Taking Sides – CSU Gallery Breaks on Through with Four Artists, by  Douglas Utter, Scene, OH – 2009

Exhibit Showcases Cultural Differences Through Artwork, by Mike Soltesz, The Cleveland Slater, OH – 2009

International Artist Displays Paintings in Tremont Gallery, by Kimberly Tilley, Lakewood Observer, OH – 2007

Apart: From Europa to Paradise Lost, by Zachary Lewis, Scene Magazine, Cleveland, OH – 2007

Paintings of Visceral Abstraction in Groins and Plotters, by Robert C. Morgan, 1112 Gallery, Chicago, IL – 1995

Andrzej Siwkiewicz’s Paintings, Union Daily, Chicago, IL – 1995

Esprit CD-ROM Gallery Collection, Rochester, NY – 1994

View from Bosnia, by Elizabeth Forbes, Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, NY – 1994

Curator Continues, by Elizabeth Forbes, Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, NY – 1994

Riot of Painting Styles, by Ronald Netsky, Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, NY – 1992


Groins and Plotters

Andrzej Siwkiewicz: Paintings of Visceral Abstraction
fix this pothook of beauty on this palette
you never know it might be final
Samuel Beckett, Serena III

Andrzej Siwkiewicz, a Polish artist living in upstate New York, has been painting for the past few years in a style of figurative abstraction. His work is connected to a sensibility in Polish Modernism that is coincident with the Neo-Expressionists in Western Europe and the United States.
Over the past three years, Siwkiewicz’s representation of the figure has been in a perpetual state of a dissemblance. One is more apt to see the paintings as an abstract field where biomorphic and geometric shapes interact and collide against one another In fact, these shapes are visceral signifiers that constantly refer back to the human figure.

In 1992, Siwkiewicz was working with two primary themes: bowls and figures. (Earlier he had been painting the human figure and bowls in the same composition.) Using a stylistic means of interpretation, the artist began seeking an object-to-ground relationship. In the paintings of bowls the elliptical shapes hover against a spatial field, as in (Big) Bowls on Yellow, Red, and Blue; while the paintings of abstract figures are more elongated and, in some cases, divided, as in Split 1993). These paintings are essentially metaphysical in their orientation. They have a certain refinement and symbolic content.

The expressive point of view changed in Siwkiewicz’s paintings in late 1993 as the visual structure of the surface began to explode into a dense configuration of color and shape. Taking on the tragic character of Greek drama, paintings such as Groinkickers and Groins (Beheaded) reveal a certain overdetermination whereby the ego projects itself into the dark chaos of metaphysical abstraction.

These paintings offer a fragmented metaphor of the body in an arbitrary psychic space. The formal relationships between the pictorial elements are tightly bound to the surface, thereby offering a tension between the elements that elicits a vision of inner-chaos, a turbulence that is inexorable and unmistakable in its coercion. The picture plane is thus destroyed as a purely conceptual structure. The dissemblance of the body as a psychic projection takes over and crowds the space, conflating the logic of both mind and body. The pictorial field is transformed into a symbolic nexus of thrusts and counter-thrusts building a composition that is indeterminate, yet aggressively defined.

Like the painter Hans Hofmann, Siwkiewicz pays attention to the construction of the surface, the formal continuity of the shapes, the complexity of form in relation to the space. In contrast to Hofmann, the recent paintings of Siwkiewicz appear less resolved in a theoretical manner and more open to what might be considered as a metaphorical resonance.

The splaying of the figure as a discharge of psychic oppression suggests an action that is given to repetition, a form of visual aggressivity. In a painting, such as Stranglers (1994), one is unlikely to find a resolution in the conventional sense. Rather the viewer is more likely to be confronted and provoked by the artist’s visualization of unconscious violence.

The painterly aspect of these works describes the process of the artist’s thought; yet the thought behind or within this process is not exempt from involvement. The visceral impact in the recent work of Siwkiewicz is the issue at large. To receive the thought behind these paintings is to empathize with the artist’s struggle in securing a sense of one’s cultural identity in an increasingly abstract world.

Robert C. Morgan 1995


On The Other Side

Exhibit showcases cultural differences through artwork

By Mike Soltesz

A new exhibit displaying artwork called “On The Other Side” showcases four artists who represent different backgrounds while operating in new environments that are different from their own cultures. It will be open May 29 and runs through June 27 at the Cleveland State Art Gallery.

There are four artists in the exhibit, Tracy Heneberger, Kam Shun Lee, Yong Han, and Andrzej Siwkiewicz.
Dr. Robert Thurmer, the director of the Cleveland State Art Gallery, says the exhibit shows the art has a “cross-cultural component to them.” “The idea is that all of these artists spent their formative years in one culture and are now producing art in and for a different culture,” he said.

Lee is from China and he now lives in Cleveland and does most of his work here. Yong Han, who is from South Korea used to live in Cleveland and now works in Connecticut. Siwkiewicz, who is also the curator, was born and grew up in Poland and now lives in Cleveland.

Heneberger is the only American-born artist whose work is in the exhibit. He lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. but has done work and exhibits in China. Most of the work is in China. He was included because he is the only American in the exhibit.

Thurmer says that the themes that are being explored in the show are subtle and interesting because artists who come into this country come with a new set of aesthetics.

He says that the styles and cultures the artists come from are completely different from America and that it has an impact on their work. “We ask the question of how does this influence their work,” he said.

He says that the set of circumstances in America are different from others. Thurmer grew up in Austria and he used to work in a room no bigger than a little closet. “The physical circumstances of an artist can have an impact on their work,” he said.
Siwkiewicz says that the exhibit is exploring eastern and western sensibility on culture. He thinks that the works are “interesting personal narratives” and that they show who the artists “are as individuals.”
He also thinks that this is quite a unique show. “There’s not a show like this, it’s an interesting attempt to explore Cleveland and what is beyond just what local artists do,” he said.


Taking Sides

CSU Gallery breaks on through with four artists

By Douglas Max Utter

On the Other Side Through June 27 CSU Gallery 2307 Chester Ave. 216.687.2103 csuohio.edu/artgallery

On the Other Side, a show of large-scale painting and wall-mounted sculpture now on display at the Cleveland State University Art Gallery, is a time-traveling exhibit of works, a few of which feel like they dug in their heels back during some fraught, neo-expressionist moment in the 1980s.

That in itself isn’t a bad thing; much of the most ambitious expressive work of the century flourished (however improbably) during the Reagan administration. And it’s undeniably the business of this kind of art to find the power and passion immanent in materials. The only relevant questions for artist and viewer alike are always the same: Is it working? Are we feeling yet?

On the Other Side curator Andrzej Siwkiewicz is a Polish-born painter who relocated to New York in the late 1980s, moving to Cleveland in 1996. At the CSU Gallery, he adds four large-scale oil paintings of his own to the mix — boldly rendered images of nude female models striking self-absorbed poses, as in “R & R,” which shows two figures essentially back-to-back. In the foreground, one crouches in shadow, facing us and gazing down at her hands planted on the floor; the other is modeled in strokes of light pink and white and is shown from the back, with one hand raised to the nape of her neck. A vibrant red and pink background offers no information about the figures but serves to frame a muscular evocation of frustration and distraction.

The show’s tendency toward the dramatic is even more pronounced in Yong Han’s two nearly 10-foot works, “Lion King” and “Bondage.” The Korean-born artist has become one of Cleveland’s most recognizable painters in the past two decades, combining loose abstraction with a kind of celebratory geometry in huge oil-on-canvas works. In the past he has used a Christmas tree-like triangle as organizational/symbolic motif, and here, starbursts of radiating yellow and white lines serve a similar function. The overall effect is a taut sense of possibility, as Yong’s layered imagery draws the viewer toward a mysterious vision of house-like shapes, glimpsed through the bars of a cage of energy.

Kam Shun Lee moved to the U.S. from China with his family as a teenager. Like Yong Han, he has become a notable presence in Cleveland painting, especially during the 1990s. His athletic depictions at the CSU gallery of dense vegetation, rocks and other landscape elements read as much like acts of pure painting as depiction, reveling in substance and the formal rhythms of mark-making.

Most contemporary — because he’s the least time-bound of the artists in On the Other Side — is American sculptor Tracy Heneberger. Over the past decade, Heneberger has traveled back and forth many times to produce works at a foundry in Beijing, where his experiences have inspired his wall-hanging bronze and aluminum objects, cast from actual fish, mushrooms and medicinal roots. Metaphorical works like the fan-like “Chorus” and the uneven, frayed-looking “Tapestry” — both assembled from a number of bronze fish — stir different sensory experiences and associations together, ambushing expectation. Heneberger’s powerfully contemplative combinations speak of transformation and the great cycle of ages that spins out all forms, so briefly cast in time.