Graduate of the State Secondary School of Fine Arts in Katowice. Studies at the Faculty of Graphic Arts
Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, Katowice branch in 1982-88.
Founder and member of the artistic group “4 Landscapes”.
He does painting and drawing. Author of over 40 solo exhibitions in Poland and abroad. Among the most prestigious are: a retrospective exhibition at the Silesian Museum in Katowice,
exhibition in the gallery promoting artists from Eastern Europe in the USA Anya Tish Gallery in Houston, participation in the presentation of Polish art as part of a large pan-European event EUROPALIA 2001 in Belgium. His works are in private collections in Poland and abroad.
Aleksander Żywiecki’s work does not allow for programmatic innovation, on the contrary, the author reaches for traditional, realistic art in its form and with a clear message, thus returning to everything that touches, delights with the beauty and richness of the surrounding world.
In his paintings one can find such a suggestive vision, so characteristic for painters of the turn of the century, of a wide landscape, untamed nature and open spaces, not yet contaminated by human existence, but also a landscape noticed among completely mundane fragments of lush Polish nature.
Contemporary man, in his passion for discovering and understanding the world, puts a lot of effort and ingenuity in the hope of taking away secrets from nature. He sends powerful telescopes armed with cameras to orbit around the Earth, with a resolution that allows him to observe the origins of the Universe and builds highly complex devices to look into the smallest, invisible building material of the Universe.
And probably for the good.
However, with all his inquisitiveness he loses more and more from the eye what can be seen easily and without any instruments and what belongs to the part of the natural world of which he is a part. And yet nature in its generosity has endowed us with countless forms and shapes and each of them is unique, because entangled in time and space will never repeat twice. The same dawn, the same dusk, the same clouds, even the same meadow blooms differently every year. As Professor Wiktor Zin, a storyteller, illustrator, architect and great expert on the Polish landscape, wrote: “Nature speaks in whispering, forming surprisingly concise sentences and truths. Let us listen to these whispered truths, at least for a moment, taking our mind and body away from the fair yawning noise of the surrounding reality.
Fortunately, there are still places where the blinking advertisements and PR of the ubiquitous capital do not reach and where the barriers and toll booths do not defend access to the power of nature, which delights with its different beauty every day.
We need this silence as a lifebelt.
“THE KING OF CLOUDS”
Aleksander Żywiecki, painter, landscape painter, representative of the realistic trend in contemporary Polish painting. He is referred to as “The King of Clouds,” because among contemporary landscape painters he is distinguished by an unrivalled ability to create images of the sky. Painting them in various scenes: sometimes cheerful, dotted with fluffy clouds or stormy with ominous dark cumulus, each time with analytical precision he studies atmospheric phenomena taking place in nature. What is the reason for this scientific inquisitiveness in the painter’s work?
Why, like a meteorologist, does he prepare detailed weather studies and watch the phenomena in the sky? The reason is simple: the sky is the most important part of the landscape. It defines the mood, determines whether the image will be perceived as idyllic or dramatic. In Aleksander Żywiecki’s work, mood is the leading motif, the main character of his representations. Showing nature in its various “humours:” it is joyful in radiant sunlight, it is sad in the drops of rain, the artist expresses different emotions, because for him the landscape is, as in Romantic painting, an image of the soul.
In Aleksander’s painting there is no complicated symbolism, because the addressee is an ordinary person, not a critic initiated into the arcana of complex theories of contemporary art. And although the simplicity of the work is out of fashion today, the author is not ashamed of it. On the contrary, he believes that preaching overintellectualised content is a pathological tendency of postmodernism, which he rejects himself.
Reading his pictures does not resemble solving scholastic puzzles and does not require the creation of breakneck Freudian-Lacanian interpretations; the reception should be intuitive or even naive. The wish of the painter is that his emotionally marked visions of nature should reach the heart, just as the music does. The equivalent of the musical key is the colour of the landscape. It is with its help that the artist tunes the audience to a cheerful or minor note, manipulating their feelings. He wants to be touched – nothing more, but at the same time so much.
There is no complicated symbolism in Aleksander’s painting because his addressee is an ordinary man rather than a critic initiated into the mysteries of intricate theories of the contemporary art. And, although simplicity in art is unfashionable today, the author is not ashamed of it. On the contrary, he believes that overintellectualization is a morbid inclination of postmodernism, the movement from which he himself has cut off. Interpretation of his paintings does not resemble solving scholastic paradoxes; neither does it require complicated Freudian-Lacanian analyses. Understanding of his art should be intuitive, even naive. The painter’s wish is that his emotional visions of nature should touch the heart, just like music does. In landscape painting the equivalent of the musical tone is color. It is with colour that the artist tunes his audience to a major or minor key by manipulating their feelings. He wants to move – nothing more, and yet so much.
In terms of content, Aleksander’s works contain a simple yet profound, humanistic message. In nostalgic visions of wild nature, the author expresses his longing until the times when human life proceeded in accordance with natural cycles of nature. Today, this primal rhythm of human existence has been disturbed by technology and accompanying soulless digital technology. The intensive development of industry not only contributed to the transformation of the landscape, but also caused changes in our way of thinking and evaluation.
We cleared forests to build metropolises, highways and hypermarkets in their place, but we also wreaked havoc on the human psyche – dulled sensitivity, changed moral patterns, material culture replaced spiritual culture. Profit, prosperity, comfort and easy entertainment offered by mass cultural institutions are the main goods that people now strive for. Aleksander Żywiecki does not accept the shallowing of ideals and changes that are side effects of progress.
By creating, he escapes with his thoughts to the world of nature and takes the viewer with him there, so that the viewer, contemplating his landscapes, can at least for a moment hide from the hustle and bustle of civilization. The contact with nature as we see it in his paintings, the raw, virgin one, triggers in us what is most human – sincere feelings, inclination to emotions, sensitivity to beauty. Believing in the possibility of moral repair through close contact with nature, the artist adopts the point of view of romantics, who built their worldview on the foundations of J philosophy. J. Rousseau and Za Rousseau repeated that man in his essence is good, and good could stay alive by living according to nature, while the evil in him is something secondary: the effect of the influence of civilization.
As living beings, we are part of a larger life that pulsates in the forces of nature and extends not only to the whole earth, but to the whole universe. Because from the same matter the cosmos, the earth and our insignificant human being are created. By casting monumental elements in the main roles of his works and omitting fragile human beings, Aleksander Żywiecki nevertheless tells a story about us, tells us about the cosmic source from which we come and to which we forgot to miss, involved in everyday matters.
When it comes to painting technique, Żywiecki is a master. He paints with a skilled hand. There is no question of corrections or repeated attempts. A painting has to be light, it should come out “on the spot”. Art is not easy. It requires great craftsmanship skills, talent and long-term training. With particular emphasis on manual skills, the artist accompanies the masters of the late nineteenth century, who listed the art of good drawing and the ability to use colour, value and texture among the requirements to be met by a candidate for a painter. Today, the issue of technology is no longer a matter for academic teachers and curators of new art, artists also rarely have the motivation to train in this difficult virtuoso craftsmanship. Because craftsmanship no longer belongs to the definition of art, what counts is ingenuity, innovation, suspense.
Aleksander Żywiecki does not accept the carefree and even contempt with which today’s Academy approaches formal skills. He is a perfectionist and one of the few painters of the 21st century who have perfect control over his technique. And workshop skills are indispensable in the genre the artist cultivates. To convincingly conjure up on canvas snowflakes or cloudy skies covered with bulging clouds, one has to be able to use both drawing and subtle colour and value transitions. However, in order to paint realistic landscapes it is not enough to have a perfect command of colour and line, but one must also show creativity and imagination. After all, a landscape cannot be a passive, non-reflective representation of what the painter sees in the open air. In order to evoke certain emotions in the viewer, the landscape artist has to subordinate the real scene to his concept: some elements of the scenery have to be changed, removed, added, moved or emphasized.
Aleksander’s way of painting has evolved over the years. Early landscapes are pictorial – the shapes of objects are precisely marked, the drawing is refined and the local colour is local. The story is told directly and the author does not leave much space for the viewer’s imagination. The situation is different in the case of paintings from a later period. The outline becomes blurred, sharp contrasts disappear, the line becomes softer, the local colour disappears. The artist strives for synthesis, he paints sensitively, out of gesture. There are no longer any carefully separated forms and old literalities, the paintings are painted in a slightly abstract way, but nevertheless the viewer does not feel lost when reading the content of the representations. The author skillfully guides our imagination, so that we can read the suggested shapes from the seemingly chaotic thicket of spots and brush marks.
REALISM AND ROMANTICISM
Looking for a place that Aleksander Żywiecki occupies in the history of Polish painting is an activity that seems justified because of our need to organize our knowledge; nevertheless, it is in spite of the protagonist of this story, who often repeats that he does not accept pigeonholing; as he expresses himself: “to nail the artist to a pin and put him in a specific hierarchy and historical context.” The criterion he uses is his sensitivity; the image either touches him or does not affect his emotions. Therefore, trying – probably contrary to the artist – to include his work in one of the traditional trends, we can conclude that his painting combines features of two styles: realism and romanticism.
Due to the creative method, he represents a realistic direction, but the realistic form serves the artist to express romantic content. The way of understanding nature as a place of escape from evil and shelter from the unbearable noise of urban life is romantic, but above all, the affirmation of nature and faith in its supernatural powers is romantic. After all, nature in Żywiecki’s landscapes carries a divine element: how powerful and omnipresent God is. This lofty and majestic nature, however, the author brings us closer, humanizes us, giving it projections of our states of the soul. And here again he owes his debt to the representatives of the Romantic era, because like Romantic painters and writers he proclaims the apotheosis of feelings and sensibility. Despite being related to the currents that passed at the end of the 19th century, Aleksander Żywiecki’s painting is not retrograde at all. The artist uses the romantic philosophy of nature as a tool to repair today’s world. He appeals to the audience /in some ways also to contemporary art critics/ not to reject the humanistic values developed by Romanticism, which are timeless and universal.