Polish Artists

Contemporary Polish artists
Contemporary Polish artists

Although they are not always well known elsewhere, Poland is home to a broad range of artists. Being an artist has often been a complicated task, especially due to the sometimes traumatic events that have taken place here. The current trends are still worth following, as can be seen in the works of our contemporary artists. While sometimes they may produce things of great beauty, equally often they shock and cause controversies at art exhibitions across the country.

Today we would like to present ten of the best Polish creators, whose work has ranged from the fine arts to unconventional, norm-challenging pieces. We hope that you find yourself intrigued, as you learn more about Poland.

Alina Szapocznikow – Sculptures of Suffering

Sculptor

Alina was a Polish-born Jew who, in her life, had to endure and survive the horrors of the Holocaust. Later, she studied sculpture in Prague, and then at the Ecole Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 1951, she returned to Poland, where she created numerous sculptures commemorating historical national heroes and victims of the Second World War. In 1963, she moved again, this time permanently, to France, where she created some of her most innovative artworks. After years of fighting breast cancer, she passed away in 1973.

Her earlier works were a testament to youth and femininity, but the use of material that easily degraded highlighted how fleeting they were. Later on, she moved on to using casts of body parts to create defragmented abstract pieces. They reflected her personal traumas from her experience of war and the struggle with illness in her body. Her sculptures are deeply expressive and personal, as she has often used casts from her own body or from someone close to her.

Alina’s artworks can be seen at Galeria Zachęta in Warsaw, the National Museum in Krakow, Museum of Arts in Łódź and elsewhere.

Some of her notable works include:

  • Grands Ventres
  • Small Dessert
  • A Portrait Multiplied
Contemporary art in Poland
Contemporary art, modern art in Poland
Fine arts in Poland

Mirosław Bałka – The Vanishing of the Body

sculptor

Mirosław Bałka is another contemporary Polish sculptor whose art projects are marked by Poland’s painful history of war. He’s a graduate of the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, where he now teaches at the department of Media Art. He’s also a member of the Akademie de Kunste in Berlin. His parents were gravestone cutters and engravers, which at an early age introduced him to working with stone and to commemorating death.

Mirosław’s ascetic sculptures reflect the way in which the body and memory vanish. Over the course of his life, he gradually shifted from literal depictions of human figures to expressing himself in a more abstract way.

Mirosław’s works can be found all over the world, in major collections such as the Tate Modern in London, Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and Fundacion La Caixa in Barcelona.

Some of the his notable works include:

  • I Knew It Had 4 In It
  • How It Is
  • Fountain

Artur Żmijewski – Between the Body and the Decay

visual artist, videographer, photographer

The often tragic history of Poland has influenced many of its artists, and is also present in the realm of the visual arts. One member of the Kowalski studio, Artur is a Polish artist working with film and photography to explore the complexities of life and the human body. Major themes in his works include the contrast between the healthy and the sick, as the bodies he depict are often crippled or handicapped.

He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, is an art editor of the “Krytyka Polityczna” (“Political Critique”) magazine, and cooperates with the Galeria Foksal foundation. He lives and works in Warsaw.

Artur’s physical works are shown at the Center for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, but other video projects can be viewed online.

Some of his notable works include:

  • Oko za oko
  • Powtórzenie
  • Berek

Katarzyna Kozyra – The Questioning of Cultural Taboos

sculptor, installation artist, videographer

Katarzyna Kozyra creates contemporary art in the form of sculptures, installations and videos. After finishing her studies in the German language, she went on to study sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts and Hochschule für Graphik und Buchkunst in Leipzig. However, she ceased to sculpt after graduating, and instead moved on to photography, video and performance art.

She is a leading member of the critical art movement. Her art is meant to challenge cultural taboos by inciting controversy. Her main themes often deal with social issues concerning the underprivileged and marginalised, by incorporating gruesome images that can cause some extreme reactions.

Katarzyna’s works have been exhibited in major galleries around the world – Postmasters Gallery in New York, Städtische Galerie Delmenhorst, Gallery Chrisstophe Gaillard in Paris, Turku Art Museum in Finland, and Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig in Vienna, to name just a few, as well as many national showings.

Some of her notable works include:

  • Piramida zwierząt
  • Cheerleaderka
  • Święto wiosny

Paweł Althamer – Art of Social Transformation

Sculptor, Installation, and video artist

Yet another former student of the renowned Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, where he also helped establish the Kowalski studio – in fact, Paweł is the founding member. Currently, he mostly does collaborative work and is heavily involved in a lot of social community work. One such example is being a teacher of ceramics for the Nowolipie Group – an organisation that helps adults with mental or physical disabilities.

Although he began with conventional sculptures, his art nowadays is participative in nature, meant to initiate positive social changes. At times there will be no material trace left after a performance. His exhibitions around the world have often invaded public spaces.

Paweł is the Vincent Award 2004 winner, and has been featured not only at national galleries but also at the Helsinki Art Museum, New Museum in New York, Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin, and Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Some of his notable works include:

  • Self-portrait
  • Boat and Suit
  • Cardinal

Zdzisław Beksiński – Nightmarish Landscapes

Painter

Zdzisław never planned to become an artist, since he was originally an engineer by trade. Only after finishing his studies and returning to his home town of Sanok did he start to take a serious interest in artistic expression. First it was photography, and then the paintings for which he is probably best known. He has also dabbled in graphics and sculpture.

His art is surreal, abstract, and quite disturbing, and his work could also be considered horror. The post-apocalyptic pieces of nightmarish landscapes travelled by deformed figures are masterpieces in their class, and to this day remain inspirational for contemporary conceptual art. Zdzisław always listens to calm classical music while creating, which may be quite surprising if we consider how vividly unsettling his artworks are.

Nowadays, his work is on display in the National Museums of Wroclaw and Warsaw, as well as the History Museum in Sanok. In his hometown, a gallery has also been established in his name.

His works are mostly left untitled. You can see them here.

Aneta Grzeszykowska – The world of symbolic narratives

digital artist, photographer

Aneta is a Polish artist of the young artists’ Raster generation – referencing rasterisation, or more broadly, digital techniques. She uses photography, digital art, and video to create her symbolic narratives exploring intimacy, self-awareness and the concepts of self-erasure. She graduated from the same Academy of Fine Arts, as did many other established Polish artists.

Her solo career focuses on combining film and photography to create metaphorical, symbolic narratives centered around the themes of childhood, womanhood, and self-awareness. Her subjects may seem like soulless marionettes, objectified and anonymised.

Aneta’s works have been displayed at shows in Raster Gallery in Warsaw, Lyles & King in New York, and Studio of Contemporary Creation in Tehran, to name but a few.

Some of her notable works include:

  • Negative Book
  • Death and Girl
  • Birthday

Wilhelm Sasnal – Life and the Mass Media Culture

painter, illustrator

First a student of architecture, then a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, Wilhelm is considered one of the finest painters among his generation of Polish artists. Nowadays, he deals more with photography and video.

His inspiration comes from everyday life and the culture of mass media. When choosing topics for his artworks, he seeks emotional attachment to the subject.

Wilhelm’s artworks have been presented alongside other renowned artists at major art exhibitions in places like the Berkeley Art Museum, Hauser & Wirth in Zurich, Anton Kern Gallery in New York, Whitechapel in London, and Douglas Hyde Gallery in Dublin.

Some of his notable works include:

  • Soldiers
  • Anka
  • Astronaut

Marcin Maciejowski – Painted Drawings

painter, cartoonist

A visual artist, co-founder of the famous Polish art collective, Grupa Ładnie, and a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. Marcin creates illustrations, cartoons, and posters in various media.

His artworks are often reminiscent of collages made from newspaper cut outs, for which he has a personal archive he uses for reference. He believes that the role of an artist is to tell a story rather than to criticise.

Marcin’s artworks have appeared at shows in Galerie Meyer Kainer in Vienna, Wilkinson Gallery in London, Galerie am Werk in Leverkusen, and Art Cologne as well as many galleries in Poland.

Some of his notable works include:

  • Grupa Ładnie
  • Jak tu teraz żyć
  • Kazanie V (Przeżyliśmy najazd szwedzki)

Konrad Smoleński – Combining Sound and Images

installation and performance artist

An artist who literally plays with fire. He is a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań, where he worked for seven years. Konrad has also been a member of numerous underground bands. His first solo exhibition, “Chunks”, took place at Gallery Leto in Warsaw.

Konrad’s installations and performances combine sound and images – these are inseparable elements. Sometimes he uses make-shift instruments and visual artworks at the same time, like a guitar made of a dog’s skull. Sometimes his work has included pyrotechnics and homemade explosives. He also has more mundane photographs and videos.

Konrad is a relatively young artist, and his works have mostly been shown in Poland.

Some of his notable works include:

  • The End of Radio
  • Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More
  • Judge
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Contemporary Polish artists
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Languages are great – and we know it!

So what do you think of these contemporary artists? Unfortunately, we have only scratched the surface, as we didn’t get to include any of the street art for which the city of Łódź is famous. And while we only covered visual artists, what about the ones making music and literature? Their works can be tougher to showcase, as they are often limited to the nuances in their source language. But if you would like to explore those, we can help you.

We offer courses for companies and also private clients, in a wide range of languages that includes Polish, English, Spanish, French, and German. Classes can be held on-site or online – we offer e-learning using a special educational platform. Additionally, we also have a wide and complex range of translation services in many languages. Everything you need to know can be found on our websites – all neatly tailored to your language needs!