Included in the International Biennale of Contemporary Art in San Marino in 1965, Stefan Gierowski’s Obraz CXLII (Painting CXLII), 1963, is a quilted pattern of earthy monochrome. From 1957 on, Gierowski began signing his paintings with Roman numerals, the year he began to paint abstract art. In 1960, he started including geometric elements in his compositions and his works approached Op Art’s formal conditions. The muted, textured colours are characteristic of a painting practice directly inspired by Unism, the Polish philosophical movement that gained traction in the 1920s and 1930s. In Unism, all references to the real world, be that objects, space or emotion, were eliminated to create an almost mathematical form of expression, which can be seen in the disciplined grid of Obraz CXLII. Gierowski’s paintings were shown in Fifteen Polish Painters, the first comprehensive exhibition of Polish painters held in 1961 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and of his practice the exhibition’s curator Peter Selz wrote, ‘Subtle vibrations are created by the delicate textures and veiled light which seems to emanate from the interior of the painting. Occasionally, lines moving at varying speeds and following their own deliberation will give some vague definition to his silent, somewhat mysterious space’ (P. Selz, Fiften Polish Painters, exh. cat, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1961, p. 10). In Obraz CXLII, the materials guide the formal qualities of the image and, in doing so, Gierowski has painted an integrated, dynamic whole.
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