Skip to content

Reviews

Dear Sławek, here are a handful of reflections on your creative achievements that have never ceased to fascinate me for so many years.

I fully appreciate your manual virtuosity, the skill of developing the plate, the ability to present your own vision of the world in an economical and concise manner, a very carefully considered concept, and appropriately selected means of expression. The well-balanced nuances of grey, white and black make up an interesting whole. I am delighted by your rich imagination and sensitivity, your foregrounding of form; the content is just a pretext to build it; it is how rather than what that matters.

And what more do you want? I believe, graduates of the “Toruń Graphic School” are able to appreciate all these features, and that is why there are many people in Toruń who speak so highly about you and your art. I appreciate the way in which you depict reality; I relish watching your work with the greatest pleasure. We know that printmaking, especially traditional one, always takes place in two stages: first you need to develop a plate and the final effect is available after the print itself, an impression, is made. I see that printmaking itself gives you a lot of joy and satisfaction (although, as you say, your legs hurt because of the work), but you are aware that technical experiments and exquisite skills are not enough to create graphics of value. In order for the effect of our work to gain the status of art, it is necessary to transcend – if only a little bit – human limitations, which you, Sławek, succeed in doing and hence your numerous awards and participation in prestigious exhibitions. As befits a Renaissance man, one field is not enough for you. You are a successful writer – there is the well-written Self-Portrait, an interesting volume of poetry. Even epistolary art is not alien to you. If necessary, you will paint, design and even play. I am sorry to hear that you have decided to stop making new linocuts (those aching legs), but I am comforted that you will take up drawing, physically less strenuous, offering a direct final result; a good drawing is vital.

Looking at your prints hanging in my room in the vicinity of those by other great graphic artists, I fondly remember the unfortunately few direct contacts, among our other colleagues, and our interesting conversations. I was so lucky to have been able to watch for many years the huge creative potential of the young generation every day; I believe it is their time now and we, well…

Jan Baczyński 2017

Sławomir Grabowy has been a true linocut artist for years, despite having graduated from a painting studio. His magnificent black-and-white prints cannot be mistaken for anything else and occupy a significant position in the history of Polish graphic arts. He chose a technique that requires an extraordinary patience and mastery of the tool, which the artist uses to cut the lines or points in the plate. When cutting the plate, you need courage to make decisions, which is why mastering the technique is so important. The cut line is visible and final; it cannot be painted over or erased. This masterful technique is seen in Sławek’s graphics and it is associated with his fascination with the linocut technique. The artist has said: I can definitely say that I like this job.

I met Sławomir Grabowy and his prints many years ago at the opening of the exhibition at Mała Galeria Grafik in Lublin, run by prof. Maksymilian Snoch. This meeting initiated our friendship, underpinned by our work in a linoleum plate and a shared artistic attitude. Sławek is a humble and sincere man and so is his art. He has developed his own visual language, which testifies to his strong artistic personality. Sensitive to the daily reality around us, he has the ability to find and transform situations and experiences important for him into his own artistic language. He records them with a chisel in linoleum or with a knife in paper. All elements of the graphic composition acquire an air of mystery and magical power and start to live their own lives. These are records of facts and fleeting experiences. His traces on the plate or paper become signs, an abstract language to describe what is elusive. He has limited his artistic statement to black and white, acquiring a rich diversity of value by the ability to manage these colours. This limitation to black and white, as Stanisław Fijałkowski said, “allows entry into the depths of meaning.” His art is very personal and the titles of his prints, i.e. successive numbers, can be compared to penning successive pages of a diary.

His prints become traces of the artist’s existence. We deal here with an art that draws on the artist’s own experience. Sławek Grabowy’s oeuvre has never bored me and each new work has surprised me with new solutions and powerful impact. Sławek, I am waiting for more black-andwhite prints and drawings.

Krzysztof Szymanowicz 2017

There are very few artists so successful in the world of abstraction, especially created in the graphic arts. The basic area of Sławomir Grabowy’s expertise are lines and their multiplication, complemented by forms both geometrical and derived from reality, confronting linear space with graphic elements resulting most probably from the artist’s consciousness and the subconscious. Applying seemingly simple means, the artist creates uniformly coherent compositions that we read as obvious artistic truths.

I do not know why when, recalling Sławomir Grabowy’s drawings in my museum of imagination, I am always faced with the word space-time. Why does that always happen? Where does it come from? Perhaps this is due to the fact that my contact with Sławomir’s output is a “set of elementary events”; over the course of several decades, I have had the pleasure of watching either single works or small sets of them during multiple exhibitions. Perhaps it is the result of an analysis of the works which, in a sense, through a kind of geometrization are a kind of “metric structure of space”. White cardboard sheets laboriously built up with lines create „three dimensions of physical space”, emerging within the space of work and creative pursuits. Lines, points and patches of the record seem to be an explosion of motion and appear to me as an “elementary collision of space-time”. Right, this may be a bit strange, but it works for me.

You can never be indifferent towards the works of Sławomir Grabowy. The artist composes his graphic records through the apparent opposition of vertical and horizontal lines that mutually disturb one another. The secret lies primarily in their arrangement and texture obtained through the use of sharp tools, building the architecture of the design of a drawing that transforms into a relief. In many projects, as a result of masterful thick hatching, we perceive greys like colourful glazing in the works of old masters. Thanks to this, the pieces, despite their undeniably contemporary form, are a continuation of the noblest traditions of art. The abstract works of the artist probably appear to many recipients as a record of the landscape, city backyards and crescents, and mysterious buildings. Each viewer subjectively and individually reads the artist’s work. Here most likely lies the principal force of his works. Sławomir Grabowy has made a name for himself in the history of Polish art and beyond. This is borne out by the numerous presentations of his works at many exhibitions and by the many national and international awards and distinctions.

Paweł Warchoł 2017

I had known Sławomir Grabowy’s work long before we actually met. It so happens that after receiving a catalogue from God knows where, we turn one page after another and nothing happens. And then – lo and behold! – we are hit with a brick and ask ourselves: “Is this possible, too?”

I do not know anyone who could so brilliantly simply achieve such an incredible tonal richness in this seemingly primitive technique of a black-and-white linocut. In Poland, the so-called point linocut, i.e. dots, dots, more dots – bigger, smaller, sparsely and densely arranged, is popular among graphic designers; none of these works, however, comes even close to the subtlety of Sławomir’s works.

Later, I do not remember the day when I was able to meet Sławek in person in Olsztyn at the Quadrennial. This was a magical day for me because it turned out that Sławomir as a man and artist is exactly like his work, i.e. simple, noble, good, and black and white (only too often does it happen that getting to know authors whom we have previously known only from their work we feel disappointed, because one does not match the other). Sławomir’s blackness and whiteness is what I love sincerely, because there are probably no more people like these in the world and this is my only artistic friendship (sorry for the pathos and perhaps stilted words) that has stood the test of time. I invariably find contact with this great and humble man pleasurable. Despite all of his wisdom, he is not one to give advice: because he already knows better (woe to professors!); we have both gotten to know only too well what it means to be an independent artist in this country and I will never forget his encouragement: “Wiesiu, hang in there!”

Wiesław Haładaj 2017

One day in December, the postman handed me a white envelope in which I found a small print and a greeting card with information as follows: Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2005 – wishes from Sławek Grabowy. I am sending this print and, as God is my witness, it would be nice to have something you have made. Regards. Almost immediately, with joy, I rummaged through my own resources, found something, put it in an envelope, and ran to the post office. It can be said that it was the beginning of our friendship, which – as we can easily count – has been going on for many years. I had earlier known Sławomir Grabowy from exhibition catalogues, from their first pages at that, where the winners of prizes and distinctions are presented. Now I had the opportunity to meet him personally and this awareness filled me with great enthusiasm. Mainly because my above-mentioned “graphical meetings” clearly indicated to me that I was dealing with a great graphic artist, an artist of extraordinary stature, someone who had developed his original and unique language of artistic expression, recognizable throughout the world. He has continued to develop, modify and introduce it into new territories of creative activity. Moreover, he constantly looks for new solutions within the area of his own interests. An example of this is his most recent use of the knife as a drawing tool, as well as his attempts to make friends with digital graphics.

I was asked to write a few words about my Friend. I do it with great pleasure, but at the same time I feel a huge burden; is there anything wise I can add to what has already been written about him. How to talk about an artist who has taken part in around 300 exhibitions, received 73 awards and distinctions (data from a few years ago; by now he has probably gotten seventy eight, or a hundred of them), is the author of several solo exhibitions, his works have made it to both private and museum collections around the world. He is a painter, draughtsman, graphic artist, poet, and writer of books. Can I really add anything more? If I were to look for the connections between his work and what has already happened in the vast ocean of artistic events, I would choose ukiyo-e, a kind of eighteenth century Japanese woodcut, in which graphic artists and painters interested in everyday life recorded images of the world flowing by (ukiyo). Of course, this reference is not direct and literal. Grabowy does not treat reality directly. Nor does he create faithful images of the world out there. He is considered one of the leading representatives of geometric abstraction. What connects him with the Japanese art of the Edo period lies not in the method of imaging, but in the way of understanding and perceiving the world. Sławek is a sensitive and insightful observer of the present. Images of the world which is close to him, like his beloved Netta River, flow not so much near as through him, finding their outlet in monochromatic, masterfully hatched linocuts and knife drawings. Like a gramophone record, they themselves are records – line after line – of all places, situations, experiences, events, and above all ties with people thanks to whom, by his own admission, he is who he is. All you need to decipher this recording is an intelligent and sensitive recipient who can read, who has seeing eyes and an open mind and heart. Linocuts by Sławomir Grabowy are like his writing. Anyone who wants to know and understand them better must read at least one of his three books. When I feel like meeting Slawek, I grab Self-Portrait 60 and 35, or any of his Budzienniki, open them to any page and know good and well that I am already within his world, which in a sense is also mine.

Marek Basiul 2017