No 2 (90) 2012
April - June


To Stop Colors

„A small paintbrush for a small picture, a big paintbrush for a big picture" - this motto handed over to Tomasz Ciecierski by one of the pedagogues of the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts has a universal dimension. It is an evidence of the intellectual triviality of its author, but also of a specific painting "sense" of Ciecierski, directed onto metaartistic reflection. Thus, he can turn an infantile metaphor into the topic of serious ponderings. Ciecierski has been always interested in artistic metaphors, references to history, art, individual artists, nevertheless he has focused on his own creative practices, approached as an opportunity for a next experience and exploration. He has been a painter, tireless in his efforts to examine the sense, borders and identity of this medium.

Waldemar Baraniewski

Art historian. He works for the Warsaw University Art Institute.

Waldemar Baraniewski

IT IS A BANALITY TO SAY THAT THE PAINTING BY CIECIERSKI HAS BEEN SELF ORIENTED. On the other hand, how not to mention this? This has been exceptional work (not only on the national scale) with regard to its self-analytical potential. These are pictures about pictures, painting about painting, painting about seeing and not seeing, about remembering and forgetting, about the world of pictures, and the picture of the world. Notwithstanding the seriousness of this endeavor, it contains self irony, detachment, if not risk.

Ciecierski, as many other painters, works by means of series, marking the areas of particularly intensive intellectual effort with the focus applied on the problem and artistic means. The output by Ciecierski has been nomadic in nature. One cannot notice here any time related framework. This is rather a cluster of problems the artist has circling around. As though he were moving around his atelier, reaching for an old drawing or a photograph to rediscover them and "see" anew. Ciecierski has been a nomad on the territory of art; he has been frequently changing places, coming back, searching, tracking. He has been finding and losing trails. He has been waiting. Quite often for a long time and with great patience, as though he were living in different time dimension.

In 1972 he made a series of pictures about painting - "Painting Palette", "Painting Over" which have been an analysis of means at the artist's disposal. These have been a kind of "life inventory". A starting point when a painter faces individual objects: paintbrushes, tubes of paint, crayons, and shows them to us for consideration. He has added here a simple comment: "I was interested then in canvas painting techniques and academic patterns to arrange a still life, or a model against a draped background. " This has been a very significant moment in the work by Ciecierski. Quite likely then he started to shape the specific quality of his painting that can be defined as deliberative or analytical. Pictures and drawings have become the area for thoughts, deduction, wondering "if scribbles and rough drafts deserve the name of a piece of art? Can one paint a picture with eye makeup pencils? How to draw (paint) the smell of oil paints and turpentine? Is red truly red?"

Anything can happen in pictures. Ciecierski has wanted to paint with no limitations.

To paint objects belonging to different areas, and to combine them in one picture. To search for logic of these combinations. This is how pictures opposing logic have been made. Developed out of painting notes and rough drafts. The elements do not form any composition, amounting to something that resembles a picture rebus. Pictures contradicting logic - that go back to the mid seventies - illustrate a visible crisis of representation as a design of a unity. Ciecierski reaches for various means of artistic notation - Polaroid snapshots, sketches, notes, scribbles, and places all these on the canvas as fully autonomous elements. Thus, they become a picture of the seen world, without any selection or hierarchy. The errors and mistakes accepted. Ciecierski does not correct the mistakes in his pictures; instead, he makes them more visible by crossing them out. One can say that through this gesture he elevates them to a higher rank, distinguishes them. These pictures go back to the period in art dominated by conceptual practices. Ciecierski has never given up painting, however, being intellectually and artistically open, he has not treated conceptualism as a threat. He has rather tested what this trend can offer for a painter. I think that logic contradicting pictures have been an answer to this dilemma. Their structure, a specific objective approach and the "concept" of following illogical connections would indicate the above. Most certainly, one must keep in mind the meta-painting attitude, constitutive for this painting formula. After some years, the artist confessed that he had been "strongly interested in conceptualism. Paradoxically, I saw there a chance for the transformation of painting. I believed that conceptualism - through the fact that it was a negation of the intuitive approach that had dominated painting - would force these changes. If only by means of language modification, pressure on clear formulation of reasons for making a given picture".

In the late seventies the illogical picture formula has been confronted with a new approach to reality. Spontaneity, dynamism and new figuration model have been of key importance here. Figurative elements have been nothing new in the painting by Ciecierski. Simple silhouettes, frequently obscene, as though scribbles appearing in public toilets, have been a significant components of the painted "stories" with unclear, unrecognizable motives. The 1978/79 pictures ("Indian Summer", "Fictions") have been dominated by these motives that formed there a tangled, orgiastic mass. Crowds, bodies cut to pieces. All painted violently, fast, dense. And very simply, like a graffiti or a hopscotch marked by a kid on a pavement. Even titles per se (not frequently applied by the artist) have signaled the change: "Tumult" (1982), "Havoc" (1982). This series verged on quasi battle scenes in huge compositions from 1984: "Moebius' Ribbon" (180x340) and "Red Sea" (179x269). These pictures have been very dynamic, and this is their essential quality. Ciecierski has been fascinated with the problem of movement depicted through a static medium. He starts painting a picture with little dots in the right top corner. Next, everything is rushing from the right to the left. " I am fascinated - he confesses - with the possibility to move individual figures, their groups, some small events and scenes, with a chance to shift them from one location to the other, to cross them out, to daub. These give them a sense and a mood through a change of context, thus I can occasionally halt the moment when reality is verging on fiction".

For Ciecierski adding is a formal rule to develop a picture; he combines distinctly independent (separate) elements. Their inter relations vary. Individual areas of canvas in the illogical compositions retained their separate quality. This has been frequently intensified by a technical trick of composing a picture of several panels. The 1986 "Deja vue" series has drastically altered the picture structure. This contains a large central part framed with smaller pictures. The picture has been composed of other pictures. A landscape (this is the right name for this painting topic) is being composed of landscapes. The vision gets fragmented, or the fragmentation is a result of the way of seeing. The relations between a central image and surrounding pictures frame, are extremely complex. The mid image is not clear, complicated, abstract in contrast to the surrounding quasi conventional little landscapes. Ciecierski has been radically heading to break the homogenous and individual quality of painting. To destroy its fundamental properties - an individual, flat image. A next step is a consistent adherence to the rule of adding. He enters real space, exceeds the illusory flatness, moves towards the object oriented. In the nineties Ciecierski made/ painted complex object structures - picture montages. These have been screwed together, nailed together, layered - individual pictures one on top of the other, or smaller pictures arranged inside the larger. The picture montages have retained the painting matter (stretchers, canvas), nevertheless they destabilized and broke the picture. Layering pictures one on top of the other results in covering them, hiding. It reverses the logic of creation which is to reveal and represent. One will never see what the painter has put there; only fragments and the matter structure are visible. The illusion has been veiled. For ever. In turn, this has taken along the illusory memory of seeing. One cannot but mention at this point the piece that revealed and covered, developed and camouflaged to a larger extent than the project by Ciecierski which has been undoubtedly an intellectual backup for his decision. I mean here the concept of "Merz" and "Merzbau" by Kurt Schwiters. The painting that brought together heteronomy components of reality to focus on the object oriented, the real space, memory, notation and its camouflage. Ciecierski has placed this dadaistic component in expanded, and most likely never displayed, photomontages. In the genius, poetic structure of pictures that stay in a private dialogue with the painting representation.

In 2002 Ciecierski showed a piece that contained photographs registering a long process of cyclical cleaning works in his atelier - namely washing paintbrushes after they had been used for painting. He has returned to self-topical motives and meta-artistic reflections in different formal manner. This piece has been a result of a two year, systematic record. After he finished painting, the artist washed his tools and took photographs of the sink filled in with what had remained after painting a picture. "After I finished my work - he says - I washed my paintbrushes and threw the water out to the sink. All went down the cesspit, and possibly resulted in a pic-ture being made somewhere there? I wanted to stop the colors, so I decided to take photos". This is the direct relation with the traditional procedure of painting that makes the work by Ciecierski exceptional. Apparently, it seems that one can interpret this as a free comeback to the method extensively used by conceptualists. In fact, this has been much more complex, ambiguous. Notwith-standing the appearance of an automatic record, this is extremely poetic. Filled with the time and images that one will never see, though they have been indispensable for the piece to be created.

The discourse with art and painting, that Ciecierski has followed, is an extraordinary endeavor; a permanent analysis of the concept of a picture, its complexity and ambiguities. 


Born in 1945 in Cracow. Graduation diploma in 1971 at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts Painting Faculty, where he was a lecturer in the period 1972-1986.

1993 - Galeria Miejska Arsenał, Poznań
1992, 1993 - Galerie Hans Strelow, Düsseldorf
1992 - Galeria Appendix, Warszawa (z Jackiem Sempolińskim)
1991 - Galerie des Arénes, Carée d'Art, Musée d'Art Contemporain de Nîmes, Nîmes
1990 - Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź
1987 - Pracownia Dziekanka, Warszawa
1985, 1986, 1988, 1992, 2002 - Galeria Foksal, Warszawa
1985 - Galerie Nouvelles Images, Haga (z Włodzimierzem J. Zakrzewskim)
1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1992, 1994, 1997, 1980 - Wetering Galerie, Amsterdam
1978, 1981 - Galeria Krytyków, Warszawa (z Włodzimierzem J. Zakrzewskim)
1977 - Galeria Zapiecek, Warszawa

He participated in several dozens collective exhibitions at home and in Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Holland, Germany, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Hungary, Great Britain and Italy. The works by the artist can be found in numerous museum and private collections.