EMIGRANT Stanisław Kotkowski THE MASTER OF LIGHT IN AUSTRALIA
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More photos in the Polish version “EMIGRANT Stanisław Kotkowski MISTRZ ŚWIATŁA W AUSTRALII”/ 08.12.2020
Stanisław Kotkowski was born on December 28, 1922 in Golub. The Kotkowski family was related to Witold Gombrowicz – Witold Gombrowicz’s grandfather and Stanisław Kotkowski’s great-grandfather were full brothers. In 1937, the Kotkowski family moved to Przasnysz, where the father (Stefan) worked as a bank manager, and his mother (Jadwiga) took care of the house and raised the children of Stanisław and Irena. In 1939, Stanisław Kotkowski graduated from the 4th grade of gymnasium and obtained the so-called high school diploma. During the occupation, schools were closed and only secret education functioned. Young Stanisław could not continue his education because the family situation forced him to take up a job. His father, as an officer of the Polish Army, fought in the defense of Warsaw, and then, after the defeat in September, he was sent to the Oflag. Stanisław’s task was to support the family.
He started working in a mechanical plant. Here he explored the intricacies of mechanics and electromechanics with interest. In his free time, he drew and painted, copied works of famous artists, he also painted houses, churches, among others. church o. Passionists, landscapes, he also studied painting with the visual artist Olgierd Vetesco, who lives in Przasnysz.
At the end of World War II, he was taken hostage to Germany. He managed to escape from the transport and get to the American occupation zone. In 1945–1949, he studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf. At the end of 1949, he emigrated to Australia. He continued his studies at the Victorian Schol of Arts in Melbourne. In 1955 he settled in Stirling near Adelaide. He did not start his own family, he devoted himself entirely to artistic activity. In Australia, as a beginning artist, he decided to use the first part of the name of the Kotkowski family coat of arms: Ostoja – to sign his works.
Stanisław was fascinated by Australia, he traveled a lot, he looked not only for inspiration for his works, but also for appropriate materials, paints and materials. In the USA, he discovered polymer paints and developed his own technology for applying them. Ostoja-Kotkowski’s work was not uniform.
From 1960, he worked on transforming sound into colors and shapes, he was the author of bas-reliefs, sculptures, frescoes and light structures installed in public buildings, abstract compositions made of enamel, optical collages, art photographs, he also created fractals using computer graphics. He transformed music into images that served as the backdrop for theatrical plays. His ideas were ahead of the times in which he lived. The first in the world, in 1968, he used laser effects in a theater and opera performance. Stanisław Ostoja-Kotkowski is the creator of a composition consisting of 24 enamel plates – in one of them he installed a steel mirror that produced music when in contact with the human body. The pitch depended on the distance someone approached the device.The artist created the so-calledthe singing tower in Adelaide, responding to traffic with colors and lights.
Stan Ostoja-Kotkowski, with a Moiré pattern artwork. State Library of South Australia, 21270727
During his stay in Australia, Ostoja-Kotkowski did NOT forget about his roots. He was the author of the Tadeusz Kościuszko monument in Cooma and the Katyn Victims monument in Adelaide. He also did not forget about the Przasnysz land, where he spent his youth – the Kurpie cutout became an inspiration for Kotkowski to decorate the wall in the Polish House in Adelaide.
After the war, he visited Poland twice – for the first time in 1967, and then in September 1991 he took part in the presentations of the great exhibition of émigré artists „We are”, his laser concerts at the National Philharmonic. He died on April 2, 1994 in Stirling. Ostoja-Kotkowski’s grave is located at the Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw.
Works and experiments with light and sound by Stanisław Ostoja-Kotkowski are appreciated all over the world. He received the highest awards and distinctions for them. Exhibitions of his works are frequently visited. In February 2008, the archive of Ostoja-Kotkowski’s works at the University of Melbourne was entered into the UNESCO Memory of the World register for Australia project. Przasnysz did not forget about the great artist who comes from this city. Exhibitions, lectures, vernissages and symposia are organized. Documentation on the life and artistic activity of Stanisław Ostoja-Kotkowski is kept by the Historical Museum in Przasnysz. One of the streets in Przasnysz and the Municipal Community Center in Przasnysz bear his name.For his artistic achievements, the artist was awarded the Medal of Merit for Polish Culture, and in 1992 Queen Elizabeth II awarded him the Order of Australia.Since 2006, the Stanisław Ostoja-Kotkowski Medal has been awarded in Przasnysz.
Ostoja-Kotkowski, Stanisław : photograph of two dancers, 1966.
His life, artistic achievement and awards may be read in more detail in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Wikipedia and the website of the SA History Hub.The State Library of SA hold a rich collection of pioneering digital arts materials relating to the work of Joseph Stanislaus (Stan) Ostoja-Kotkowski. This collection includes nearly eight hundred 3½ inch floppy disks.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Gadomska, K. Gadomski, Stanisław Ostoja-Kotkowski. Master of light, Przasnysz/Polish and Australian press / Internet / Encyclopedia PWN /
Antoni J. Jasiński prepared for naszepimo.pl