On November 9 hundreds of people visited the Dominican Monastery in Cracow for the official opening of the exhibition of paintings of the Merciful Jesus painted according to the visions…More
Let’s Paint Catholicism Again
The image of the Divine Mercy has been painted anew! This extraordinarily demanding challenge, both artistically and spiritually, was faced by 10 Polish painters, who have been invited to cooperate with two institutions – the Saint John Paul II Institute of Culture of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) and the Saint Nicholas Foundation. The paintings will now be presented to a wider audience. This is an introduction to a larger undertaking, which aims to revive religious painting.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Meet our supporters
Jolanta & Mirosław Gruszka
St. John Paul II was the most important authority for our generation and for us personally. When he was elected Pope we were still high school students. That is why we consider it an achievement of a lifetime and a tremendous honour to be able to support this extraordinary initiative dedicated to the spread of his thought about Christianity, Europe, and Poland: the St. John Paul II Institute of Culture at the Angelicum in Rome. Future generations will significantly benefit from studying the thought and philosophy of this holy Pope from Poland, whose role is of incredible significance for the future of the Church, as well as that of the world. This is our humble attempt to pay back an unpayable debt which we owe to John Paul II.
Our rapidly developing civilization has increasingly strong and internal problems resulting from disregard of basic anthropological roots. I believe that exercises and lectures at the St. John Paul II Institute of Culture will help its students to develop and propose gospel solutions to the world by John Paul II. I am convinced that learning from John Paul II and thinking together with him can help all of us to build better world.
St John Paul II was a remarkable thinker and philosopher, an extraordinary Pole, whose intellecutal hertitage is of universal value. As such it should be furtherly studied and reflected on. Rome and Angelicum – his Alma Mater – are particularly well-suited for this purpose.
I consider the St. John Paul II Institute of Culture to be a fundamentally important center for spreading the Catholic faith by means of exploration and promotion of the teachings of our Great Pope. It is fascinating to be involved in a work which – in the face of today’s challenges – so broadly addresses the issues of the renewal of Christian culture. On a personal level through the cooperation with the Insitute I also experience a greater spiritual connection with my beloved Saint.
Jarosław Modzelewski graduated with a Master’s in Painting from the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. Since then, he has been an avid educator of art students at the Academy. He is celebrated as one of the most outstanding living Polish painters.
In 1982, he was a co-founder of Gruppa, a group expressing rebellion against the country’s political dictatorship system and artistic stagnation resulting from the post-avant-garde lack of new ideas. They expressed their rebellion in a neo-expressionist style, which is characteristic of Modzelewski’s work.
Since the mid-1980s, he returned to figurative painting, a form he continues to develop. Characters imposed on empty spaces of smooth backgrounds powerfully transmit messages to the audience.
The end of the 1990s brought yet another transformation in Modzelewski’s work, this time much more significant. He decided to use (as it seemed at first, only temporarily) tempera paints. This method of painting seemed to suit him, so he remains faithful to the medium to this day.
The technological transformation resulted in significant changes in painting, which changed how he used colour in paintings. The works became much softer and filled with light. Modzelewski’s tempera paintings allow him to play with texture, which becomes more enunciated the longer one looks at it. At the same time, it moves away from his occasionally aggressive expression to a quieter endeavour becoming more analytical in its approach to the vision of the world being presented.
Ignacy Czwartos studied painting at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, receiving his diploma in Tadeusz Wolanski’s studio.
Ignacy Czwartos’ works strongly relate to two outstanding painters, Jerzy Nowosielski and Andrzej Wróblewski. One can also see an intense fascination with old Polish culture and the tradition of struggling for liberty, particularly the post-war underground independence movement. The density of the works, the empty backgrounds, and the simplified forms of human figures refers to the Sarmatian culture of the 17th and 18th centuries. So there are fans, nuns, and the underground reavers of the independence underground shown in Czwartos’ paintings as direct descendants of our nobles, monks or noble townsfolk living in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
His paintings feature religious themes that, although evident and understandable in their form, are not signs with unambiguous content. It is not sacred art in the strict sense, it does not serve the faithful for prayerful recollection, but at the same time, it does not treat religious themes as symbols of culture on par with other cultural signs.
Czwartos is not only a painter, he is also a cartoonist. And it’s his sketches that surprise the most. As he said, his drawing work is talkative, while he is reticent and reserved in painting. One would like to say uncontrollable.
Wincenty Czwartos, a painting student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow, is still striving – as can be seen in the exhibitions he participates in – to develop his style. A style that will allow him to create bold religious visions. The painter’s works so far depict his strong ties to the traditions of Polish painting, primarily baroque and the modernism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
It does not matter at all because it is clear that the painter moves in these styles freely and without significant issues in form and subject matter, using themes popular in ancient art and those established in contemporary popular culture.
Jacek Dłużewski graduated from the Krakow academy under Jerzy Nowosielski and has been a painting teacher in Polish art academies for years. Nowosielski’s influence as a master is visible in Dłużewski’s painting. The synthetic approach to the paintings shouldn’t be confused with simplicity. This style requires an ability to characterise the sacral of the presented topic. It is not about the religious dimension of the painting but the ability to give it an “extra dimension” – an air of mystery – which shouldn’t surprise anyone that this ability can lead to religious painting.
To understand Dłużewski’s work, it is best to confront his series of paintings, which allow one to grasp his way of understanding painting while observing and artistically processing the perceived world. The collections of paintings he created are a “reaction” to the reality confronted by the painter’s senses.
The synthesised figures presented in a dense space gain tremendous energy due to the simplification of silhouettes and capturing them with the help of cubed forms. Planes build a sense of space by using only light and shadow are evidence of a true virtuoso utilising the brush. The simpler and more decorative forms, almost devoid of a 3D composition, acquire more character. Dłużewski, despite simplifying forms to only the simplest means of expression, gives the faces of the figures in the images a portrait-like character, endowing them with individual personalities.
Wojciech Głogowski received his diploma from the Department of Art Education in Kalisz, in the studio of Tadeusz Wolański.
In the paintings of the artist from Wrocław, we can see an exciting synthesis of preserved memories, old photographs, advertisements and paintings, and illustrations for children’s books. Characters shown in stylised gestures that brush against theatricality greatly influence viewers’ senses. Their eyes are essential; they are large, expressive and intensely gazing.
Intuitively, we also sense the great importance of the background equipment of the depicted characters. The picture tubes, lamps and cameras are equivalent “heroes” of the paintings, tearing their plane and giving them an archaic character. This allows the viewer to discover that in Głogowski’s works, the time has not much stopped but is running to its own rhythm, often in unexpected directions.
The artist envisions his visions using two components: maximally dense spaces as if trying to eliminate them and a cool colour palette illuminated by an undefined source. It has been emphasised many times that the colour palette Głogowski uses (barely visible cobalt, plum purples, cool and warm pinks, deep greens, dark browns, emerald reflections) sends viewers to other, seemingly, immensely distant worlds.
Głogowski’s painting is full of subtle, warm irony. The painter doesn’t treat his characters seriously; that paradox is as important a tool as the colour palette or the texture of the canvases.
Jacek Hajnos OP
Jacek Hajnos, it should be noted, is a dominican friar and a graduate of the Faculty of Graphics of the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow. From the beginning, he gained recognition as a very expressive graphic artist while economical in the means he used.
Since the discovery of his vocation, religious themes have dominated his work. However, he remained faithful to his style of a shimmering thin line contrasting with large black spots. And even though his interesting illustrative portraits from the “Difference” publication depicting the homeless, we see a softening of the image; his style has remained so unchanged that we do not doubt who the author is.
Krzysztof Klimek graduated from the Faculty of Painting of the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow as a student of Jerzy Nowosielski, which, he says, permanently defined his work. This initiation into the artistic arcana by an outstanding master compelled Klimek’s painting to follow two trends, non-abstraction and realistic landscapes.
His painting is a reaction to a world he sees and analyses daily.
Landscapes, still lifes, everyday objects or, finally, a view from the studio window, all of which are disassembled by the artist into primary elements only to reassemble them into works almost mimetic in their literalness. On the other hand, his abstract works attempt to paint an impulse that comes to mind, found outside the scale of light waves available to our senses. These paintings by the artist are a form of exploring undefined interactions through painting – an attempt to paint the invisible.
Bogna Podbielska is a painter and a theatre director, having defended her diploma at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow and the Academy of Dramatic Arts, directing dramatic plays. She combines talent and passion by working as a graphic editor and illustrator for “Theatre” magazine.
Her expressionist paintings seem burdened by a mannerism created by a harsh line and often contrasting colours, expressive to the edge of virulence. However, in the artist’s works, it’s not the strong message but the search for a way to convey a message. Topics that we would describe in everyday language as “difficult”.
One of them is the search for a way to express the Christian sacrum in contemporary painting. It is not just about creating new iconography that is more understandable for the modern viewer. The goal is also to navigate in the areas of aesthetics that, on the one hand, will transport viewers to timeless places of prayer and contemplation and, on the other – maintain a contemporary sensibility which will allow them to feel at home in those worlds.
Beata Stankiewicz received her diploma at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow in the studio of Józef Ząbkowski. She began her painting adventure by working on monumental works and large-scale canvases. As time went by, the concise form of her paintings spoke to the audience. The aim of the painting is not to show the characteristics of the painted object but the visual play of its shape with the background – flat and monochrome, sometimes suggesting the vastness of heaven and sometimes even giving up any suggestion at all. Tree trunks or windows become forms shaping the space of the painting; therefore, over time, Stankiewicz’s compositions simplified the depicted figures into modules (just like the artist herself titles them). The question remains: what can be constructed from these modules?
The development of her work is impossible to separate from her other significant medium, namely film and photography. Beata Stankiewicz observes the world around her, perceiving it as an ever-changing form that can be captured and set in a digital or painterly record with the power of artistic imagination. Therefore, her paintings, on the one hand, present realistic studies of interiors and spaces, often in large formats, and, on the other hand, show the world “through the window,” voyeuristic, therefore hazy and not entirely clear.
An essential aspect of Stankiewicz’s work is realistic, even hyper-realistic, portrait painting, designed to show the depicted person’s external appearance, character, and meaning.
Artur Wąsowski graduated from the Faculty of Graphics of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. He is currently trying his hand at many areas of art, practising painting, applied and artistic graphics, drawing, sculpture and illustration.
Wąsowski’s works are characterised by strong expression created by contrasting colour combinations and boldly shaped compositional arrangements. They are lively and animated due to the artist’s ability to give the characters a dynamic impression of movement or a full energetic expression.
In his works, the artist tries to show the most fundamental problems related to faith. At the same time, although, on the one hand, he bases his search on the juxtaposed (as strongly contrasting as colours) sacrum and profanum, as well as carnality and spirituality, his message is understandable. He owes this to his skilful handling of elements derived from Christian iconography or motifs associated with religion. In addition, and perhaps above all, by modernising the message and combining the religious message with contemporary culture.