Waldemar Cwenarski

Cwenarski’s peculiar art is distinguished by hasty brushwork, hard outlines and careless forms. His creative explorations were an act of resistance both to Colourism, taught at art schools, and to the official Socialist Realist tendency. During the day, he had to struggle with bland forms imposed by the academy; at night, outside the school, he created his best works in series. Cwenarski was a self-appointed continuator of expressive painting models, yet he acted in a completely intuitive way, seeking his own forms of expression. He made colours collide with each other, forming stark contrasts, and piled up textures, leaving traces of tension and emotions on the canvas. Imbued with sadness and frailty, his paintings depict figures as torpid as cloth puppets. The grimness and expressiveness of his paintings may have been related to the artist’s war experience. The sketch presented in the exhibition, for a painting from 1953, depicts a scene of a peaceful protest whose participants hold above their heads banners reading “Pax, Paix, Pace” (peace). The softness of the shapes of the figures, gathered within a pulsating swarm, is reminiscent of cloth puppets. The entire ambiguous composition is saturated with the atmosphere of resistance and resignation at the same time.

Waldemar Cwenarski (b. 1926 in Lwów, d. 1953 in Wrocław) – a painter and legend of Polish post-war art whose individual work and untimely death are shrouded in mystery. From 1949, Cwenarski studied at the State Higher School of Visual Arts in Wrocław. He revolted against both Colourism and Socialist Realism in search of his own expressive creative path. His legacy consists of several dozen works characterized by a surprisingly consistent artistic expression. Initially known only in Wrocław circles, it was only the posthumous exhibition of his works at the Polish National Exhibition of Young Visual Arts Against War, Against Fascism at the Arsenal in Warsaw that provoked a broader interest in his oeuvre.

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