Painter and draughtsman. A prominent representative of contemporary painting avant-garde, described as a classic of Polish modernity. He was born on 21st May, 1925 in Częstochowa.
Painter and draughtsman, representative of contemporary painting avant-garde, classic of Polish modernity.
Between 1945-48, studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, in the workshops of Zbignew Pronaszko and Karol Frycz. He simultaneously studied history of art at the Jagiellonian University, under the supervision of Vojeslav Molè. In 1949, he moved to Warsaw. Between 1956-61, he cooperated with the Krzywe Koło Gallery, run by Marian Bogusz. From 1962 to 1996, he was an educator at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, where between 1975-81, he worked as a dean of the Painting Faculty, while in 1983 he was chosen as the rector-elect, however the martial law authorities explicitly refused his candidacy. In 1980s, he was associated with the “independent culture” circles. In 1980, he received the highest Professorial title.
In 1981, he was a member of the Organising Committee of the Congress of Polish Culture. In 1980, he was the recipient of the Jan Cybis Award. He lives in Konstancin near Warsaw.
In paintings from Stefan Gierowski's first, figurative creative stage, one can notice traces of a post-cubist rhythmisation of a form and simplifications borrowed from the naïve art (Gołębnik / Dovecote). Around 1957, the artist stepped into non-figurative painting, which became his main area of interest. At the same time, he stopped giving his works literary titles and from that point on, he consistently signed them with roman numerals. In the same year, the art critic Aleksander Wojciechowski described his art as “autonomous abstraction,” which seems to be the most appropriate term for the overall output of Stefan Gierowski. The emphasis on the sole phenomenon of a painting also indicated that the artist began to search for a new formula of a painted image, devoid of all content other than the effect of colour. Obraz nr I / Painting no. I was created in 1957. Gierowski started painting abstract compositions, in which the intellectual factor, manifesting itself in a clear composition, was dominated by emotions. The latter could be identified both in the subtle, sophisticated colour composition, usually monochromatic, as well as in the texturally rich surface of the canvases. Already at that time, his paintings included an announcement of the issues related to light, space, and movement, which eventually reigned in his practice. Gierowski's paintings with numbers from I to XX could be labelled as informel, a current which was at the time growing in the West. The evolution of Gierowski's art was aimed towards reinforcing the intellectual factor. In the late 1950s, when his series of silver and grey canvases came out, critics associated Gierowski's explorations with Władysław Strzemiński's theory of Unism.
Around 1960, Gierowski's works started demonstrating an inclination towards a geometric structuring of paintings. The artist was gradually discarding the emotional and intimate atmosphere. He started using a more simplified language, narrowed down the colour range, and applied the colour accents on the borders of a canvas. During that period, the surfaces of his paintings were almost Unist-like in their arrangement, which was achieved by means of subtle colour solutions. In mid-1960s, the artist came closer to explorations typical for op-art, however it was a purely formal and superficial proximity (application of value gradient and rhythmical division of the canvas area by means of lines separating different value sections in the painting). Gierowski's paintings from that period represent dynamic visions of painting's internal space, constructed out of straight, circular, or elliptical lines, superimposed on the gradations of value condensation. Space in them is treated in an illusory way. Through colour, Gierowski implies a certain spatial order in his paintings. The colours are arranged into stripes with a different hue and lucidity, which conjures the matter of the space. Lines split the painting into areas, while light connotations carry a tension. Lines in Gierowski's paintings have often been interpreted as referencing physics, they were perceived as transpositions of scientific graphs, images of shock waves, or delineations of magnetic fields. In the 1970s, Gierowski organised his canvas compositions exclusively through colour gradients, initially using pointillism, to later counterpose large areas of differently toned colour. In his paintings from the 80s, the emotional impact of colour became prominent, while Gierowski began expressing himself in a more subjective, or even spiritual manner.
20th century avant-garde
krzywe koło gallery
congress of polish culture
academy of fine arts in kraków
academy of fine arts in warsaw
In the 1980s, he created the cycle Malowanie dziesięciorga przykazań / Painting the Ten Commandments, inspired by the 15th-century Ten Commandments Tablet by the anonymous Gdańsk Master. His Dekalog / Decalogue features frantically coloured paintings and trembling canvases filled with vibrating spots, while the colours used by the artist are pure and vibrant. Here and there, the harmony of the canvases is interrupted by a distinct dissonance, which is supposedly a painted expression of a sin.
In his latest works, Gierowski operated with elementary geometric shapes and intense colours. Some of his paintings are completely monochromatic and based solely on the intensity of the colour saturation (DCCLXIV, 2000).
Stefan Gierowski is also an outstanding pedagogue. His workshop, which stood out through its intellectual atmosphere and constituted a whole separate phenomenon at Warsaw's Academy of Fine Arts, has bred, among others, painters form the Gruppa collective, such as Marek Sobczyk and Jarosław Modzelewski.
Selected solo exhibitions
- 1957, 1959 – Krzywe Koło Gallery, Warsaw
- 1961, 1965 – Galerie La Cloche, Paris
- 1967 – Zachęta - National Gallery of Art, Warsaw
- 1970 – Współczesna Gallery, Warsaw
- 1976 – Numaga Gallery, Auvernier-Neuchatel
- 1977 – BWA Gallery, Łódź
- 1984 – SHS Gallery, Warsaw
- 1989/90 – Malowanie dziesięciorga przykazań (Painting the Ten Commandments), Archdiocesan Museum, Warsaw
- 1990 – Dziekanka Gallery, Warsaw
- 1991 – Stefan Gierowski. Obrazy 1958-1991 (Paintings 1958-1991), Zderzak Gallery, Kraków
- 1992 – Stefan Gierowski. Obrazy, Zachęta - National Gallery of Art, Warsaw
- 1998 – Upper Silesian Museum, Bytom
- 2000 – Stefan Szydłowski Gallery, Warsaw; Zachęta - National Gallery of Art, Warsaw; Stefan Gierowski. Obrazy 1957-2000 (Paintings 1957-2000), National Museum, Poznań
Selected group exhibitions
- 1955 – Ogólnopolska Wystawa Młodej Plastyki (National Exhibition of Young Visual Arts), Arsenał, Warsaw
- 1959 – Paris Biennale of Young Artists; 5th São Paulo Art Biennial
- 1964 – Cornegie Institute, Pittsburgh
- 1965 – 5th Biennale di San Marino
- 1966 – Exposition de AIAP, Tokyo
- 1968 – 1st Art Triennale, New Dehli, 34th Venice Art Biennale
- 1974 – Contemporary Polish Painting, Museum of Art, Caracas
- 1975 – Malarstwo Polskie (Polish Painting), Museum of Modenr Art, Mexico City
- 1983 – Znak Krzyża (Sign of the Cross), Church in Żytnia St, Warsaw
- 1985 – Niebo nowe i ziemia nowa (A New Heaven and a New Earth), Church in Żytnia St, Warsaw; Vision and Unity, Art Museum, Łódź
- 1991 – Eyeshot, Nikolaj Art Gallery, Copenhagen
- 2002 – Fijałkowski/Gierowski. Wizje malarstwa (Fijałkowski/Gierowski. Painting Visions), State Art Gallery, Sopot
Author: Ewa Gorządek, January 2005, transl. AM, December 2015