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 layeyred 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.
Author: Ewa Gorządek, Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle, September 2004; update: June 2009. Translated by: Zuzanna Wiśniewska
- 1981 and 1983 Artist in residence - Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
- 1985/1986 Artist in residence - Atelierhaus, Worpswede
- 1990/1991 Artist in residence - Musee d'Art Contemporain, Nimes
Selected solo exhibitions:
- Krzywe Koło Gallery, Warsaw
- Pracownia Dziekanka, Warsaw
- Wetering Galerie, Amsterdam
- Foksal Gallery, Warsaw
- Wetering Galerie, Amsterdam
- Galerie Hans Strelow, Düsseldorf
- Foksal Gallery, Warsaw
- Wetering Galerie, Amsterdam
- Miejska Arsenał Gallery, Poznań
- Arsenał Gallery, Białystok
- Galerie Hans Strelow, Düsseldorf
- Baltic Contemporary Art Gallery, Słupsk
- EGO Gallery, Poznań
- Platan Galeria Lengyel Intezet, Budapest
- Pakt z malarstwem, ‘Art Bunker’ Contemporary Art Gallery, Kraków
- 86 Gallery, Łódź
- Biała Gallery, Lublin
- Obrazy niesfotografowane, Le Guern Gallery, Warsaw
- Niebo i ziemia, Foksal Gallery, Warsaw
- Czwarty raz razem (with Włodzimierz Jan Zakrzewski), State Art Gallery, Sopot
- Tomasz Ciecierski - obrazy i prace na papierze 1972-2007, National Museum, Poznań
- Fitzcarraldo, zagubiony horyzont i inne, Le Guern Gallery, Warsaw
Selected group exhibitions:
- Zachęta- The National Art Gallery, Warsaw
- 16. Festival Internationale de la Peinture, Cagnes-sur-Mer
- 5th Biennale of Sydney
- Positionen Polen, Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin
- Kunst Europa, Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn
- Pustynna Burza, Galeria Sztuki Współczesnej BWA, Katowice
- Landschaften, Castello di Rivara, Turin
- 22. Bienal Internacional de Arte, Sao Paulo
Generacje. Sztuka polska końca/początku wieku, Centralny Salon Wystawienniczy Maneż, Saint Petersburg, Russia
- Malarstwo 1999, BWA, Lublin
- Pomiędzy estetyką a metafizyką, Bielska BWA Gallery, Bielsko-Biała
- Kolekcja II, Arsenał BWA Gallery, Białystok
- Międzynarodowe Kolekcja Sztuki Współczesnej, Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw
- Kolekcja, Zachęta- The National Art Gallery, Warsaw
- Pro picturae, Xawery Dunikowski Museum, Warsaw
- Collection, Ludwig Museum, Budapest
- In the Mirror of Landscape, Wurth Gallery, Hagen
- Malewicz w Polsce, BWA Arsenał Gallery, Białystok
- Dowcip i władza sądzenia, Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw
- Collage, Piekary Gallery, Poznań
- Malarz napisał, Appendix 2 Gallery, Warsaw
- Międzynarodowa Kolekcja Sztuki Współczesnej, Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw