#grupawolno

Since 2018, Osiowski has also been working with a young artist, Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts graduate Julia Słonecka. Together with musician and director Antoni Gustowski, they make up the collective #grupawolno [Wolno means both “slowly” and “allowed” in Polish]. This is how Osiowski and Słonecka reminisce on their first encounter: “We were surprised by how similarly we think about painting. We decided to collaborate right away.” Osiowski added that he found at lot in common between Julia’s theoretical texts and what he had written thirty years before. The young painter shared his inspiration by Wittgenstein and fascination with Antonioni’s Blowup. They began painting together the day after their meeting. They stress that while they talk a lot, drawing remains their natural language. They begin with sketches which turn into minutes of their meetings as the work progresses. On a sheet of carboard, they synthesize their ideas which emerge from conversations and formal experimentation. Glued-on photographs and pages torn out of single-day calendars complete the drawings, bringing the compositions to a close. This is how their Diaries are created. Many motifs which had appeared in this format for the first time were elaborated on in grupawolno’s painting series, for example in Mona Lisa from Finland, Paintings on Relationships or Islands. A motto for these works, important for the whole group, is the recurring provocative “nam wszystko wolno” (“we are allowed [to do] anything”), which implicitly outlines the framework within which the artist has the right to unrestricted activity.

An instruction manual for a fridge, a matchbox or oil paint packaging, proved to be unexpected sources of ideas and painting themes for the artists. In their joint works, they discuss the role and function of language and the problems of the identity of symbols and signs. They also play with conventional thinking on representational and abstract art. They expressed this directly in their portrait of Plato with the ironic inscription „Mimesis. Rusrs?” (are you serious?). Meanwhile, the series of works The Milking of Van Gogh posed the question on the relationship between memory and the understanding of art as well as the relationship between art and modern-day market realities. Is this Van Gogh? A portrait of an artist misunderstood in his lifetime? Is this a fragment of oil paint packaging? The humorous and surprising title of the painting served as the title of their first joint exhibition (December 2018). This is also a sort of manifesto for #grupawolno.

When the two painters meet, the canvas becomes a field for experimentation and search for form whose final properties should seem right for both artists of differing temperaments, life experience and personalities. Słonecka and Osiowski emphasize that collaboration with Antoni Gustowski remains a key component of their joint exploration and discussions. Osiowski says: “In the studio, we don’t just swing brushes; music isn’t just jabbing at keys. Art is reflection.” Osiowski has also written a lot. His literary works, theoretical texts, poetry and prose, especially those from the beginning of his career, importantly highlight the inseparability of literary and pictorial language, making the reception of paintings easier, and giving insight into the integral connection between the two domains. Notably, like in his paintings, Osiowski does not exploit conventional formulas. His texts are permeated with humour; at times, thoughts are expressed in very explicit language. Osiowski’s texts, written since university, have come to life in front of visitors at the opening of #grupawolno’s first exhibition thanks to Gustowski’s musical talents. Osiowski wrote about their collaboration, demonstrating his interest in history, and revealing paths of associations particular to the collective through which they travel from antiquity to current politics:

“How we paint with Julia – since they’re asking … [W]e are painting a fridge instruction manual because we’ve agreed that a painting can be painted for any reason. And since they brought in the fridge, why not? A matchbox? That’s good, too. Especially if there’s a stain that resembles a round shadow at a graveside scene; the shadow and the ba of the deceased, or other shapes at the feet of Goddess Nut emerging from a sycamore tree in order to feed the deceased and his ba. What is ba? It is the soul, in our terms, just like ka and ach, with the difference that ba can take any form, e.g. a bird with a human head, and ka is always depicted as a human being, or rather in the form of a human being because it isn’t one. The Goddess Nut, whose form of the Cosmic Cow is of no interest to us at this point, was mainly tasked with supporting the sky, and with that we are satisfied. Similarly, we are interested in ka; not only is it presented in the form of a human, but it is also a spiritual element which accompanies a person from birth. It is a perfect, faultless model in which our good characteristics and vital energy are concentrated. Some perceive this as the origin of Plato’s Idea – and this leads us (via a straight path) to mimesis, but before we get there, we dive into Heliopolitan theology. We see the great, even fundamental significance of a name. It determines the individuality of a person, his existence. We create something by naming it and conversely – we destroy by destroying the name. Does this ring a bell? Erase someone with a rubber? Stamp someone over? Delete from history and replace with one’s own self?”