Piotr C. Kowalski. Malarz (nie)konsekwentny

22.02 - 27.05.2024

The opening: Feburary 22 | 6 p.m. | Wrocłąw Contemporary Museum, Strzegomski Sq.2

Piotr C. Kowalski is a painter, born in 1951 in Mieszków near Jarocin. With his characteristic sense of humour, he describes himself in the following way:

creator of series of tasteful, very tasteful and tasteless paintings transitory, passing and fleeting paintings limited, limiting and limitless paintings pure and impure, i.e. naughty paintings paintings painted in the sun, in the shadow, without shadow and without a shadow of a doubt paintings painted in hostels, on the trails and off the rails paintings without frames, within the frames and framed for friends paintings painted on an easel, under an easel and next to an easel paintings painted high and low (Giewont and Lubin copper mines) paintings painted vertically, horizontally and at an angle (the right one, obviously) paintings painted on fire paintings painted at the post office paintings painted on water and under the water paintings that seem half-cut, not entirely, but still smoked paintings plastic paintings paintings that have been cut-through and those that have not yet been cut-through good beaver paintings and very good beaver paintings water and underwater paintings paintings painted hastily and very hastily paintings-tablecloths paintings painted properly and those that seem improper
obrazów przejściowych, przejezdnych i przelotnych
obrazów granicznych, przygranicznych i zagranicznych
obrazów grzecznych i grzesznych czyli niegrzecznych
obrazów malowanych w pełnym słońcu, w cieniu, bez cienia i bez cienia wątpliwości
obrazów malowanych w schroniskach, na szlaku i takich które szlag by trafił
obrazów malowanych bez ram, w ramach i w ramach przyjaźni
obrazów malowanych na sztaludze, pod sztalugą i obok sztalugi obrazów malowanych na wysokim i na niskim poziomie (Giewont i kopalnia miedzi Lubin)
obrazów malowanych w pionie, w poziomie i pod kątem (ale odpowiednim), oczywiście
obrazów malowanych na ogniu
obrazów malowanych na poczcie
obrazów malowanych na wodzie i pod wodą
obrazów malowanych na gazie, co prawda niewielkim ale jednak
obrazów podwędzonych
obrazów plastikowych
obrazów przerżniętych i jeszcze nie przerżniętych
obrazów bobrych oraz bardzo bobrych
obrazów wodnych i podwodnych
obrazów malowanych szybko oraz bardzo szybko
obrazów obrusów
obrazów malowanych wolno i takich, których zdawać by się mogło że nie wolno ich malować

In his work, Kowalski follows Max Ernst's motto: "You can paint with anything, including paint." He used to cover the canvas with thick layers of paint, using the impasto technique or applying paint directly from tubes to create abstract, as if bristly structures. He would spread the paint in an orderly, rhythmic, even obsessive manner, on canvases and everyday objects, filling every available square inch. In the 1980s, he turned his attention to the wasted potential of images that "painted" themselves on the floor of his studio. Since he worked expressively, some of the paint dripped onto the floor, which was covered by a canvas for protection. This resulted in double paintings – one on the easel and another below it. As Jerzy Ludwiński jotted down in his notes, "It is the painting of brushes, tubes and easel, the painting of painting itself, the CHRONICLE of the creative process."

A major breakthrough in Kowalski's work was the 1982 blueberry triptych entitled Still Life. The work was created by chance, as explained by the now-famous anecdote: during an open-air workshop organised by the Union of Polish Visual Artists in Porażyn near Opalenica, the artist was picking blueberries for his daughter, who was a few years old at the time. On his way out of the forest, he noticed warning signs that the surrounding area and undergrowth were poisoned. As the berries were unfit for consumption, he used them to "paint" the triptych. Ludwiński, curious about the technique used to create the work, pointed out that the berries used in this way were no longer fruit, but its TRACE – which turned out to be one of the main impulses prompting change in Kowalski's practice. Martwa natura w 1982 roku. Dzieło narodziło się na skutek przypadku. Mówi o tym słynna już anegdota: w trakcie zorganizowanego przez poznański ZPAP pleneru w Porażynie koło Opalenicy artysta zbierał jagody dla swojej kilkuletniej wówczas córki. Wychodząc z lasu, zauważył ostrzegawcze tabliczki informujące o tym, że otaczający go teren i owoce runa leśnego są zatrute. Jagody nienadające się do spożycia posłużyły do „namalowania” tryptyku. Ludwiński, zaciekawiony techniką wykonania pracy, zwrócił uwagę, że wykorzystane tak jagody nie są owocami samymi w sobie, lecz ich ŚLADAMI – co okazało się jednym z głównych impulsów do zmian w twórczości Kowalskiego.

The painter began to spend more and more time outdoors, with nature playing an increasingly important role in the creative process. In 1996, he summed up this phase of his work with the following words:

Why did I begin to go outdoors? Because I had been painting pictures. I had painted them where everyone else did, in the studio, and the more I painted, the more paintings I had. In time, they filled my studio to such an extent that there was no more room for me, so I "ran away" from it. I ran away to the forest, to meadows, to the sea, to quarries, to gravel pits, to paint what surrounded me THERE.

Nature became not only an inexhaustible source of inspiration and the main subject of Kowalski's works, but also their co-creator. In the 1990s, he turned to non-artistic materials ever more often. He replaced tubes of paint with natural pigments – dyes found in berries, onions, cherries, barberries, apples, poppies, needles or moss. According to Ludwiński, this process can be compared to tautology.

Paintings created en plein-air were subsequently dug into the ground and exposed to the elements, hit by wind and rain, stained by mud. The painterly fabric fused with the environment, sometimes for days or months. The artist intentionally did not fix the natural pigments or interrupt the natural processes that took place on the canvas. He did not try to depict nature or copy the landscape. Instead, his works became landscapes – although perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that they are becoming landscapes, as they are still in the process of being created. Ludwiński, characterising this stage of creation, notes:

Piotr C. Kowalski would like nature itself to lead him on its own paths, to leave traces of itself in his paintings and to carve out the tract of his imagination. Then the artist himself would become a PART OF NATURE and his work would emerge in the same way as mushrooms, strawberries or blueberries grow. [...] The work expresses respect not only for the PLACE in which it was created, but also for the TIME in which it managed to survive.

Forests and meadows were not the only places where these works were created. At the end of the 1990s, the artist's canvases "wandered" through city streets and squares. They were "painted" by passing cars, trampled on by passers-by. Sometimes they were spontaneously covered with posters or scribbles. Kowalski laid out the canvases, without a stretcher, in public places so that passers-by could imprint the traces of cobblestones, pavers and drainpipes with their own shoes – just as children do in art class when they make frottages. The painter progressively limited his involvement in the creation of the works, reducing his role to placing an empty underpainting in the space and letting nature "paint" itself.

After 2000, in an effort to promote pro-environmental thinking and waste sorting, the artist incorporated plastic into his materials. He used such manmade waste, but also sand or shells, in works made by the sea, on a beach in Gąski. In 2017, he created the first canvases lined with plastic packaging, coat hangers or CDs.

Through his works, Kowalski seems to question the limits and definition of a painting, as well as the place and role of the artist in the creative process. His gradual withdrawal from the creative act, leaving the field to nature, redefines the theme of the landscape – one of the classic motifs in the visual arts. In art history, the idea of the landscape was influenced in particular by the Impressionists, who, thanks to the invention and mass production of synthetic paints, were able to leave the studio and paint in the open air. In Kowalski's work, the opposite is true. The artist has returned to organic substances, as was the case in prehistoric times. The tissue of painting and the tissue of nature merge into one organism. This is reminiscent of the notions of permaculture and natureculture postulated by Donna Haraway, a researcher who opt for a departure from the antagonistic, binary divisions between these two spheres of reality. permakultury oraz naturokultury Donny Haraway – badaczki postulującej odejście od antagonistycznych, binarnych podziałów owych dwóch sfer rzeczywistości.

Marcin Krasny, art critic and curator, wrote in the catalogue accompanying Kowalski's individual exhibition at the Collegium Chemicum in 2016 that it is a rare thing to meet such a nonchalant artist who deliberately exposes his works to the weather, nails them together or uses them as screens in his apartment. Is there a method to this madness? That is a question for all of us.

The current exhibition is the first such comprehensive presentation of Piotr C. Kowalski's work in Wrocław. We are showing works from the artist's private collection, the collections of MWW and other institutions: the Museum of Art in Łódź, the Museum of the Lubusz Land in Zielona Góra and the Vox Artis Foundation from Poznań. It is worth noting that the works are accompanied by tactile graphics and scent samples, which will enable people with disabilities to get to know the artist's work.

Curator: Sylwia Kościelniak

PROSTO O WYSTAWIE – Download here


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Ogłaszamy nabór na wolne stanowiska w Muzeum Współczesnym Wrocław. Zachęcamy do zapoznania się z ofertami i składania CV. Szczegóły poniżej

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