Wojciech Gilewicz is a painter, photographer, and video artist. He was born in 1974 in Biłgoraj, but today he divides his time between Warsaw and New York. Gilewicz's series of paintings and photographs are based on the principles of illusion, revealing the visual tricks and falsifications inherent in the visual arts.
From the very beginning of his career, both photography and painting have been almost equally important for Gilewicz. Even his graduation project at Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts in 1999 was accompanied by a photographic appendix.
Marco Antonini, in ArtPulse Spring in 2012, wrote that 'Gilewicz’s projects can be considered a form of context-driven creative labor split between cultural criticism, institutional critique and genuine social involvement'. His works in public space use otherwise isolated forms of creating art, incorporating intriguing elements to draw people in and show a new side to established art forms. He often casts himself as subject, taking a variety of roles that challenge preconceived notions of who he is, as a man coming from Poland in the 21st century's global society.
As Gilewicz himself explains his approach to his art:
'For some years now I have been trying to combine painting with photography by making paintings in which the two techniques supplement each other. The split second of taking a photographic picture of a fragment of nature is then translated into weeks and months of making a painting', adding, 'The finite painting is described by photographic images documenting the consecutive stages of its making'.
In the spring of 2001 Gilewicz presented an installation of paintings and photographs entitled City - Estate - Studio - Apartment, comprising two oil paintings and a mosaic composed of some 1,000 photographs documenting the artist's immediate surroundings. The whole formed a panorama as seen from the balcony of his apartment in the Saska Kępa district of Warsaw.
In his painting work, Gilewicz often uses a strategy of camouflage, which he combines with hyperrealistic technique. These are no longer paintings trying to faithfully and illusively imitate reality, because Gilewicz fits them into the surroundings, the extant context, blending them with reality so that they cannot be distinguished from it, such as in his exhibition at Galeria Arsenał in Białystok, where he showed paintings-objects imitating doors (2002).
One of Gilewicz's first projects utilising a strategy of camouflage and mimicry was in Lublin in 2000, where he set up a stretched canvas in a public park and painted what the canvas obscured so that it blended perfectly with the surrounding vegetation. Then, for the next two weeks, he repainted the picture every day, adapting it to the changing weather conditions and natural processes.
Prior to the opening of his exhibition at Foksal Gallery in Warsaw in 2005, Gilewicz placed three white canvases in a small park adjoining the gallery and visible from its windows. He then painted the canvases so that when viewed from the gallery they blended perfectly with their surroundings. In the exhibition, the artist showed two photographs documenting the process – the canvases in the park before and after being painted over, as well as the canvases themselves. It turned out that the paintings, which in the photographs appeared as squares of equal size, were in fact irregularly shaped and had different dimensions. Ewa Witkowska wrote on the occasion of that exhibition,
Wojciech Gilewicz exposes the illusion of art. He shows that our perception of the world around us is relative and always subject to some perspective. He builds a perfect illusion that pulls the viewer inside, only to suddenly shatter that illusion a moment later.
During one of his residences in New York, Gilewicz painted three canvases imitating tags graffitied on a wall. During the making of the paintings, the original wall was cleaned. The artist decided then to perform the rather radical gesture of covering it with his own paintings, without letting anyone know about it.
That gesture returned in many of the artist's subsequent projects, where he would place stretched canvases in public spaces, covering the elements of reality portrayed in them – such as basement windows, flagstones, or wall fragments. These paintings often blended with the surroundings so perfectly they were virtually indistinguishable from the background. When Gilewicz did that in Paris on a special invitation from Foundation Deutsch de la Muerthe in 2004, viewers were handed special maps to help them find the paintings.
A similar project for Galeria Entropia in Wrocław continued for nine months. Gilewicz placed his 'imitations' of reality in the public space of the city in the autumn of 2006, then moved them to the gallery in June 2007 for an exhibition called The Aporia of Painting. The title was very suitable because for many months the paintings had been exposed to the elements, but the main factor at play here was the human one. Some paintings had been trodden on or run over by bicycles, others covered with posters, still others – destroyed or even stolen. The process was documented on video and photographs. The artist himself said about it:
Paintings gradually infiltrates reality, impersonating it. But often the surroundings change the paintings to the extent that it exposes and unmasks painting, because when a picture had pretended to be a flagstone and a car rolled over it, it no longer imitates anything but has been reduced to a broken plank with a primed canvas painted over with oil pigments stretched on it.
Gilewicz presented a project based on similar premises in Sanok in 2007 (Revitalizations). This time his paintings did not replace or imitate existing features, but filled wall dents and cavities.
In Ivano-Frankivsk in Ukraine, in turn, the artist introduced his interventions to the space of a museum located in a church building. Among works of religious art, he placed his small, almost imperceptible paintings, imitating, for instance, the textures and colours of the religious sculptures.
In Shanghai in early 2008, Gilewicz made a film based on similar interventions in reality – sites across the Chinese metropolis where he had placed his paintings, such as billboards or garbage dumps (Intrude).
Gilewicz has also gained recognition for his photographic series Them, which he started in 2002 and continued ever since. At this point, the series counts over seventy pictures. Each is a photographic self-portrait, and a double one at that. Gilewicz uses double exposure to photograph himself twice in the same setting in a single film frame. In some of these portraits he looks like a pair of twins, in others he makes sure the two figures have a distinguishing feature, e.g. the haircut. He often poses as persons seemingly strange to him, such as a waiter and a restaurant patron, or a yoga teacher and his disciple, while at other times he speaks about closeness. Some of the pictures in the series present situations that are ordinary, common, everyday. Others surprise the viewer with their slightly uncanny atmosphere or sexual undertones, forcing him to think about the protagonists' ambivalent sexual identity.
Author: Karol Sienkiewicz, December 2008, updated May 2015
Selected solo exhibitions:
- Cuchifritos Gallery & Project Space Cuboids, New York, USA
- Foksal Gallery, Warsaw
- Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts Painter’s Painting, Taipei, Taiwan
- ZONA Sztuki Aktualnej, Szczecin
- Arcus, Zachęta Gallery Project Space, Warsaw
- BWA Zielona Góra Visitor, Zielona Góra
- Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology, Kraków, Poland
- FACTORY CLEANING, Flux Factory, New York, USA
- STUDIO, Bunkier Sztuki, Kraków, Poland
- SALE, BWA Awangarda Gallery, Wrocław, Poland
- INFINITY, Entropia Gallery, Wrocław, Poland
- Lubelskie Towarzystwo Zachęty Sztuk Pięknych, Lublin, Poland
- Foksal Gallery, Warsaw, Poland
- Contemporary Art Museum, Saint Louis, USA
- Biała Gallery, Lublin, Poland
- Museum of Fine Arts, Iwano-Frankiwsk, Ukraine
- REVITALISATIONS, BWA Gallery, Sanok, Poland
- THE APORIA OF PAINTING, Entropia Gallery, Wrocław, Poland
- TR Warszawa, Warsaw, Poland
- Foksal Gallery, Warsaw, Poland
- THEM, WAA (Warsaw Artists’ Action), Warsaw, Poland
- Fondation Deutsch de la Meurthe, Paris, France
- Arsenał Gallery, Białystok, Poland
- Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw, Poland
Selected group exhibitions:
- New Museum IDEAS CITY The Invisible City, New York, USA
- The Africa:Centre Infecting the City, Cape Town, South Africa
- Richard & Dolly Maass Gallery I Serve Art, Purchase, USA
- The Boiler / Momenta Art Seven, New York, US
- National Gallery of Art, Miłość własna. Czyli artyści kochają siebie, Sopot
- The Africa:Centre Infecting the City, Cape Town, South Africa
- Queens Museum of Art Queens International 2013, New York, USA
- Beit Ha'air Museum for Urban Culture Plain, Tel Aviv, Israel
- Piano Nobile Paper Jam #2, Geneva, Switzerland
- IDEAS 40203 Alternate Painterly, Louisville, USA
- Wrocław Contemporary Museum, Pełnia sztuczna, Wrocław
- CCA Znaki Czasu PRZEprojekt: Przestrzeń Działania, Wystawa 004: Second-hand, Toruń
- NURTUREart Videorover: Season 4, New York, USA
- CSW Kronika Rękawiczki Jeffa Koonsa, Bytom
- 14 Biennale Sztuki Mediów WRO 2011 Alternative Now, Wrocław
- BWA, New Trends in Painting II, Bydgoszcz
- FILING THE BLANKS, Centre of Contemporary Art Znaki Czasu, Toruń, Poland
- POST-GAUGIN, BWA Contemporary Art Gallery, Katowice, Poland
- ELECTRO GEO, FRACLimousin, Limoges, France
- A DAY IN THE MARKET, Changdong Art Studio of National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seul, Korea
- THERE HAS BEEN NO FUTURE, THERE WILL BE NO PAST. CHALLENGING CULTURAL PROFILING IN CENTRAL EASTERN EUROPEAN ART, ISCP Gallery, New York, USA
- FLOTING WORLD, LMCC / Governors Island, New York, USA
- A DOZEN OR SO KOANS ON (NON)EXISTANCE, BWA Contemporary Art Gallery, Katowice, Poland
- THE POWER OF ART, Lviv Art Palace, Lviv, Ukraine
- HELLO GOODBYE THANK YOU AGAIN, castillo/corrales, Paris, France
- BELGRADE: NONPLACES. ART IN PUBLIC SPACE, Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade, Serbia
- MONITAUR, Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, USA
- FACTORY, Museums of Bat Yam, Bat Yam, Israel
- LUCIM LIVES ON, Centre of Contemporary Art Znaki Czasu, Toruń, Poland
- STARTING POINT: INTRUDE ART & LIFE 366, Zendai Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai, China
- IN PRACTICE, SculptureCenter, New York, USA
- TRANSFERT #6, Istituto Polacco di Roma, Roma, Italy
- EXTERNAL ARTISTS. OUT OF STH, BWA Awangarda Gallery, Wrocław, Poland
- REMONT GENERALNY, Galeria Biała, Lublin, Poland
- DIVA (DIGITAL & VIDEO ART), White Box Gallery, New York, USA
- DISTORTION OF AN UNENDURABLE REALITY, Pianissimo, Milan, Italy
- TRANSFERT, Istituto Polacco di Roma, Italy
- ARTYŚCI POLECAJĄ SIĘ NAWZAJEM, appendix2, Warsaw, Poland
- MULTI-WAY STREET, Museum of Art in Łódź, Poland
- IMAGO. THE DRAMA OF SELF-PORTRAITURE IN RECENT PHOTOGRAPHY, Paul Robeson Gallery, Newark, USA
- HERE A CHANGE OCCURS, Zacheta National Gallery of Art / Kordegarda Gallery, Warsaw, Poland
- POZA, Real Art Ways, Hartford, USA
- LOVE AND DEMOCRACY, Centre for Contemporary Art Łaźnia, Gdańsk, Poland
- LIVEBOX AT RAVENSWOOD, Chicago, USA
- ON THEIR OWN, Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland
- National Museum / Królikarnia, Warsaw, Poland
- NOVART.PL (Polish Young Art Festival), Bunkier Sztuki, Kraków, Poland
- BWA Gallery Zielona Góra, Poland
- STUDIO / PRACOWNIA, Bunkier Sztuki, Kraków, Poland, 2012
- SALE / WYPRZEDAZ (DVD), BWA Awangarda Gallery, Wrocław, Poland
- WOJCIECH GILEWICZ, Foksal Gallery, Warsaw, Poland, 2009
- THEM / ONI WOJCIECH GILEWICZ, Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle Warsaw, Poland, 2009
- WOJCIECH GILEWICZ REVITALISATIONS, BWA Sanok, Poland, 2007
- WOJCIECH GILEWICZ THE APORIA OF PAINTING (DVD + booklet), Entropia Gallery, Wrocław, Poland, 2007
- WOJCIECH GILEWICZ, Foksal Gallery, Warsaw, Poland, 2005
- THEM (CD) WAA (Warsaw Artists’ Action), Warsaw, Poland, 2005
- WOJCIECH GILEWICZ Arsenal Gallery, Białystok, Poland, 2002
- SALE / WYPRZEDAŻ, Pleple.tv, Warsaw, Poland 2011
- WHO IS WHO? WOJCIECH GILEWICZ, Patio TV, Łódź, Poland 2009