000 - National Museum, Vilnius
- 2002 - Wilanow Poster Museum, Warsaw
Author: Ewa Gorządek, Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle, May 2006.