(born in 1931 in Wolsztyn, died in 2012 in Wrocław)
Painter, photographer, architect, poet, theorist. Owed his interest in art to his father, Ludwik, who was also his first teacher. Together, they copied paintings by Axentowicz, Rapacki, Stachiewicz. In 1950, Jurkiewicz took up his studies in architecture in Wrocław, but he continued to paint at the same time, dealing with realist still lives, and later found interest in abstraction. He attended Eugeniusz Geppert’s studio at the Academy in Wrocław, known at the time as the State Higher School of Visual Arts (PWSSP). One of Jurkiewicz’s passions was astronomy. He built his first telescope at the age of thirteen, and later won his diploma with a design of an observatory. He also concentrated on in-depth studies of the phenomena of colour. Jurkiewicz became an assistant lecturer at the drawing and painting department at the Faculty of Architecture of the Wrocław University of Technology, which he later headed as a professor. Since 1979, he also lectured at the PWSSP in Poznań. Bearing formal kinship with matter painting, his paintings evolved first towards the painting of gesture in order to explore later the concept of the “shape of continuity”, of critical importance for the artist at that time. Jurkiewicz developed his cycle Kształt ciągłości (The Shape of Continuity) throughout more than a decade (until 1982). The series embraces Obrazy ostateczne (Ultimate Paintings), which he described as follows: “The ultimate painting was to contain the entire experience of painting. That is why it was so valuable and so unattainable – like a perfect utopia”. The artist constantly defined painting both in the general sense and in his personal perspective. He sensed that the medium had already been exhausted, but at the same time, he could not find arguments in favour of its ultimate rejection. This dissonance manifested itself in the action which inaugurated the activity of Galeria pod Moną Lizą in Wrocław in 1967. Accompanied by witnesses who photographed the process, throughout six days Jurkiewicz spilt paint on geometrical forms of his own making. The emphasis on the photographic documentation of the action on display at the gallery came as a symptom of the reduction of the painting gesture, clearly manifest in Jurkiewicz’s practice in the 1970s. An example is provided by the already emblematic project Na ścianie, na płótnie i na sztaludze (On the Wall, on Canvas, on the Easel, 1971). In the second half of the 1960s, Jurkiewicz returned to astronomy – he built telescopes as well as observed and photographed the stars. He transformed his apartment in 59 Łaciarska St. into an extraordinary Kunstkammer, studio and observatory – all in one. The artist’s one bedroom flat witnessed artistic activities whose only trace was photographic documentation, among others, Rysunek w Łazience (Drawing in the Bathroom, 1972), Rysowanie światłem (Drawing with Light, 1978), Słońce 1.VII.1972 (The Sun on 1st July 1972, 1972), among other projects. Towards the end of the 1970s, animals (Japanese mice and hamsters, for whom he built his own objects) started to play a prominent role in Jurkiewicz’s science- and art-related practice, followed slightly later by plants, which he also cultivated and observed in his apartment in Łaciarska. Jurkiewicz wrote and published poems, which were collected in the volume Tylko jedynie zawsze (1997).
Reference: Zdzisław Jurkiewicz, exhibition catalogue, National Museum in Wrocław, 27th June – 25th September 2011, author: M. Szafkowska