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Osiowski Marcin - [Tytul [2021-08-25_15]], 2021, [technika], 70x50cm - [fot Adam Gut] 2000


The cycle 100 Flags was the artist’s reaction to an unsettling political situation and ruling party propaganda. In 2019 unknown perpetrators trespassed on the property where his exhibition Art on Art was held in collaboration with HOS Gallery. They vandalized eighteen canvasses from the series by spray-painting the statement “JUDE RAUS” onto them and drawing a picture of a gallows. If the unknown perpetrators could get away with destroying a work of art and a private possession, the image of a flag, so could the artist himself. The grid of colourful squares with which Osiowski covered some of the 100 Flags imitated a reality blown up on a computer or phone screen. The geometric forms made the flags even more similar to abstract works, giving room for the work of a colourist. The decision makes art a discrete, egalitarian language, separated from media messages and politicians’ newspeak.

jude raus.jpg

Can one argue with fanaticism or total ignorance? How to continue creating the same series in the face of such a lack of understanding, such stupidity and aggression?

Well, one can turn to figuration with its ability to reach a wider circle of viewers with a plainer message. Some of Osiowski’s newest works host a procession of frightening figures in balaclavas, neither people, nor skeletons. Repulsive and terrifying, they are real participants of Independence Marches. Another recurring component is the historical far-right falanga symbol, flaunted by modern-day Polish nationalists. Osiowski’s radical departure from non-representational art is a response to the vandals’ radical gestures. Next to the figures in balaclavas, the slogan „Gott mit uns” (God with us) appears repeatedly.

Katarzyna Piskorz, excerpts from the catalog accompanying the exhibition "This is not a flag".

"My mum was a medic in the [1944 Warsaw] Uprising. I was brought up in a tradition of a certain sanctity of 1 August. We always visited the graves of the fallen Insurgents with my parents. A little later in the day, at dusk, when the flames of a thousand candles under white birch crosses magically lit up the twilight. I only failed to visit when the martial law [1981-1983] stopped me abroad…

Even in ‘Commie’ times, the place was sacred, as if exempted from the lawlessness of the system for one day.

Something changed when they reared their ugly heads, fuelled by hatred and the smallness of their inferiority complex; those who did not hesitate to smear Professor Bartoszewski and other inconvenient people on Hour ‘W’ [at 5 p.m. on 1 August, when the Uprising began] – and those who booed Professor Geremek’s funeral.

I went to Powązki today, too. In front of the cemetery, stalls stood with [conspiracy theory] brochures on [the government airplane crash in] Smoleńsk, leaflets on the plague of gender and the paedophile threat of the LGBT ‘ideology.’ There was a crowd at the gate as usual, but a different one; there were fewer of the noble faces of grey-headed people; more looked much younger, confident, elbowing their way in. Someone spat at Bronisław Geremek’s grave. I turned around. I’ll come back tomorrow.

I remembered Professor Sadurski’s text I accuse. An obvious reference to Zola’s J’Accuse!, though without such a wide social reaction. Are we becoming indifferent as a society? Sadurski talked about the Polish government as criminals; the faces of criminals are usually depicted as blurred or pixelated.

And so, straight from Powązki, I drove to my studio and started deconstructing these paintings of mine, 100 Flags, into squares of colour, with their relationships and interrelations. This will be 100 Flags Revisited.

Bronisław Geremek was an architect of our freedom, of Poland’s return to Europe. Poland’s protectors today, with the Polish eagle printed on t-shirts, spit at his grave"


Marcin Osiowski, notes (excerpt), August 1, 2020


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