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He was born in 1938 in Płoska near Równe in the Volhynia region in Poland. In 1956–63 he studied at the Faculty of Architecture at the Krakow University of Technology and then in 1964-65 at the Academy of Fine Arts, also in Krakow.

Zbigniew Warpechowski is an artist and a poet, recognized as the first Polish performance artist. His artistic career began with painting, in the year 1962. His works can be found in the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, National Museum in Krakow, Warsaw and Wrocław, and Leon Wyczółkowski Museum in Bydgoszcz, Muzeum Regionalne in Koszalin, the BWA and Towarzystwo Zachęty Sztuk Pięknych in Lublin (exhibiting also installations and documentation). Since 1964 Warpechowski has been writing poems and the so called poetic performances, contributed to magazines and a had a book of poetry Papier (Paper) published in Białystok.

He became interested in the performance art in 1967 starting with Kwadrans poetycki and Kwadrans poetycki z towarzyszeniem fortepianu (A poetic quarter of an hour, with Tomasz Stańko) SaiW Club, Krakow. In the 1970’s he acted among others with Jerzy Bereś, Włodzimierz Borowski and Andrzej Partum. He liked to perform in Lublin at the Galeria Labirynt and the BWA (for instance Marsz / March 1983 and Azja / Asia 1987). So far he has appeared on stage over 300 times in 27 countries in Europe and outside, e.g. in Israel, Japan, Canada and the USA. He performed during the Art Festival in Edinburgh (his conceptual art exhibition was a great success), Documenta 8 in Kassel (1987), Edge 88 in London, in the USA (1990– 1995, NIPAF in Japan and ARTKONTAKT in Lublin (2000) and many others. Since 1974 he has taken up writing on philosophy of art. He also publishes books on the subject, such as: Podręcznik / A Manual (CSW, Warszawa 1990), Zasobnik. Opis/ A Magazine. A Description, (Słowo/Obraz/Terytoria, Gdańsk 1998), Podnośnik / A Lifter, (Sandomierz 2001), Statecznik (BWA Lublin 2004), Podręcznik-bis / A Manual, an Encore, CSW, 2007). About to be published is Wolność/ Freedom.

In 2009 Warpechowski was awarded the medal Gloria Artis by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. In the same year he took up sculpture.

Here is an excerpt from the interview for the “Gazeta w Lublinie”, June 2010: “Recently I have taken up sculpture as well. The critics may have quite a problem with me. I do not have my own style, in fact, I do not want to have one. My style is in facing up to challenges and issues that are astonishing even to myself. I quite enjoy being taken by surprise by myself. I would be bored to death doing the same thing all over again”.

I started my studies in 1956 during the political “thaw” and a time of hope. Poland and its people opened to modernity with great enthusiasm but after the years of socialism nobody knew how to cope with the new reality. The absurdities rocketed and Gomułka put the last nail to the coffin It turned out that modernity plus socialism created the parody of thinking about architecture as the architects were only too soon to learn. This, however, was not the main reason why I decided to give up architecture. As early as after the first year of my studies I became fascinated by art. I would attend every exhibition, read all the books and press reviews. I took a leave during the third year and then definitely gave up studying just before the diploma exams although “I had all the makings of a good architect”. It was painting that really captured my imagination so I painted. In 1964 I got accepted into the third year of the Faculty of Industrial Design at the Academy of Fine Arts but found the curriculum uninteresting. After the 5th semester I took up the matter with the dean Andrzej Pawłowski and said I was sorry for being a trouble-maker. Knowing my works, he had already foreseen my decision.

During my time at the Academy I began writing poetry. Poetry was the leitmotiv of my first performance in Poland (1967) and has remained ever since. My first individual exhibition took place in the art gallery Helikon in 1963 and the second one at the MPiK in 1966 and was noted by Tadeusz Kantor himself . He suggested that I should present my works at the Krzysztofory in 1968. As a result I had an exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art in Warsaw and one of my paintings was purchased by the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódz. Kantor has also persuaded me to apply for the membership of the ZPAP - Association of the Polish Visual Artists. The inviting persons were Tadeusz Kantor and Jerzy Nowosielski which was enough to secure my professional qualifications. In 1969 I started experimenting in the second area of interest, the conceptual art. Since it was a completely novel approach to art I had to improve my knowledge of philosophy. Putting things down in my notebook developed into my first book Podręcznik / A Manual. Next books followed. There, I have presented my philosophy of art which was highly appraised by the outstanding professor of philosophy and aesthetics, Stefan Morawski. Thanks to the performance art I have visited many foreign countries and staged 310 shows. I am really fortunate that I was able to study architecture. I has trained me in discipline, responsibility and independent thinking, and provided me with general knowledge. It also helped me to make ends meet working as a set designer in 1972–82 (I designed film sets for 8 feature films and for three TV productions, among other Faust by Goethe, directed by Grzegorz Królikiewicz). Architecture has taught me how to perceive the world around and appreciate the value of culture, especially of architectural one. That is why – with all my heart and soul – I am an architect as well. As it appears, my way of life has not been an easy one, I have experienced many sorrows. Fortunately, I have had many truly happy moments too.

Zbigniew Warpechowski
Sandomierz, May 2010

More at www.warpechowski.sandomierz.net

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Copyright by Konrad Glos, Rafal Zub 2010