1962 born in Białystok, Poland
1982 - 1987 studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw under Prof. Rajmund Ziemski
1987 - 1990 studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf under Prof. Konrad Klapheck and A.R. Penck
1990 receives the title „Meisterschüler“ from the hands of A.R. Penck
2005 prize-winner of the quarterly „EXIT - New Art in Poland“ Award
for „long-term creative presence in various domains of artistic activity“
2005 and 2007 awarded the scholarship of the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage
2009 awarded 2nd Prize at the 39. Painting Biennale „Bielska autumn“, BWA Bielsko-Biała
The Lord of the Paintings
From: Andrzej Cisowski: malarstwo / painting
Text by Agnieszka Rayzacher
Published by Galeria Bielska BWA 2006
Andrzej Cisowski attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw where he studied under Prof. Rajmund Ziemski. He began his studies in 1982 when the whole nation hungered for paintings. Although one might think it is difficult to imagine a better time for art studies, Cisowski found himself facing a difficult choice. His academic training was, to a large extent, influenced by the colourist painters, but his fascinations included the 1980s impressionism, the activity of Gruppa, and also the work of Andrzej Wróblewski. Which way to choose at the time everyone is painting? How to best express oneself without being cut off from the spirit of the age? Andrzej Cisowski joined the ranks of the Young and Wild. His overriding principle was lack of principles. He created a "painting report" from places where the grotesque seemed the best weapon against hopelessness. His first paintings were displayed in the Dziekanka and Galeria Promocyjna in Warsaw, as well as in Krakow's Zderzak Gallery. He began to be noticed at the end of his studies.
At the time they introduced obligatory army service for university graduates. In an act of desperation, I left for Dusseldorf. All I had with me was a few poor-quality slides of my work. I showed them to Prof. Konrad Klapheck and he took me under his wing. Much to his surprise, Andrzej Cisowski became a student of one of the world's best art schools - the Academy of Fine Arts in Dusseldorf.
Two years later, he studied under A.R.Penck - another legend of German art. The studies in Dusseldorf were a turning point in Cisowski's career. After the conservative Warsaw Academy, he practically had a start from scratch. Leaving his native Poland was a conscious decision. He would probably have become an assistant professor in his homeland, and in Germany, he was a student again. But the course in Dusseldorf proved a great opportunity for young Cisowski. His exposure to contemporary world art was not limited to museum and gallery visits. Apart from A.R.Penck and Konrad Klapheck, Dusseldorf's academic staff included such prominent names as Jörg Immendorff and Gerhard Richter. He could now distance himself from what he had left behind in Poland. This fresh start was a stimulus for his further development. Obviously, he became fascinated by neo-expressionists he met there, and the Mülheimer Freiheit group appealed to him even more. He was still under the spell of the Young and Wild, but paradoxically, close relationship with representatives of this movement let him gradually break free from the "placenta" and search for his own artistic language. His paintings of the late 1980s depict clumsy, jagged-lined characters, engaged in absurd activities, against an indefinable background. This work was created in the spirit of Dubuffet and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The latter, less than two years older than Cisowski, was his artistic guru at the time. He finally met him two month before Basquiat's death.
At the beginning of the 1990s, Cisowski's paintings were still marked by Basquiat's peculiarity. They contain inscriptions - absurd stories, painting anecdotes - all crowned with bizarre titles. The artist began to manifest his literary skills and fascinations which continued to develop over the next fifteen or so years. The absurd became his trademark. One of the finest examples of Cisowski's absurd art is an installation displayed together with a group of cyclists in Warsaw's Zachęta Gallery in 1995. It shows a grand piano covered with drawings and scores, standing in a meadow of music notes and fake flowers - all in the spirit, as it seems, of Marcel Duchamp. Cisowski finally left his fascination with neo-expressionism behind. What remained, however, was his casualness, incorporation of text into paintings, and a very peculiar sense of humour. The buoyancy of his youth was replaced by a more mature game which soon began to resemble jigsaw puzzles. His paintings were now made up of seemingly disconnected elements. The characters populating Cisowski's painting, often sketched with a single colour, are not accidental. They "come" to the artist from newspapers, books or television. They live in his paintings, sharing them with short texts, various animals, mascots and amorphous figments of the artist's imagination. The apparent mess in Cisowski's work is a part of the game - in fact, Cisowski feels an urge to organize his canvas space. He achieves this with the use of "structures" - his other trademark - such as a geometric division, bars, or any other pattern.
This reference to structures gave the artist an idea for creating a series of paintings entitled "Obrasy" (a combination of the Polish words obrazy - paintings and obrusy - tablecloths). Cisowski began to paint on patterned fabrics, tablecloths and headscarves. The idea had already been used by Polish artists during the 1980s economic crisis, but at the time nobody flaunted the use of, say, curtain materials, and the pattern was on the reverse of the painting. Today, Cisowski is not ashamed of this peculiar artistic "recycling". For him, the pattern was a challenge. His "Obrasy" usually depicted very peculiar, misshapen children incorporated into the pattern which, depending on the motif, performed the function of a floral etching or a mascot, or formed the basis for artistic experiments. Cisowski's work refers to the tradition of collage. The artist, however, did not compose his work from a number of elements, but added painting to a piece of fabric and its pattern.
The graphic, sometimes poster-like form of painting on a variety of fabrics and tablecloths was also used in Cisowski's next art cycle entitled "American Dream of Life". The artist has never hidden his penchant for borrowings, which is manifest in every stage of his artistic activity. The work is a collection of graphic quotations which, when juxtaposed, make a whole. There is no point in creating new forms, as they are so numerous in modern culture and civilization - quips Cisowski. His is a modern interpretation of American mass culture. Both the large format and the inspirations from comics, commercials, and the press are obviously associated with the tradition of pop art. But Cisowski creates his own aesthethics with tightly packed drawings reminiscent of 1950s advertisements. This, however, does not mean that the artist has become a collector of colourful magazines of fifty years ago; the pageant of characters and motifs that he has used does not reach so far into the past. On the other hand, everything Cisowski touches seems to take the form of a black-and-white or monochrome drawing. Hence the feeling of nostalgia which accompanies his work: nostalgia for fantasy and the unlimited opportunities of the drawing. Modern advertisement and mass culture have become too straight-forward as their predominant means of expression is the photograph.
Andrzej Cisowski does not want pose as a serious artist. I'm playing with the form and motifs, I find fragments of them in new situations or compositions, and I'm guided by the need for experimentation. When I start painting, I never know how it's going to develop. Cisowski's work, however, reveals something more than this modernistic attachment to the form. It is a picture of human imagination, littered with pictures, snippets or information, or faces of politicians and movie stars. Words become logos, pictures elements of a marketing strategy. Cisowski speaks about the power of paintings and passivity of the viewer-consumer which was so often pointed out by Andy Warhol.