Painter, the author of various drawings, collages and photographs. He was born on 25th September 1945 in Kraków. He studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw.
Painter, the author of various drawings, collages and photographs. He was born on 25th September 1945 in Kraków.
He got his diploma in 1971 in Krystyna Łada-Studnicka’s atelier. In between 1972–1985, he was teacher at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. In 1999, he received the Jan Cybis Award for his creative achievements. He exhibits frequently at the Foksal Gallery in Warsaw, the Wetering Galerie in Amsterdam and the Hans Strelow Galerie in Düsseldorf. He lives and works in Warsaw.
Tomasz Ciecierski is amongst the most distinguished contemporary Polish painters. As most art critics point out, Ciecierski’s painting style, created in cycles, resembles a distinct ‘Treatise on Painting’, that the artist incorporated in his work. In his early pieces, he makes various references to the history of European painting (among others renaissance, futuristic), yet his entire oeuvre is a perpetual study over the essence of painting itself, that allows the artist to verify and modernize his medium. A very important place in Ciecierski’s work is taken by drawings and various drawing techniques. In his early creative years, they often appeared as hasty, dynamic, and simplified figurative notations on canvas. Ciecierski’s painting style has always been very representational, although in the 80s the artist resigned from both the narrative and figurative form of illustration and mainly focused on depicting scenery, in a holistic way, yet on the verge of abstraction. He rejected the traditional understanding of paintings and began creating relief compositions, that were composed of layered oil paintings one on another.
During his stay in the United States in 1971, the artist stumbled upon a book of drawings by the sculptor Claes Oldenburg. He was very inspired by this form of drawing and after his return to Poland, he started working on his own drawings in rough copies and notepads. The first series was done in between 1974-1975 and similarly to his first paintings from 1972 (i.e. Paleta malarska (The Artist’s Palette), Podręcznik malarza sztalugowego (The Easel Painter’s Manual) they present ‘the painters world’ and all its necessary work accessories, such as paintbrushes, tubes of paint, painting tools and dishes, canvases and of course the studio itself. Ciecierski started from doing an inventory of the artist-painters ‘possessions’, in order to mark the playing field and immerse himself in the discussion about the essence of painting, that still accompanies his art work till this day.
Ciecierski was searching for a painting style very consciously from the beginning. Already his first paintings were comprised of several independent pieces, that clearly expanded his painting space and deprived it of classical cohesion. One canvas, encapsulated several representations of the process of creating a painting as well as the artists train of thought throughout the creative process, a very specific type of auto-commentary about the process of making a piece (i.e. Obrazy alogiczne z lat 1975-76 (Alogical paintings from 1975-76)). His simultaneous interest in drawings, led Ciecierski to introducing typical drawing techniques on a canvas meant for painting, which is especially noticeable in his pieces created in the time frame between 1979-1986, such as Mętne sprawy (Vague Matters), Morze Czerwone (The Red Sea), Okruchy i kawałki (Bits and pieces), Obrazorysunek (Paintodrawing).
A distinct characteristic of Ciecierski’s work is constructing pieces, both paintings, as well as drawings, made of many elements, various canvases or pieces of paper that compose a greater whole. The choice of such a strategy was influenced by the artist’s inclination for combining formally diverse elements, into one piece. Ciecierski’s array of meanings and forms, which initially consisted of figural and abstract elements, narrative motifs and a wide repertoire of symbols, began to successfully reduce and consolidate, finally narrowing down to a selected set of recurrent motifs.
Since the early 90s, the main theme of Ciecierski’s paintings was landscape. The landscape theme was always present in his paintings yet in the 70s and 80s it was only a piece of the composition, a painting within a painting. Ciecierski’s landscape paintings, his compositions, or scenery structures, all stem from reality, which the artist has often stressed quite clearly, by including postcards with beautiful views in his paintings. His earlier landscape frames were legible enough that you could detect all the separate elements of the scenery and even spot human figures. Gradually, the landscape vision became more and more complete, on the verge of the abstract, yet with one and only constant and inviolable motif – the line of the horizon.
Ciecierski's paintings have a patchwork structure and are a visualization of the artists perspective and philosophy. The lack of only one point of view, a variety of frames, numerous depictions layered one on top of the other, resemble a vision being broken down and dissected , a consequence of the artist looking inside himself, reaching for the his memories of places and the emotions they brought out in him. Ciecierski's landscape paintings are sucked in from reality, collected through his many journeys, they are mental landscapes, painted maps overwhelmed with feeling. They are always created in his studio, the artist never paints en plein air. When he sits down to paint, he reminisces and starts the process of reviving memories - refined colorful impressions. In the kaleidoscope of colors imprinted in his memories, at times there is a clear dominance of one over others, such is the case in the paintings created during his visit in Tuscany in 1999, where there is a strong prevalence of pink and violet variations. Due to Ciecierski's memory sieve and painting intuition, his landscapes become an intellectual motif, an individual and seperate artisitic entity.
In 2001, once more Ciecierski came back to commenting his own work. He painted on reproductions of his other paintings, he created photographic compositions that presented jars after being used for painting and squeezed tubes aligned in various configurations. He documented his studio sink: filled with water, that was tainted by various colours after washing paint brushes. In 2002, Ciecierski created the piece Painting, in which he used pages taken out of the Boesner catalogue, a rich compendium of materials and painting accessories, such as paint brushes, palette knifes, paints, colour samples etc. It is a massive canvas, that is all taped up in catalogue pages, on which here and there you can spot little landscape oil paintings.
On a big solo exhibition, entitled A Pact with Painting (Pakt z malarstwem), the artist had had in the Kraków Art Bunker in 2003, his newest paintings were shown along with his earlier works from the 70s and 80s. Due to this juxtaposition, it was easy to notice the artistic problems Ciecierski struggled with right after graduating (the theory of painting, being aware of its limitations) and how they came back to him in his more mature art pieces.
I just want it to be constant painting - he says – for it to be about painting, the process of painting, brushing – that’s all. I don’t actually see an ultimate goal. I don’t see a goal, a point, which when reached would mean that I can die now.
In 2004, Ciecierski created a monumental composition Untitled (Bez tytułu), made up of 480 medium sized photographs, that were aligned on a piece of wood with the parameters 120 x 603 cm. They present various forms and ways to hang up the artists different paintings on a piece of a white wall. This piece is a great example of the artistic direction Ciecierski has taken on in recent years, when it is his paintings, that become the subject of his photographic documentation.
Ciecierski often hung little paintings, which he liked the most, right above the table with paint tubes in his studio. In due time, he began photographing them, the effect of which is the following record: a snapshot of the changing frame of reference of the artist in perceiving his own paintings. The white wall took on different shades depending on the weather and time of day, therefore some pictures are more blue, others more pink-beige. That is how a photographic record of the paintings and their display on the wall came to be, as well as a refined pictorial composition comprised of a mosaic of seemingly, strictly non-painting substance. Another series, produced at the same time, was done using the xerography method (xero), in which Ciecierski compiled different prints together. The common denominator of these pieces is the act of painting and the painters skill set, that make this yet another game with painting, that the artist so eagerly engages in.
A sort of artistic recycling is the series of drawings (2005) Ciecierski did in black ink on postcards with a reproduction of his piece Niebo i ziemia (Earth and Sky). The piece presents two polaroid pictures: one of the sky and one of the Earth made from the window of a plane. In addition to that, there are two color blotches marked above of the pictures, one light blue, the other light brown. The postcards came from an exhibition, the artist held in one of the Dutch galleries over thirty years prior to this. Ciecierski found a whole package of them in his studio and decided to use them as a background for his sketches featuring trivial objects, everyday activities, a record of his impressions and emotions, that were a result of observing other people and places. Ciecierski calls these sketches ‘rough drafts’, although they are rather a notebook without date entries, that give an insight to the artists primary inspirations. As he states:
Bustling about my studio, from time to time something falls into my hands, I notice something, while taking a glimpse out the window. Very often these moments and marginalia are the essence of my paintings.
Ciecierski collects postcards, cut-outs, polaroid pictures, amateur photographs, that he then often glues into his canvas, as an integral part of the piece, on the other hand, he uses old calendar pages, as the background for his drawings. If he is not satisfied with a painting, he cuts out the part he likes in order to use it in his next piece. It is a sort of conceptual game with the painting, in which the act of painting is on equal terms with a blob and a line, that are accompanied by reproduction, postcards, photographs or collages insertions. It is also a disclosure of a private archive, an introduction to personal fascinations and memories, that have been recorded in non-painting materials and introducing them into the substance of painting.
On the exhibition Unphotographed Paintings (Obrazy niesfotografowane) in 2005, Ciecierski presented pieces with the use of photographs and xero’s, in which he juxtaposed sets of two presentations that mutually interacted with one another, that were engaged in a visual correspondence. For example, one of them was a photograph of a street corner with the sign ‘ulica Vermeera’ (Vermeer street) aligned with a second photograph that showed a painter’s palette with all the colors that can be found on the Dutch painters paintings. Another presented a photograph of the view from a window of The Uffizi Gallery along with a photograph of a painter’s palette seen through a blurred window.
The series Szczęśliwe lata 50 (The Happy 50s), whose theme was painting as well as a reflection over art history of the 20th century, appeared in 2006. Ciecierski’s paintings/collages from 2006-2007 were compositions of pastel rhombi painted with stripes and zigzag lines.
In 2013, Tomasz Ciecierski’s works appeared at Złoty Środek (The Golden Mean, trans. HSz) exhibition, organised by Ego Gallery in Poznań. In this series of paintings, the artist departed from his current style in order to refresh his creativity with a different form – the works featured an abstract arrangement of sponges impregnated with paint. These three-dimensional works were created for the gallery’s first show in a new location. The outcome of Ciecierski’s cooperation with the Ego Gallery included a pre-Holiday exhibition entitled Biały Ląd (White Land, trans. HSz) in 2014 and the Abitare exhibition in 2015.
In Abitare, the author tried to capture and present all the factors that contribute to ‘living’. To live is to make and to define one’s space with the use of various objects that differ in shape, colour, and function. It is also to settle in, to create a relationship with one’s surrounding space, and to have possessions. Tomasz Ciecierski tried to translate all of these factors into the language of painting. He created his own compositions based on photographs from an Italian magazine on interior design and architecture – the eponymous Abitare.
A series of collages with the same title (Abitare, 2014) focuses on the hidden potential of everyday objects and elements of the immediate surroundings. Ciecierski combined abstract elements of views, furniture, architecture, draperies creating a composition. Carefully selected cut out fragments of photographs turned into light construction systems based on colour, shape, object their dynamics as well as an internal network of references. The artist’s internal discipline spoke through those pieces, despite their abstract form. The same collages were presented during the group exhibition Wokół Bauhausu (Around Bauhaus, trans. HSz, 2014) organised in the Arsenal Gallery in Białystok.
DESA NT (2014) is a project by the Pendzle artistic group (Tomasz Ciecierski, Ryszard Grzyb, Robert Maciejuk, Paweł Susid, Włodzimierz Zakrzewski, and Tomasz Tatarczyk, who passed away in 2010). It’s a discussion group which brings together creators from various formations and generations. Their meetings are focused around painting, interacting with and reflecting on art, and exchanging viewpoints. The exhibition DESA NT took place at the Centre for Creative Activity in Ustka and apart from featuring both the joint and individual pieces painted by members of the collective, it offered the opportunity to observe them at work. The Pendzle group organised a happening and together they created one large, shared painting. The idea for DESA NT arose spontaneously and its name refers to both a sudden trip beyond the Mazovian plains to the coast of Poland and the politically tense situation in Ukraine.
In 2016 Tomasz Ciecierski, along with Dominik Lejman, Katarzyna Józefowicz, Robert Kuśmirowski, Waldemar Tatarczuk, and Sławomir Toman, was asked to judge a competition for the best works by students and graduates of art schools around Poland. The jury chose 35 out of the 855 submitted entries, which were then presented during the post-competition exhibition (Nie)obecność ((Non)Presence, trans. HSz) at the Labirynt Gallery in Lublin. The exhibition presented various artistic attitudes, expressed through videos, installations, objects, photographs, paintings, and sculptures.
A year later Ciecierski took part in an unusual project initiated by the Profile Foundation. The gallery organised an exhibition entitled Archiwa Sztuki (Archives of Art, trans. HSz, 2017), which offered an opportunity to view private collections owned by two artists for whom the accumulation of things is deeply rooted in the creative process. Archiwum Obrazów (Pictures Archive, trans. HSz) by Tomasz Ciecierski and Archiwum Czasów (Times Archive, trans. HSz) by Jarosław Kozłowski are collections based on the artists’ interests and passions which have been transformed into astounding installations. For more than two months, visitors could ‘see inside the minds’ of both these artists by admiring the assortment of objects which they spent years been gathering. The exhibition provided viewers with a better understanding of their art.
454 Lata Sztuki Polskiej: Wystawa Grupy Pendzle (454 Years of Polish Art: Pendzle Group Exhibition, 2018) is the Pendzle Group’s most recent project. Ciecierski, Grzyb, Maciejuk, Susid, Zakrzewski, and Krzysztof Bednarski – the group’s newest addition and only sculptor – don’t work according to a coherent plan or a set of specific goals, instead, what they have in common is a distinctive type of intelligence, sense of humour and a curiosity about the world. Additionally, they all believe in painting as an important medium in the modern world. Each of these artists is in a continuous dialogue with art, which means both their own work and contemporary visual art. 454 Lata Sztuki Polskiej is about an alternative view of history. Members of the collective summed up the number of years each of them has lived so far and they ended up with the eponymous 454 years, which is over four centuries of Polish art. They decided to depict and describe these four centuries based on outstanding personalities and exciting creators, but above all, reflect on the place and time they had arrived at and its history and origins. The artists wanted their project to offer a commentary on the current Polish narrative. At the same time, they didn’t want the exhibition to be strictly dedicated to commemorating the anniversary of Poland regaining its independence – for it to be neither critical nor illustrious.
Ciecierski’s solo exhibition at the Grand Theatre – National Opera in Warsaw offered a look at his work, not only from the perspective of a painter, but also a cartoonist, amateur photographer, self-portraitist, landscape artist, documentalist, and traveller. The retrospective, which opened at the end of 2017, aimed to present Ciecierski as a person who creates with his whole self. His relationship with art includes periods of separation so that he can go back to creating with original ideas and an open mind, providing him with a fresh look at the familiar.
Author: Ewa Gorządek, Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle, September 2004; Updated: September, 2019 by HSz
- 1990/1991 Artist in residence – Musee d'Art Contemporain, Nimes
- 1985/1986 Artist in residence – Atelierhaus, Worpswede
- 1981 and 1983 Artist in residence – Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
Selected solo exhibitions:
- 2017/2018 – Tomasz Ciecierski, Opera Gallery, Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera, Warsaw
- 2017 – Art archives (with J. Kozłowski), Profile Foundation, Warsaw
- 2015 – Abitare, Ego Gallery, Poznań
- 2008 – Fitzcarraldo, zagubiony horyzont i inne, Le Guern Gallery, Warsaw
- 2007 – Tomasz Ciecierski – obrazy i prace na papierze 1972–2007, National Museum, Poznań
- 2006 – Czwarty raz razem (with Włodzimierz Jan Zakrzewski), State Art Gallery, Sopot
- 2004 – Obrazy niesfotografowane, Le Guern Gallery, Warsaw; Niebo i ziemia, Foksal Gallery, Warsaw;
- 2003 – Pakt z malarstwem, ‘Art Bunker’ Contemporary Art Gallery, Kraków; 86 Gallery, Łódź; Biała Gallery, Lublin
- 2002 – Obrazy i brudnopisy, Zderzak Gallery, Kraków
- 2001 – Baltic Contemporary Art Gallery, Słupsk; EGO Gallery, Poznań; Platan Galeria Lengyel Intezet, Budapest
- 2000 – Potocka Gallery, Kraków
- 1998 – Arsenał Gallery, Białystok
- 1996 – Górnośląskie Museum, Bytom
- 1995 – Galerie Path, Aalst
- 1994 –Zachęta – The National Art Gallery, Warsaw
- 1993 – Miejska Arsenał Gallery, Poznań; Arsenał Gallery, Białystok; Galerie Hans Strelow, Düsseldorf
- 1992 – Galerie Hans Strelow, Düsseldorf; Foksal Gallery, Warsaw; Wetering Galerie, Amsterdam
- 1991 – Galerie des Arenes, Carre d'Art, Musee d'Art Contemporain, Nimes
- 1990 – Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź
- 1988 – Foksal Gallery, Warsaw; Wetering Galerie, Amsterdam
- 1987 – Pracownia Dziekanka, Warsaw; Wetering Galerie, Amsterdam
- 1986 – Foksal Gallery, Warsaw
- 1985 – Nouvelles Images, Hague, The Netherlands
- 1984 – Wetering Galerie, Amsterdam
- 1982 – Krytyków Gallery, Warsaw
- 1980 – Jack Visser Gallery, Amsterdam
- 1975 – Nowa Gallery, Poznań
- 1974/1975 – Krzywe Koło Gallery, Warsaw
Selected group exhibitions:
- 2019 – Kojarz Kolaż, Biała Gallery, Lublin
- 2018 – 454 Lata Sztuki Polskiej: Wystawa Grupy Pendzle (454 Years of Polish Art. Pendzle Group Exhibition), Jan Tarasin Art Gallery, Kalisz
- 2017 – 283 x 100 x 27, 12 x 6 x 5, Atlas Sztuki, Łódź
- 2016 – Odejście - 9. Wystawa Kuratorska Bielskiej Jesieni 2016, BWA Bielska Gallery, Bielsko-Biała; L’arte differente: MOCAK al MAXXI. Exhibtion of works from the MOCAK collection in Rome, MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts, Rome
- 2015 – (Nie) Dotykaj! Haptyczne Aspekty Sztuki Polskiej po 1945 roku, CCA Znaki Czasu, Toruń
- 2014 – Złoty Środek, Ego Gallery, Poznań; DESA NT, Centre for Creative Activity in Ustka; Wokół Bauhausu (Around Bauhaus), Arsenal Gallery, Białystok; You’re innocent when you dream, Zderzak Gallery, Kraków
- 2009 – Malarz napisał, Appendix 2 Gallery, Warsaw; Międzynarodowa Kolekcja Sztuki Współczesnej, Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw
- 2008 – Opowiedziane inaczej, Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw
- 2007 – Dowcip i władza sądzenia, Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw; Collage, Piekary Gallery, Poznań
- 2004 – In the Mirror of Landscape, Wurth Gallery, Hagen; Malewicz w Polsce, BWA Arsenał Gallery, Białystok
- 2003 – Pro picturae, Xawery Dunikowski Museum, Warsaw; Collection, Ludwig Museum, Budapest
- 2002 – Międzynarodowe Kolekcja Sztuki Współczesnej, Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw; Kolekcja, Zachęta- The National Art Gallery, Warsaw
- 2001 – In Between: Art From Poland 1945-2000, Exhibit Hall, Chicago
- 2000 – Malarstwo 1999, BWA, Lublin; Pomiędzy estetyką a metafizyką, Bielska BWA Gallery, Bielsko-Biała; Kolekcja II, Arsenał BWA Gallery, Białystok
- 1999 – Generacje. Sztuka polska końca/początku wieku, Centralny Salon Wystawienniczy Maneż, Saint Petersburg, Russia
- 1997 – Lengyelorszag Muveszet 1945-1996, Mucsarnok, Budapest; Granica Obrazu, Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw
- 1994 – Pustynna Burza, Galeria Sztuki Współczesnej BWA, Katowice; Landschaften, Castello di Rivara, Turin; 22. Bienal Internacional de Arte, Sao Paulo
- 1992 – Documenta IX, Kassel
- 1991 – Positionen Polen, Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin; Kunst Europa, Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn
- 1990 – Polen Zeit Kunst, Sankt Augustin; Berlin; Mainz (1991); Warsaw (Zachęta- The National Art Gallery, 1991)
- 1988 – Polish Realities, Third Eye Center, Glasgow
- 1987 – 19. Bienal Internacional de Arte, Sao Paulo
- 1985 – 4 Foksal Gallery Artists, Richard Demarco Gallery, Edinburg
- 1984 – 16. Festival Internationale de la Peinture, Cagnes-sur-Mer; 5th Biennale of Sydney
- 1983 – Metaphor, Museum Bochum
- 1982 – 14. Festival Internationale de la Peinture, Cagnes-sur-Mer 1977 – Zachęta – The National Art Gallery, Warsaw