Marek Olszyński

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About Marek Olszyński

Marek Adam Olszyński - "MO"

Born 1963 in Poland. Pupil of the late artist and painter W. Śliwiński – a teacher in the Jaroslaw “School of Art”. Diploma with distinction from Academy of Fine Art in Cracow in 1989 in the painting workshop of professor Stanisław Batruch, the drawing workshop of professor Włodzimierz Kotkowski and the lithographic workshop of professor Roman Żygulski – in the Faculty of Graphics.
Awarded the Scholarship of the Polish Ministry of Culture and Science in 1992.
Teacher in the artistic secondary school PLSP in Jaroslaw 1995-2003; academic teacher in a number of higher schools in artistic subjects: ASP Cracow 1990-1991, PWSZ Sanok 2002-2006, WSP Rzeszow from 1998, and currently in the Faculty of Art at the University of Rzeszow.
For many years an assistant to and collaborator with the late professor Włodzimierz Kotkowski – in the ASP Cracow, the ISP Rzeszow and later the Faculty of Art at the University of Rzeszow. Currently – as an institutional professor – he independently conducts an artistic workshop at the Faculty of Art at the University of Rzeszow, covering areas such as Workshop Graphics and Painting.
Artistic activity in the fields of graphics, drawing, painting and a mixed-individual technique.
A member of the Rzeszow artist group “Na Drabinie”, the Literary-Artistic Society “Fraza”, and the Association of Polish Artists and Designers where – in 2012-2013 – he was elected as the president of the Rzeszow division.
Since 1983 he has participated in over 177 exhibitions, both individual and collective, in Poland, Japan, Greece, Austria, Egypt, USA, Belgium, Holland, Slovakia,, Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Cyprus, France, Hungary and Ukraine.
The winner of a number of prizes and awards – regional, national and international. Work in national collections and in private and museum collections in Austria, Japan, Brazil, USA, Holland, Belgium, Germany, France and Scotland.
Contact: [email protected]
Critical texts:
The paintings, drawings and prints of Marek Olszyński have always intrigued me. My interest in his works does not result from the themes which the artist addresses, a little mocking, sometimes topically provocative, and ironic. At the same time I am aware that this basis, critical against the reality of the context, is of extreme importance for the artist, and for the viewer constitutive and formative. Anyhow, much has been written on this, the main focus of which being the dissenting nature of his works. Feeling absolved from conducting a yet another similar analysis, I must at the same time confess that the narrative side of his works remain for me somewhat less decipherable, or present a marginal riddle. If Olszyński contextualises reality, reveals something, expresses discord, protests, absorbs, exposes absurdities, this is all well and good, but I believe that the rebellion of the painter and his declared love for artistic freedom are displayed in his work above all at the level of form. And I, as a viewer, am more than sufficiently intrigued by the initiated form. Of course the artistic intrigue, its mischief, one could say genealogy, fit within the trend of new expression of the 1980s, giving a freshness to artistic decisions and the connected element of visual surprise. It is possible to discern here the rebellious tension within his work so openly admonishing of the libertine space. This painting is delicious; I bite the pictures, sipping the prints. One does not reach for an apple for its vitamins, but for its taste. If they are there, let them be, undoubtedly for the better. But the taste takes priority. The greatest engagement in art may only be expressed by form – as suggested by Przybos. This is, however, a derivative of the subject and content – as would state the defender of classical and logical attitudes. Unfortunately, it is necessary here to put logic to one side. Indeed, the relation to reality is the foundation of art, but not when it is revealed a posteriori, becoming a discovery even for its creator. The self-discursive attitude may, on occasion, disrupt the effects.
The element of form comes first, followed by all the rest. “A painter thinks pictures, above all pictures” says Nowosielski. Marek Olszyński –painter, quite possibly against that which I wish to say, or at least alongside, surrenders to the dictates of form, feels its pulse, which is why he wins. A certain spontaneity in the construction of the picture, related to the surrealist and expressionist methods, influences the incredible freshness and artist audacity of his work. Their appropriate colour paradox, shape and turbulence of space provide the whole with a visual truculence, jarring the imagination. I am under the irresistible impression that, in his best works, Olszyński “seemingly” relates, rejecting the remains of the relationship with the visible world. He manages to bring a pressure of form, which is materialised in the picture, is unexpectedly filled with content, it becomes enrobed in the subject, despite being somewhat uninvited and taken aback at its own existence. There are yet other works of the artist with a clear figure from the real world, be that an individual, an imaginative portrait or object. This is customarily directed to a succinct sign, reduced to an expressive trace, always strongly accentuated both with abstract colours and clarion graphic contours. This drawing within the image, grooved lines in the paint, but also drawing with coloured bands, betrays Olszyński’s strong graphic temperament. His predilection for disguising form with the use of drawn forms of expression, appearing in rhythmic, ordered strips, dots, layered tangles of linear mats, at once forming the space, while also detached in stand-alone pictograms which provide the surface with a strong dynamism. The alogical letterism of some of his canvasses intrigues, draws in, engages the imagination, entwining tropes. The commonly presented coexistence of text and word is more a meandering of meaning rather than an explanatory exercise, defining the origin of the piece. A tendency to sharp forms, often rudimentary geometric figures combined with impulsive easy painting marks these works with a specific level of visual activity. The creative invention of Olszyński is also revealed in his treatment of his artistic foundations. The artistic workshop which he attacks places the audience before a surprising form, being in this way a true border between types of painting, sculpting, drawing, graphics or textiles. This is very similar to the sheer range of techniques applied and their blending. In accordance with his intentions, the painter: sticks, suspends, punctures, paints, sculpts, attaches, spatters, impresses, and stamps. The artistic curiosities which result from this, combined with an inexhaustible level of innovation, allow us to see in Marek Olszyński a man whose thoughts are incessantly plunged into his favoured material. This in turn allows him to reveal undiscovered properties of the material, coincidentally releasing even more potential within the pictures and meaning. Even if it were to emerge that the rebellion of Marek Olszynski is a revolt against nothing in specific, then the forms manifested within his works would not leave us with a feeling of ambivalence. Is this not a paradox or only art?
Artist, painter and art critic Piotr Wójtowicz
Characteristic for this artist is the sharp, invasive sign – metaphor, which frequently goes beyond the borders of the conventional forms of the perception of reality, conventional aesthetics, or safe and untarnished contexts. We may not like this truth, when it is indelicate, an imaginative x-ray which delves for that which we are and that which we most fear. We may not like the work of MO (artist’s signature) as a revelatory phenomenon in which we are participants, but of course the artist himself is also a participant. An artist, however, who knows the essential nature of discourse and therefore poses questions: questions that are peculiarly wounding, situated most often in uncomfortable places, creating a rift in our adopted space-time. It happens that this is a hole in the canvas, sometimes in “time”, but paradoxically it may then be the flash of the right hour, discovering the concealed meaning. This is bad news for those who wish to behold their idealised portrait on the canvas. Marek Olszyński ...
The artist uses as a medium materials which signify ephemerality, or those which deprive us of permanence. The susceptibility of canvas to destruction suits him, the peculiar leakiness of the painter’s surface. He uses incomplete materials, but not to appeal to the theme of temporality. In this way Olszyński suggests some destructive presence which was here before him. It is his offensive touch which provokes the response, declaring a veto. Frequently the ground of the picture is a pre-prepared element, such as a seam or a loose fabric which brings to the character of the work a specific quality, in which the textile joins with the elemental structure of existence. In this way the artist creates an analogy between the artistic material and the human body.
Olszyński utilises everyday household items in his works in an excellent way, transforming at that moment their category into items existing on and transgressing the border of being. But this operation entails that in stigmatising a certain code of things he deepens the exposition of their purpose (System tools)...
A picture of Marek is ruled by dynamics, a constant flow of form and context, as if giving an extra quality of voice to both the recipient and the artist himself in terms of choice, threatening the capacity of the message. The cut canvas, thick drawings, the temperature of colour, a prepared element and a row of crowded letters: each of these parts in its own way enables the flow of the intent of the creator. Each must become in a certain way transparent in order to maintain the essence of the message. Within the disharmony of this message the aesthetic harmony is paradoxically retained, through inversion – a basic mechanism in the sphere of MO. This is characteristic of his work which operates on the borders between disciplines, ceaselessly repeating attempts to precisely label his intentions, providing elements of the work with new meaning. In his ensuing works the artist provides verification of his previously established graphic code, finding for it a fresh context. He is indefatigable in the undermining of certain defined hierarchies of motifs. Neither does he allow the recipient to become accustomed to them. A figure which constitutes the centre of one system at a different stage becomes an episode, a peripheral motif, resulting in a degradation of its value...
An important part of the works of Olszyński is a certain narrative continuity pertaining to his homeland (it permeates his work). Characteristic of this is the identification with the perspective of the underground towards the marked fallacies of the attitudes of the establishment. The artist touches upon the fate of the county, among his motifs Polishness presents an axis around which the existence of people, things and events revolve. In Zbigniew Herbert’s Awakening, we read “When the horror subsided the floodlights went out/
we discovered that we were on a rubbish-heap in very strange poses/ some with outstretched necks /others with open mouths from which still trickled my native land.” Neither does this term disappear from the lexicon of the artist.
In essence the works of Marek Olszyński present the erection of a type of construction with an installed or developed structure, which endlessly gathers new contexts. A figure of reaction is created through the melding of disparate materials, broken links in the chain, and mounded signs. The categorical, determined voice of the artist speaks through his pictures, in which man is bent, inverted, beaten in and rehashed. However, being a piece in the crowd and a hostage to the situation, he remains at the same time the essence of being. This issue raised by Olszyński often meets with a lack of acceptance, with such segments being read in a narrow context (which restrains the function of art) that leads to a superficial reading of perception. The recipient creates an imaginary poetry within the work, an imaginary poetry which leads to depreciation and the loss of authenticity. Art, however, makes no pretence at being a calque of reality. Nor does it present its alphabet. We must find the truth within art, with it frequently focussing on an intensification of the elements of reality. It is like the time to stop the clock in the verse of john Ashbury “right twice a day”.
Visual Artist, art critic Marlena Makiel Hędrzak
Don’t cover yourself (s)he said
It will bite
This is what you need
Go out in armour
And show what you can do
That is all I can do I said
Cover up
(W. Woroszylski, Rozmowa)

It is difficult to separate art from personality and personal experience of the world. The creation of art is simultaneously an act of revelation and concealment. Concealment because of the surrender to the discipline of form which is a strategy specific to art; revelation because its nerve is sensitivity and the individual “handwriting”.
The work of Marek Olszyński is a perfect example of this. It is difficult to capture this in words: indeed any attempt to do so shatters what the artist composes in a fluent whole: the artistic materials and words which are an integral part of his presentations – elements which complement one another and balance each other out.
The “word” present on the canvas and its co-creator play a specific role: handwriting which is deformed, written phonetically or childishly, “reversed” becomes a counterpoint to that which – artistically and sensually – is directly given. It is a perverse, often sarcastic comment, which provides a “semantic shift”, tearing the words and things away from their customary meaning – from their referential function to something performative, creating a New Reality. The strategy of Dadaist, Surrealist or Buddhist koans allows for the release of surprising and fresh connotations. They provide an attempt to name a state or phenomenon by overturning conventional references; they allow for things to be shown which are hidden, secret, or falsified in reality. It is a specific and ironic discussion with the topos, with that – in the words of Aristotle – “container and keystone of meaning” our culture, which an attempt to put things straight rather than merely a play of form, recalls the appropriate meaning and hierarchy of things.
Modern art – about which Nowosielski wrote – requires a signature which provides access to the full meaning as assumed by the artist. Apart from this, however, in the works of Marek Olszyński there is a departure beyond the dimension of pure semantics in the direction of artistic materials, and those speak for themselves.
A theme in a literary sense, anecdote, problem – treated none too seriously, irony, taken in inverted commas – “brings” that which is at the forefront of Marek Olszynski’s work. The temptation develops to stay before the clear foreground, built with strong aesthetic values, on a truculent, dynamic form, which provides the illusion of clarity. This is an illusion because the work of Marek Olszyński is subject to discipline; the impression of spontaneity is achieved with the carefully considered artistic resources, the characteristic melding of elements apparently antonymous, shortcuts, simplified signs, and strategies from graphics brought into the complex field of painting.
The foreground is built on strong values, but after this, in the “background”, many things are happening in the artistic layer. It is mainly here that we will find the “lyrical element” of the work. The artistic charm and sensuality, colours with beautiful yet subtle transitions stand as a counterpoint to that which presents the anecdotal or literary layer. The references to poetry and the works of poets is no coincidence – the “power of poetry”, a series dedicated to J. Szubert, the installation “My life” by Andrzej Bursa – demonstrate a similar way of looking at reality, a sensitivity to detail, emotion conveyed through the artists materials.
The artist dissects the traditional picture form, breaking it apart, smashing the material artistic integrity, building new lines of tension. Through the parcelling of the space, the composition achieves a lightness, losing its density and literalism. The dramatic severing of the canvas balances the colour. Artistically this does not give the impression of deconstruction, quite the opposite – “overconstruction”, redoubling the space of the work and going beyond the plane. The real “exhibition” space permeates the space of the work, becoming an integral part. This creates an astonishing picture-object, picture-installation.
Marek Olszyński’s artistic materials could be anything. The artist changes symbols: impermanent and rubbish for permanent, using “objects of the lowest rank” (in the words of Kantor); the permanent for temporary. The permeation of different forms and peculiar dialogue that specific realisations conduct between themselves provide the “fluid borders” (both in the literal sense and the purist formal frame) so characteristic of the works of Marek Olszyński. The permeation of that which is high with that which is low: materials associated in art with poor, mundane and degraded are elevated to the ranks of the wholesome (artistic and aesthetic). This contravention gives his art an unheard of strength of identity; motifs go from work to work – sometimes central, sometimes peripheral – this is evident in such pictures as “series of series”, “System tools”, “Exercise of the space”, “Hammer”, “Black box”, “Trap”, “Annex”, “Protest letter”...
Marek Olszyński is a generous artist – he creates, annexing every scrap of space, boosting it aesthetically (making use of the reverse of his paintings is a separate artistic story). This may be a question of temperament, the impossibility of a complete utterance in conventional form, a peculiar appendix to that which is already encased within the form.
The temperament of the artist bores out a variety of form through which he speaks – painting, graphic, drawing, installation, objects – and (frequently novel) techniques. Eros rules the art of Marek Olszyński in the sense ascribed by Plato: Eros passionately fed by the highest part of the soul, passion directed for the good; a condition of the commitment to creative activity. The radicalism of his art derives from him being at odds with superficiality, trivialities, ambivalence and lack of form; with the spirit of revolution, which is always in the name of something... This is art affirming the world as it is through the rejection of the revelation of its shape through existential experimentation; art as an “intervention in reality”, where shredded materials provide the “grudge” within.
Agnieszka Iskra-Paczkowska

Recent posts by Marek Olszyński