Grzegorz Stec

Grzegorz Stec – born in 1955 in Kraków, he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in 1981. He received his diploma from the Faculty of Graphic Arts under the tutorship of Prof. Włodzimierz Kunz, and studied painting under the guidance of Prof. Jan Świderski. He lives in Kraków, and is a member of the Kraków District of the Union of Polish Artists and Designers (ZPAP).

Mr Stec has had over 50 significant individual exhibitions, exhibiting in major art galleries in Poland (including Kraków, Warsaw, Poznań, Gdańsk, Łódź, Katowice, and Kołobrzeg), and also abroad (the US, Sweden, France, and Germany).

For many years he has exhibited his works in the United States. In 1996–2002, Mr Stec was a resident of the Society for Arts in Chicago, where the following exhibitions were arranged: Letters to the Mastres (1996), Exodus or Carnival? (1997), and Aqueducts of Dream (1998). In 2007–2009 he showed his works in New York.

He has also had exhibitions organised in Polish consular establishments: in the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in New York (2008) and in the Kościuszko Foundation in New York (2009), in the Polish Institute in Leipzig (In Licht und Schatten 2014), at Berlin’s Galerie Abakus which was co-organised by the Embassy of the Republic of Poland and the Polish Institute in Berlin (2015).

The recently held large exhibitions were staged in the Palace of Art in Kraków (2012, 2015), the Solvay Modern Art Centre (2014), the Centre for Jewish Culture in Kraków’s Kazimierz District (2011, 2014) and in Dagma Art Contemporary Art Gallery in Katowice (2015/2016).

In 2014, Grzegorz Stec prepared the production design and staging of Antigone by Sophocles (MIST Theatre). The artist’s paintings have been displayed, among others, in a poster of the 6th Ludwig van Beethoven Easter Festival (2002) and in numerous book publications. Polish television TVP made a film about the artist’s work entitled Zadręcza mnie zapach czerni [Pestered by the Smell of Blackness] (1991, directed by Cezary Nowicki).

Grzegorz Stec is also a poet; he has published two volumes of poetry: Nikt tu nie szuka odpowiedzi [No one Seeks Answers Here] (1999) and Melencolia (2007).

On painting

The painting of Grzegorz Stec occupies an individual  place in contemporary art. This artist is thoroughly original; representing a type of visionary, dramatic art that emotionally responses to experiences of modern times, and is simultaneously is anchored in the European painting tradition. His painting may be placed between abstraction and figuration. It is characterised by the richness of compositions, colours, and structures – from simple forms through dense compositions of horror vacui, from pure and explicit colour schemes, through monochromatic works, or actually black and white ones.

Stec is most interested in the crowd – a swirling, deformed mass tormented by madness and trauma. The artist displays gigantic parades and populous carnivals, marches, and wars. A human being is shown deformed, a meaningless particle of such a crowd. A single man appears in Stec’s work as a head-mask and those are not just portraits, but rather images of the mental states of those beings. In turn, a series of vertical paintings showing shining ghost-figures hung in the air, resembles X-rays of the soul.

The mutilation of man and light is always counterpointed by light which, in terms of composition and meaning, plays the most important role in that art. The artist masterly creates light effects that provide paintings with a soul dimension, so neglected in contemporary art. Light is a protagonist in many of his works, especially in black paintings that make up the most original part of his output. Those ascetic painting improvisations are frequently an attempt at the visualisation of pure light.

Grzegorz Stec has developed his own oil painting technique that, in the case of black paintings, consists in achieving technical effects that are close to mezzotint, whereas in the case of colourful ones, it involves spontaneous, intuitive creation during the first hot sessions, which are followed by working out details in a laborious and flawless way. Stec’s art is thus born out of tension between the spontaneity of a subconscious vision and the ordering intellect, a violent explosion of emotions and the delicacy of a form. This art is strong and subtle, primeval and submerged in culture, wild and sophisticated. Its message, among others, because of the dramatic and important topics he deals with, forces some in-depth reflexions about our world and single human existence.

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