Marcin Osiowski “Art on Art” (29.10 – 11.11.2019 r.)

The title of the exhibition Art on Art refers to one of the most important cycles in the output of Marcin Osiowski, continued by the artist for almost four decades – from student times to paintings created this year.

Although the criticism of certain aspects of the present day is an integral part of Osiowski’s work, thinking in purely formal, artistic terms has always been his point of departure. Subject matters which today would be qualified as critical art developed in Osiowski’s work concurrently with his fascination with the achievements of generations of artists since ancient times and their choice of form, ingenuity, or the revolutionary character of their works. For Osiowski, confrontation with them never shows signs of rivalry. Instead, it is a continuous pursuit of what may have been left unsaid, whether intentionally or purposefully; of what calls for being taken apart into bits and pieces in order to be understood better, and have new light shed on it.

The title of the exposition Art on Art after one of Osiowski’s series, expresses the reflection on the very medium of painting, as well as it raises questions on the status of the artist and the work; on the role of art in society and its responsibility to the surrounding reality. Since his student years, Osiowski already experimented with combining masterpieces, political symbols and clippings from pornographic magazines with his reflections on history and philosophy books as well as tropes from popular culture, film and music. His works constructed through play on associations, are characterized by complex iconography. In the spirit of pop art, Osiowski juxtaposes images of celebrities, writers, poets, philosophers (particularly Wittgenstein), and characters from films which span from Daisuke Itō’s, through Ingmar Bergman’s, to O Lucky Man! by Lindsay Anderson as well as motifs from paintings by other artists, quotations from reality in the form of labels, newspaper clippings and leaflets glued to the canvas.

Undoubtedly, the final visual effect that could be disparaged as “oh, that’s pretty” is not the objective of Osiowski’s work. However, it certainly cannot be said that a purposeful anti-aestheticism characterises his work. Only few works are created “in the heat of the moment”, without preceding contemplation. Osiowski seems to proceed on the assumption that you should only get involved in art if you have something to say. This is because, on the one hand, art is always “preoccupied with itself”, and on the other hand, an artist is often forced to speak by the circumstances around him or her. Communist propaganda, contempt for the individual, and fear-inducing bans and orders constituted such circumstances in 1980s Poland. When making art in Poland in the second decade of the twenty-first century, the artist is faced with problems of the violation of freedoms seemingly guaranteed by democracy, as well as the task of broadening the very definition of freedom of speech within visual arts.

Paintings for Civilians, as well as Portrait of Poles and Flags discuss the subject of Osiowski’s commentary on political issues which is present throughout his oeuvre. In his belief that the artist has the right, and even a duty, to interfere in current and important affairs, Osiowski criticised the so-called real-socialist system as early as in his university years. Reflection on the workings of society, the influence of the media and the systems of creating information holds an important place in his work. The painter poses questions which fear ultimate answers more than they fear being left unanswered. He does not shy away from politics if it interferes with the areas of reality that are reserved for unrestrained thought, creativity, and emotion. He says that as a painter, he is allowed to do certain things; allowed to read, allowed to observe, allowed to visit galleries and museums, and then allowed to comment on what he saw through painting or literary text. Both art forms used by Osiowski are attempts at reaching an understanding of the world in times when the rules which govern it are becoming elusive, or even murky.

Curator: Katarzyna Piskorz
Cooperation: HOS Gallery, Warsaw
Vernissage: 29.10.2019 r., 19.00
Exhibition: 29.10 – 11.11.2019 r.

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